After many revisions and much reflection, I am proud to present the working version of my personal mission statement!
I will live a simple positive life seeking community with others. I will continually learn, I will connect with things unfamiliar and reflect on my experiences.
In thinking about how I measure success there are a few different metrics that I wanted to make sure I was measuring myself up to. I’ll talk about each of them and why I think they are so important to my idea of success and happiness.
Simplicity: I define simple living as being very aware of the impact that I make on the earth and those around me because of how and what I consume. I’m a big proponent of the minimalist movement and I subscribe to psychological theories and studies showing that wealth only increases happiness significantly when it raises people out of poverty. With that in mind, I do my best to avoid using plastic, showering less, biking instead of driving, cooking at home, using reusable containers and water bottles, and only buying something that I believe will add a tremendous amount of value to my life (this deserves a post all on its own). Some thinkers and communities who have tremendously influenced me on the ideas of simplicity are: the Nazareth and Jerusalem Farm communities, Mr. Money Mustache, and Trash is for Tossers.
Positive: When I was thinking about how I defined success for myself I started reflecting on the value of approaching situations with gratitude, understanding, and open-mindedness. For me, this is encapsulated in the word positive. A quote attributed to a great many people that always held special meaning for me is “Be kind for everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” When I hear this I think about my own parents who both died of cancer when I was nine years old and all of the challenges that came with that. Everyone is struggling with something that to them can be all consuming and when faced with that kind of struggle I think the only way I can ever approach a person or situation in my life is to be grateful for everything that has gone right for me and then hopefully inject positivity into the life of someone else.
Seeking Community: I believe that the strongest forces of support in my life come from a community and I have seen this over and over again in everyone I have encountered. Sebastian Junger’s book: Tribe and Yuval Harari’s book: Sapiens are wonderful pieces grounded in science and observation that make a compelling argument for the power of community to affect our daily lives. Personally, my favorite experiences have all been done with others whether that is playing board games, reflecting after a day of service, or sharing a meal around a table of good friends.
(Weekly Board Game Night I attend every Thursday at the local Donut Stop.)
Continually Learn: reading, listening, and writing about new ideas and perspectives is something that I place a tremendous amount of value on. I seldom go a week without listening to a new podcast or discovering a new blog that I can devour. I think many people become turned off from the idea of reading more after they are done with their formal education. This seems to me to be on of the worst things about formal education because there are so many incredible ideas and understandings of the world waiting to be explored that are many times more engaging than anything I have learned in a classroom. Reading or listening to a wide variety of sources is a metric I want to hold myself too which is why it was so important to me to include a line in my personal mission statement about it.
Finally, Connect and Reflect: One of the unfortunate ideas that hardline identity politics seems to put forward is that you can’t begin to understand the lived experience of someone who isn’t the same race, political party, or gender. While there is a kernel of truth to this, I’m not about to let that prevent me from trying! In thinking about powerful values that I want to make sure I measure myself up to in my life I realized that connecting with others and reflecting on my experience has to be one of those. I spent the summer of 2017 on a service immersion program in Peru. spending six weeks in an impoverished community was powerful because of the beautiful people I was able to connect with. Just as powerful was the reflection both as an individual and as a group that I was forced to do as part of the experience. Asking myself why an encounter was sacred to me and how I can take the experience with me made it so that I didn’t come back to the United States and forget everything I had been privileged to interact with.
(A passerby snapped a photo of me eating lunch with Troy in the streets of San Fransisco despite his outward appearance he is one of the most positive people I have ever met )
So there is the long and unpacked telling of my personal mission statement. I like it because for every situation I encounter I can ask myself if I interacted with it in a simple and positive way. I can also make sure that I make it a priority to seek community and continually learn. Finally, I can judge my personal success by how I have connected with things unfamiliar and reflected on the experiences. I highly encourage you to find a way to measure your own actions and values and I think the best way to do that is to start here!
Have a Wonderful Day!