I’m an unabashed history dork, currently on my second biography of Teddy Roosevelt. Of all his noteworthy moments, the one that sticks out for me is a page from his workout program – I’m fascinated by his “Body by Ted” program. While president, Roosevelt would often grab some aids or even guests, choose a distant point off in the distance and head for that point only to then return.
The catch? They would do so in a perfectly straight line no matter what was in the way.
“The rule was that no natural impediment should cause them to digress or to stop. So they went through the fields and over the fences, across ditches and pools, and even clambered up and down a haystack, if one happened to be in the way, or through a barnyard. Of course they often reached home spattered with mud or even drenched to the skin from a plunge into the water, but with much fun, a livelier circulation, and a hearty appetite to their credit.” He called this “hiking”.
We can learn much in our goal setting from this practice of “hiking.” There’s something to be said for having your eyes set on a goal and refusing to let impediments interrupt your journey. Sure, we all desire discipline, but accomplishing goals in a disciplined manner isn’t always good. Your accomplished resolutions may be carrying you in the wrong direction.
Matt Perman’s incredible book What’s Best Next (a must get) argues that improved productivity is no longer efficient if it’s carrying you in the wrong direction. You must first know what the right direction is for productivity to matter. I couldn’t agree more. One of the key ways in which our discipline can carry us in the correct direction is to staple it to a personal mission statement. Mission statements act like Roosevelt’s lighthouse or mountaintop, dictating direction no matter the obstacles. Perman notes,
“…the purpose of your mission statement is to define the rock-bottom principles that define you even in times when you don’t know what you are doing or where you are going. You want your mission statement to orient you even when your entire world seems to be giving way —when you’ve lost your job, lost your house, aren’t sure what city to live in, and the wonderful plan you have for your life seems blown apart. Your mission statement is a good one if it is able to help you then, in those circumstances. Only then will it be able to guide you in the ordinary circumstances of life.”
This year, before sitting down to list out new goals and aspirations, first ask, “Why am I here? Where am I going?”. Let the answers become beacons to your calendar, expenditures, and decisions so that you’re not productive in the wrong direction. Most people fail in their resolutions simply because they are irrelevant to their overall mission, and therefore peripheral rather than central. In fact, what’s worse, someone inefficiently moving in the right direction or someone efficiently moving in the wrong direction?
We clearly see Jesus and Paul with their eyes fixed on an end without veering or shifting in their journey. Sure, they were disciplined, but they were also tethered to a defining mission. Their decisions were guided by an ultimate goal. Have you considered yours? Take some time to today draft a mission statement that becomes the “rudder” for all your resolutions, aspirations, and goals. Maybe this year you’ll head in the right direction no matter what’s in the way.