The Road Not Taken

jamieJamie Zipfel, New Chapter Member, shares her insight to the last chapter


During the August ATD Detroit meeting, Six Sigma Black Belt and author Dan Walker instructed the audience on developing and maintaining a personal mission statement, because it helps us clarify our values with the goal of guiding our actions. Just as a business builds a mission statement as a litmus test for new development and to drive strategic interests, preparing a personal mission statement can help us determine the right course of action during those “mission-critical” moments of our careers and personal lives. When two roads diverge in the yellow wood of our lives, having a written guide can bring us peace when we have to make difficult decisions.

If you’d like to try your hand at writing a mission statement, the process works like this:

  1. Choose 6 abstract nouns that describe your values. I chose: Wisdom, Family, Authenticity, Success, Integrity, and Career
  1. Whittle that list down to just three values. Funneling your list in this way forces you to question what’s really important to you. I chose: Wisdom, Integrity, and Authenticity

SIDEBAR: When asked, Mr. Walker mentioned that “Spirituality” came up often, regardless of religious affiliation; “Fame” and “Power” hardly ever came up on people’s lists.

  1. Once you have decided on 3 values, start brainstorming about images, phrases, and examples of those values in your life.
  2. Use the word map from Step 3 to create a paragraph or so that encapsulates the values you’ve chosen, and what they mean to you.
  3. Time for more whittling! Try and shrink the paragraph so that each sentence says as much as possible about who you are. No section of your mission statement should be any longer (or shorter) than it needs to be.
  4. Refer to the document every now and again—or whenever you need to make a big decision. The personal mission statement is meant to be a living document, which changes as you change. To paraphrase Mr. Walker, either the mission statement will change your choices, or your choices will change your mission statement.

Mr. Walker’s presentation was rife with examples of how self-awareness has shaped the course of his life. In an intensely personal discussion, he reminded us of the vulnerability that is often required to be truly honest with ourselves and with others. As trainers, we are often forced to reconcile the image we want to project to our learners/coworkers/stakeholders with who we feel we are as people. His talk was a great reminder for me of the power of truly being ourselves when interacting with an audience. His discussion of family and loss resonated with many of those in the audience and served as a reminder that sharing our “true selves” with learners can be one of the most powerful tools we have for engaging them.

With that spirit in mind, here’s a draft of my “mission statement” written after Tuesday night’s talk.

I am a lifelong learner who shares her wisdom and inspires a love of knowledge in others. I treat all people with fairness and respect. I consider my family and my personal well-being in every decision I make. My mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of others through service and education. My desire is to bravely and curiously explore all that the world has to offer.

If you feel so moved, post yours below!


About ATD Detroit

Detroit Chapter of the Association for Talent Development
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