Vision and Mission

So earlier I got started talking about missions in a pique over the kind of mission statements I hate. I think personal missions are quite important, but I cannot stomach the useless flowery paragraphs that most missions become. Anyone who has been thrown in a conference room at work and asked to come up with a mission statement should be right here with me. When was the last time you and your coworkers consulted the mission statement to guide your activities? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

One of the problems with mission is that it is often confused with visions, ideals, values, morals, and the like. Those concepts are all related in certain ways, but a statement of values or goals or vision does not a mission make. You will find plenty of folks out there who will advise you as such. But what can I say? I disagree.

Here’s how I boil it down:

Mission is about your purpose in life.
Vision is about your direction in life

Those are the stars of the show. The others — ideals, values, goals, ethics, morals, etc. — are all supporting players.

So, imagine you’re a parent planning a big vacation in the family station wagon. (Not much of a stretch for me.) As a parent, there are lots of things it is my job to do. I have to assure that my children are fed and have clothing and shelter. I have to help care for their physical and emotional health. I need to provide stimulation, educational opportunities, and creative outlets to feed their hungry little minds. The list is a lot longer than that, but you get the idea. I have a lot of stuff on my plate simply by virtue of being a parent. My mission as a parent is pretty well defined.

So, now we’re planning this car trip. We’re not leaving home for nothing. We have some image in our minds of what it will be like when we reach our destination. Maybe we envision a nice visit with Aunt Tillie. Maybe we’re looking forward to five fun-filled days camping or going to Disneyland. Maybe we just want to drive around and read as many of those historical markers as we possibly can. Whatever inspires you to hop in the family car and get moving. That’s your vision

Your vision sets your direction for the future.Your mission sets your agenda for the present. Viola. That’s it.

Now, whatever you envision, your destination, your motivation for moving — that’s like your Vision. But just because you’re on vacation, you can’t stop doing your job. In fact, most of your vacation planning is all about how to carry out your mission as a parent while on the way to the great vacation you envision. You need food, shelter, clothing, stuff for the kids to do so they don’t claw each other to death in the back seat. All that stuff, even as you move forward toward your vacation goal, must be maintained.

I’m also a big believer in having a vision as well, but that’s a whole ‘nother chapter. Mission deserves a chapter all to itself. Or at least a post all to itself.

And if you’re a Catholic type, try this on for size — every sacrament of vocation has a mission and a vision that goes with it. You need to articulate that mission and vision to fully live your sacrament. So there.

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