Navigating Our Lives with a Personal Mission Statement

By Patricia St. Onge

Most organizations have a mission statement.

I’ve been thinking about having a mission statement for my life. I remember sitting in a meeting with Puanani Burgess and Juanita Brown, women for whom I have great respect. We had decided to meet together to share some of the tools we use in facilitating transformative change processes.

When it was Puanani’s turn, she held up a big poster with a wide, blue ocean on it. In the middle of the ocean was a tiny boat. Just sitting there. Alone on the vast sea. My thought was “the people on that boat are lost.” Puanani suggested instead that they were just getting their bearings. If they didn’t know where they were going, or what they were doing, they would be lost. That boat is a metaphor for my life. I realized recently that, for much of my life, I drifted from opportunity to opportunity, doing what came up. Yes, I’ve had some very interesting jobs and met some wonderful people that way. But Puanani’s picture felt like an invitation to be more thoughtful about my future.

A few weeks later, I sat around the table with the board and staff of a nonprofit client. I heard myself saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” I found that anonymous quote for a training I did with Diana Marie Lee of Sweet Livity (http://sweetlivity.com/ ) for organizations all over California on the importance of policy advocacy in conjunction with the direct service they were providing. As I said the words, I was reminded of Puanani’s little boat.

The next morning, during my spiritual practice, I decided to put some attention to my mission statement. I meditated to clear my mind. Then I decided to make a card that would draw my mission more from my right brain. I went through some magazines and picked out pictures that drew me to them. As I found them – or they found me – and cut them out of the pages, I reminded myself not to think too much, but to let the energy of the images lead me to a picture that could articulate my mission. It was a very powerful experience to come at it from a place of intuition. When the card was done, these words followed:

“My mission is to create a container made of love where people can come to explore who they are at their core, and to be recognized for the gifts they bring.”

Here’s a picture of the card:

patricia image for her blog

This process helped me find my bearings on the vast ocean of my life.

Patricia St.Onge is the founder and a Partner in Seven Generations Consulting and Coaching and part of a growing community called Nafsi ya Jamii (The Soul Community, an urban farm and retreat center in East Oakland.  Of Haudenosaunee (Mohawk) and Quebecoise descent, Patricia is an activist and member of an indigenous grandmothers’ circle.  She is a Trustee for Native Americans in Philanthropy, Funders for LGBTQ Issues, and Common Counsel Foundation. She is lead author of Embracing Cultural Competency: A Roadmap for Nonprofit Capacity Builders, published by Fieldstone Alliance.  She is a core faculty member at the Chaplaincy Institute for Interfaith Studies and is partnering with Joanna Macy to bring a deep culture lens to the Work that Reconnects.

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