Mission Statements for School

After reading Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, I was inspired by the idea of visualization, also called affirmations or mission statements. Hill is so compelling when he discusses how writing down your goal and visualizing it happening every day means you’re almost guaranteed to accomplish it. Eventually I was won over to his side.

The influence of Hill’s writing wasn’t immediate to me. It took a long time and a healthy dose of skepticism before I started to take his ideas seriously. I started to take in other sources of information, and I discovered a lot of science backing up the idea that affirmations can indeed have a positive effect on achieving a goal.

I decided that the universe really had nothing to do with the success of affirmations, and that the human psychology that an affirmation plays off of was strong enough for me to give it a shot.

Mission statements help you define your goals so that there’s no doubt about whether or not they’re the right ones for you. The mission statement I made today took me over an hour to craft as I deliberated over every word. Once I had it, I knew it was right. It boiled all my hopes and aspirations down into one, clear idea, which is great for a scatterbrain like me who wants to do 100 things at the same time.

So in summer 2015, I was about to start college. I had all this stuff floating around in my head, and I knew that I wanted to really ace my school year. When I wrote my first ever mission statement, it was before I had ever attended a class, orientation, or even an info session. It looked like this:

photo of a lined piece of paper reading I am going to get a 4.0 GPA at Douglas because of my willingness to prioritize, study, and say no when it's necessary. I'm ready to teach others what I know for both of our benefit, and work hard for my marks.

My mission statement seeped into everything I did. By the time I had started at Douglas, I had already been writing it out for about two weeks, and I had my GPA in mind the whole time.

Look at how I wrote it, though. It’s mostly in the present tense. It mixes behaviors and values. It’s pass or fail. Most of all, it’s short, and only has one key objective: the GPA. When I tried making a mission statement about writing AND my GPA the following semester, the whole system blew up like a bad episode of The Roadrunner Show (featuring Wile E. Coyote).

It didn’t make me smarter though, after all it’s not magic. What it did was provide me with more motivation and focus, and it shifted my idea of essay research from drudgery to purposeful activity. And if what I wrote hadn’t been important to me personally, it would have all been for naught; the only reason my objective of maintaining a high GPA worked at the time was because it was linked to something much bigger for me.

I soon realized that I needed a new mission statement. That old mission statement isn’t going to work for me anymore. It’s no longer personal, no longer relevant, and by using it I would miss out on the process of crafting one, which is half the battle. I wrote this one today, for this blog post, and I have to admit that it took me an hour to craft. I don’t know where the birthday part came from, but I think it really adds a nice touch.

Keeping in mind that a mission statement should be present tense, personal, ambitious, and short, this is what I came up with for my #1 goal of journalism.

I, Jamal Al-Bayaa, am going to be working for a major newsroom by my birthday in 2020. What follows will be the greatest birthday celebration the world has ever seen. I’m not afraid of putting my work out for display, and I’m not afraid of diving deep into social issues rather than social trends. I realize that I’ll need to learn and grow a lot in order to get there, but I do that every day by taking on new projects and learning new skills.

It may not seem to be much to the outside observer, but to me, it touches on a lot. I wrote ‘newsroom’ because Vox is as good as the sun in my eyes. I chose the year 2020 because I always thought something big would happen to me when I turned 25. The birthday thing is a reminder to have fun in life. And new projects and skills are important to learn from, but they also remind me that in trying things like videography, photography, and creative research, the process is more important than the final outcome.

Having remade a new affirmation and experiencing the clarifying feeling that it provides, I can definitely recommend making one for yourself. School has a clearly defined goal: getting a good GPA, so it’s easy to make that your mission statement if you’re passionate about grades. This blog post touches on how to create your own mission statement, but it’s only one way, from one person. A google search on mission statements and affirmations will yield hundreds of results to you, some better than others.

Did I miss anything you think is important about affirmations? Have your own story about them? Leave a comment!

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