With your personal Mission Statement you can change each aspect of your life be it growth, abundance, wealth, health, family relationship, success etc. To understand this concept fully, we need to understand the Power of our brain.
I am thankful to Stephen Covey for providing insightful wisdom on personal mission statement in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Understanding Whole Brain
Our self-awareness empowers us to examine our own thoughts. This is particularly helpful in creating a personal mission statement because the two unique human endowments that enable us to practice ‘Begin With End in Mind Habit’—imagination and conscience—are primarily functions of the right side of the brain.
Understanding how to tap into that right brain capacity greatly increases our first creation ability. A great deal of research has been conducted for decades on what has come to be called brain dominance theory. The findings basically indicate that each hemisphere of the brain—left and right—tends to specialize in and preside over different functions, process different kinds of information, and deal with different kinds of problems.
Essentially, the left hemisphere is the more logical/verbal one and the right hemisphere the more intuitive, creative one. The left deals with words, parts & specific; the right with pictures, wholes and the relationship between the parts.
The left deals with analysis, which means to break apart; the right with synthesis, which means to put together. The left deals with sequential thinking; the right with simultaneous and holistic thinking. The left is time bound; the right is time free.
Although people use both sides of the brain, one side or the other generally tends to be dominant in each individual. Of course, the ideal would be to cultivate and develop the ability to have good crossover between both sides of the brain so that a person could first sense what the situation called for and then use the appropriate tool to deal with it. But people tend to stay in the “comfort zone” of their dominant hemisphere and process every situation according to either a right or left brain preference.
In the words of Abraham Maslow, “He that is good with a hammer tends to think everything is a nail.” Right brain and left brain people tend to look at things in different ways. We live in a primarily left brain-dominant world, where words and measurement and logic are enthroned, and the more creative, intuitive, sensing, artistic aspect of our nature is often subordinated.
Many of us find it more difficult to tap into our right brain capacity. Admittedly this description is oversimplified and new studies will undoubtedly throw more light on brain functioning. But the point here is that we are capable of performing many different kinds of thought processes and we barely tap our potential. As we become aware of its different capacities, we can consciously use our minds to meet specific needs in more effective ways.
Two Ways to Tap the Right Brain
If we use the brain dominance theory as a model, it becomes evident that the quality of our first creation is significantly impacted by our ability to use our creative right brain. The more we are able to draw upon our right brain capacity, the more fully we will be able to visualize, to synthesize, to transcend time and present circumstances, to project a holistic picture of what we want to do and to be in life.
Sometimes we are knocked out of our left brain environment and thought patterns and into the right brain by an unplanned experience. The death of a loved one, a severe illness, a financial setback, or extreme adversity can cause us to stand back, look at our lives, and ask ourselves some hard questions: “What’s really important? Why am I doing what I’m doing?” But if you’re proactive, you don’t have to wait for circumstances or other people to create perspective-expanding experiences.
You can consciously create your own. There are a number of ways to do this. Through the powers of your imagination, you can visualize several aspect of your own life, be it success celebration, family relationship or your funeral ceremony. Write your own eulogy. Actually write it out. Be specific.
You can visualize your twenty-fifth and then your fiftieth wedding anniversary. Have your spouse visualize this with you. Try to capture the essence of the family relationship you want to have created through your day-by-day investment over a period of that many years.
You can visualize your retirement from your present occupation. What contributions, what achievements will you want to have made in your field? What plans will you have after retirement? Will you enter a second career? Expand your mind. Visualize in rich detail. Involve as many emotions and feelings as possible. Involve as many of the senses as you can.
I have done similar visualization exercises with some of my university classes. “Assume you only have this one semester to live,” I tell my students, “and that during this semester you are to stay in school as a good student. Visualize how you would spend your semester.” Things are suddenly placed in a different perspective. Values quickly surface that before weren’t even recognized.
I have also asked students to live with that expanded perspective for a week and keep a diary of their experiences. The results are very revealing. They start writing to parents to tell them how much they love and appreciate them. They reconcile with a brother, a sister, a friend where the relationship has deteriorated.
The dominant, central theme of their activities, the underlying principle, is love. The futility of bad-mouthing, bad thinking, put-downs, and accusation becomes very evident when they think in terms of having only a short time to live. Principles and values become more evident to everybody. There are a number of techniques using your imagination that can put you in touch with your values. But the net effect of every one I have ever used is the same.
When people seriously undertake to identify what really matters most to them in their lives, what they really want to be and to do, they become very reverent. They start to think in larger terms than today and tomorrow.
Visualization and Affirmation
Personal leadership is not a singular experience. It doesn’t begin and end with the writing of a personal mission statement. It is, rather, the ongoing process of keeping your vision and values before you and aligning your life to be congruent with those most important things. And in that effort, your powerful right brain capacity can be a great help to you on a daily basis as you work to integrate your personal mission statement into your life. It’s another application of “begin with the end in mind.”
Suppose I am a parent who really deeply loves my children. Suppose I identify that as one of my fundamental values in my personal mission statement. But suppose, on a daily basis, I have trouble because I overreact. I can use my right brain power of visualization to write an “affirmation” that will help me become more congruent with my deeper values in my daily life.
A good affirmation has five basic ingredients: it’s personal, it’s positive, it’s present tense, it’s visual, and it’s emotional. So I might write something like this: “It is deeply satisfying (emotional) that I (personal) respond (present tense) with wisdom, love, firmness, and self-control (positive) when my children misbehave.” Then I can visualize it. I can spend a few minutes each day and totally relax my mind and body.
I am able to visualize about situations in which my children might misbehave in rich detail. Able to feel the texture of the chair I might be sitting on, the floor under my feet, the sweater I’m wearing. Can see the dress my daughter has on, the expression on her face. The more clearly and vividly I can imagine the detail, the more deeply I will experience it, the less I will see it as a spectator.
Then I can see her do something very specific which normally makes my heart pound and my temper start to flare. But instead of seeing my normal response, I can see myself handle the situation with all the love, the power, the self-control I have captured in my affirmation.
I can write the program, write the script, in harmony with my values, with my personal mission statement. And if I do this, day after day my behaviour will change. Instead of living out of the scripts given to me by my own parents or by society or by genetics or my environment, I will be living out of the script I have written from my own self-selected value system.
Dr. Charles Garfield has done extensive research on peak performers, both in athletics and in business. He became fascinated with peak performance in his work with the NASA program, watching the astronauts rehearse everything on earth, again and again in a simulated environment before they went to space. Although he had a doctorate in mathematics, he decided to go back and get another Ph.D. in the field of psychology and study the characteristics of peak performers.
One of the main things his research showed was that almost all of the world-class athletes and other peak performers are visualizers. They see it; feel it; experience it before they actually do it. They begin with the end in mind. You can do it in every area of your life. Before a performance, a sales presentation, a difficult confrontation, or the daily challenge of meeting a goal, see it clearly, vividly, relentlessly, over and over again.
Create an internal “comfort zone.” Then, when you get into the situation, it isn’t foreign. It doesn’t scare you. Your creative, visual right brain is one of your most important assets, both in creating your personal mission statement and in integrating it into your life.