In the last month or so, I’ve seen an unusual amount of media attention on the idea of having a personal mission as a way to drive long-term behavior change. The centerpiece, so to speak, was a New York Times Well Blog post citing the work of Dr. Jack Groppel and the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, who are my colleagues.
Aside from the excitement of seeing people I work alongside in an internationally renowned news publication, this post underscores a point I’ve made a few times here: Health goals have to be very personal for any behavior change to stick long term.
The way that Dr. Groppel and his team approach making goals personal is to lead people through an intensive exercise to craft their mission, a statement about what they most value and want their lives to represent. As cited in the NY Times, some of the questions they ask as part of this exercise include:
■ How do you want to be remembered?
■ How do you want people to describe you?
■ Who do you want to be?
■ Who or what matters most to you?
■ What are your deepest values?
■ How would you define success in your life?
■ What makes your life really worth living?
I’ve been lucky enough to go through this training, and have seen firsthand the emotional impact the process of articulating a mission has on many participants. I’d worked with these concepts academically for some time before attending the training, so I’d developed a bit of remove from the ideas. Seeing them put into action made a huge impression on me. Putting your mission into words is hard and rewarding work.
I will confess I never quite made it to the goal line myself. I struggled mightily with what my mission is, at least in a sentence. But through this exercise, I did identify a few values that I hold closer to my heart than others. These include learning, adventure, and openness. I’ve made a conscious effort to embrace these values in the choices I make. I actually directly credit this with my year of awesome in 2014.
So if you’re looking to make some changes to your life or health in this new year, think first about what really matters to you. What is the mission you’re trying to live into? What are the values you want your life to represent? Putting those ideas into words may give you guideposts that help you make choices along the way to be healthier, happier, and more authentically you.