Mission Impossible? Four Words That Keep Me on Track


The technique I use for achieving my goals isn’t original, but it’s so useful for structuring my time, prioritizing what is important, and honing in on my goals, that I thought it was worth sharing. The technique is simply having a personal Mission Statement, an uncomplicated idea that comes directly from Seven Habits of Successful People by Steven Covey, a book I read years ago. The key to making it effective is keeping my mission in my awareness, so I recall it when I wake up, and at night, I review how I did before I go to sleep.

My mission statement has only four words in it. isn’t about an overblown corporate bit of wordsmithing, but rather a reflection on what is important in my heart, and what I want to have in my life that will help me to live my values and be happy. For me, the key to making this work is simplicity. If my mission statement was complicated, I would have tossed it long ago, Although the words themselves are not lofty or intricate, each word represents a many-layered world that requires my attention in areas where I need improvement.

Every day I start with a to-do list with these four words across the top. Underneath and on the left side of this page, I allow space to list tasks into these categories: personal, business, creative, friends & family. The idea is to practice the words in each of these tasks whenever possible.

So, what are the words? I will list them below, although I am sure that you can come up with your list. If not, feel free to borrow mine!

  1. Patience: Patience is learning to take a deep breath and step back, remembering that the world is difficult and not on my schedule. Looking back, I can see how far I’ve come and trust.
  2. Gratitude: Okay, it’s pouring rain with gusting wind at 6 a.m., and I must walk my dog, who will not do his business. He is only interested in sniffing around while we both get soaked. My umbrella has just turned inside out. Still, I am grateful to have my little pup and that this isn’t an earthquake or a tornado. Or a war. Should those things happen, my gratitude may be severely tested, and I shall keep you posted. But there are still so many things to be grateful for and now that I have dried off in my warm house, I think that the small annoyances are not worth troubling myself about. Gratitude is the key to contentment.
  3. Kindness: It’s a choice, and whenever possible, I choose kindness, remembering that other people have feelings too. And problems. Think karma on an everyday basis. But in a larger context, this also includes figuring out what I am willing to accept in behavior from others. If other people’s behaviors are hurtful, I need to address them and protect myself, but as kindly as possible. Being kind to everyone includes being kind to me.
  4. Excellence: I strive for excellence whenever and wherever possible. This doesn’t mean perfectionism but doing my best and feeling satisfied with my work. I apply this to everything, from straightening and improving my photos before posting to editing my writing, improving my oil painting technique, cooking, and even training my dog. In other words, I use a critical eye on myself but try not to be too hard of a critic, since of course, patience, kindness, and gratitude apply to me as well.

Let me know if you have some additions that work for you. If you like this and want to see more, please subscribe.

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