"Your mission, should you choose to accept it..." Anyone who is familiar with the television show, and more recently, the movie, Mission Impossible is familiar with this line. The hero begins every episode by receiving a difficult mission, but the thing I like is that in the show/movie, as in life, the hero always has the option to decline. Throughout my life, I have had many jobs, and in pretty much all of those jobs, I have been presented, in one form or another, with a mission. In every case, it has been up to me whether I choose to accept it or not. This is what we are all faced with in every aspect of our lives. There will always be a task at hand, some ideal to live up to, and we are all faced with the decision to accept it or not. I will be the first to admit that in some jobs, I have not always accepted the mission.
I often tell my kids that being their father is the most important job I have ever or will ever have. I mean that. It doesn't mean that my other jobs weren't/aren't important. It only means this one is the most important because if I fail at this one, there is nobody else to fix it. In the military, I did a job with very little margin for error. If I messed up, people could die, including myself, but we always operated as a team, and we were trained to back each other up. If I messed up, there was almost always someone else to my right or left to correct the mistake. In teaching, I can have a tremendous impact with my students, but if I fail them, there are dozens of other teachers in the building who can teach them whatever is that I failed to teach them. With parenting, however, there is no margin for error. Sure, my kids have a mother, so I am not their only parent, but I am there only father. If I fail to give them something they need from their dad, there is no other dad to pick up the slack. Not only that, but I also have to recognize the fact that everything I do with them is likely to impact them for the rest of their lives. As human beings, we are the sum of all of our experiences, and the experiences my children have with me are shaping the people they will become. It is a tremendous responsibility, and I only hope that all parents understand this.
Every company I've ever worked for has a mission statement. The purpose of the mission statement is to articulate the goals and values of the organization. It gives everyone in the organization a compass by which to navigate the challenges they face daily. I'm taking a psychology class right now as part of my master's degree program for educational organization and leadership. Recently, we did an exercise through which we drafted our own personal mission statements. While I am in the class in pursuit of a degree which will qualify me to be a school leader, I always have a hard time separating my role as a father from my role as just about anything else, so my mission statement thinking primarily of my children and the role I play in their lives. Here is what I've come up with:
To be known by my family, friends, students, and colleagues as someone who is passionate, steadfast, disciplined in words and actions, caring and hard-working so that I can inspire them to trust and believe in me to do what is right and to inspire them to do the same. I will do these things so that people may look to me and say, "There is a good man." I will do this so my sons will have an example of what they should be, so that my daughter knows the kind of man she deserves. I will do this by consistently trying to view myself through the eyes of those around me, for their perception of my is my reality.
It was a great exercise in thinking about what values matter to me and what kind of person I hope to be. I think I will keep the handouts we used in class and use it as an introductory activity for my students this fall. For my readers, I challenge you to do the same. Create a mission. Actually take the time to write down a personal mission and then ask yourself if you choose to accept it.