Living Well

January 28, 2010

For What are you Willing to Die?

Difficulties in life will come your way.  There is no doubt about this.  I have already written a little about prostate cancer and as I write this blog today it is from a chair where I have been for 3 weeks.  Three weeks ago this day I fell on ice while scrapping snow from the windows of my car.  In that fall I experienced a spiral fracture of my femur that required surgery, a rod that runs the length of my thigh, four screws, and a band to put it all back together.  For three weeks now, I have been looking out the picture window of our house because I cannot walk, except with the use of a walker.  Reading, blogging, and working from my computer to my office have been the majority of my time.  But I know that through my prayer time and also having a solid mission and purpose keeps me focused toward the day when I will be active again.

I personally wrote out and considered the implications of all the questions I provided in the last blog as it relates to having a personal mission.  Honestly answering these questions is a start, but they need to be shaped into a mission statement.  If you read through the answers to those questions for the BIG areas of our life that are important, they will gradually begin to surface.  These big areas will ultimately become legacies, those things you hope to accomplish in life and accomplishments you hope to leave behind.  Legacies will also help you focus now and in the future.  What they are calling you to live now and in the future will also help establish your goals and achievements for the years ahead.

 An example of developing legacies comes from my own answers to the questions in the last blog.  After reading through each response, I began seeing areas of importance for me that I believed were what would help me live well over my lifetime.  Those areas of importance are: living a faithful life as a Christian, being a loving spouse and parent, being an effective teacher, being active in my community, and being a writer.  These areas are foundational for me.  These are legacies around which I set monthly and annual goals.  These legacies also help me to make decisions in the day to day.  And even more, they do help me make choices related to right and wrong—ethical and moral decisions.

I say this because it is true.  Legacies and their appropriate goals give us boundaries.  If I want to be a loving spouse that desire sets the tone for how I will relate to my wife.  It means I will respect her, stay committed in our circumstances, and always be faithful to her.  So you see, personal mission and legacies are not just about accomplishing THINGS in life.  They also help set the moral and ethical tone of it.

I want to give one exercise for today on your journey to writing a personal mission statement.  This is not unique to me.  It is available from the Centers for Ethical Leadership.  They are a good tool for studying and thinking about leadership as well.  This exercise helps you determine your values.  These values (who I think I am and how I actually live) are important to goal setting and decision making.  The exercise goes like this:

From this word list, choose ten values that are important to you; they are words that reflect what is most important to you in life.  Make the choice in no more than two minutes.  The list is: peace, wealth, integrity, joy, happiness, love, success, recognition, friendship, family, fame, truth, authenticity, wisdom, power, status, influence, justice, nobility, fairness, virtuous, gentleness, kindness, goodness, purity, hope, honesty, freedom, faith, honor, dignity, respect, equality, charity, simplicity.

Now, from the list you created in these two minutes, select FIVE values that most accurately describe your core life values; the values essential to your identity.

Now, from the list of FIVE, select three.

Now, from the list of THREE, select only one that answers the question, “For what one of these three values am I willing to be persecuted for or die for?”  I heard Dr. Bill Grace, founder of the Center for Ethical Leadership; take it to this last question at a Greenleaf Conference many years ago.  He challenged us to consider the one thing that is never negotiable or to be compromised in your life; the ultimate value for which you are willing to die.  Again, knowing this in advance also helps making ethical and moral decisions, because when we violate or compromise that one value, we may never be able to look at ourselves the same again.

Many people will find most of my blogs ho-hum or too esoteric, I am sure.  I have wrestled with that thought.  But in the end, I know through witnessing the lives of others and in my own experience that these things matter.  I know (and follow the best authors on leadership to verify) that mission and goals help us to live well.  I hope you are trying it.  In it you will find…

Blessings.  Grace and peace.

David Neidert

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