Personal Mission Statement – Develop Your Conduct Code

by Marc Winitz

Surfing through TV channels late the other night, I came across one of the ultimate Hollywood personal discovery movies – Jerry McGuire, starring Tom Cruise. In the beginning of the movie McGuire is wrestling with his place in life as top sports agent and how unfulfilled his life is. In a fit of alcohol fueled passion he sets out to write a personal mission statement about the person he wants to be. He spends the rest of the movie discovering who he really is, guided by his new manifesto.

I think there is value in a personal mission statement, although I am not crazy about the “touchy feely” aspect of that term. I prefer to view this as a code of conduct, something the Samurai warrior class developed and lived by over centuries in ancient Japan. The code they upheld and I have trained by (to an extent) is called Bushido. The term “Bushido” translates to “The Way of the Warrior” and entails a focus on Loyalty, Benevolence and Courage as important traits the Samurai strived to live up to.

Codes of conduct have been developed by a wide array of institutions as a way to identify the principles and values they believe their members, employees or communities should strive to follow. It’s common to see codes or mission statements in corporations, universities, and militaries. In these settings the code is typically more of a mandate – something you are supposed to do.

It’s also typical to see conduct codes developed in martial arts dojos, but usually it is structured as something you strive to achieve over time, more in the Bushido spirit. In the dojo I have trained in over many years the students collectively created the conduct code.  It is something one may never achieve mastery of, but it provides a serious set of core values one seeks to constantly develop and drive towards. The key with any code of conduct, especially one focused on your own personal self development, is not to get caught up on working at all of the defined principles at once. Ideally you consciously focus on one of them for a period of time and then choose another for a renewed effort.

In the fast paced world of multi-tasking, Twitter and the constant interconnectedness we have through our BlackBerries or iPhones it takes some doing to slow down and focus like this. That got me to thinking about having my own code of conduct. The things that are important for me to strive to focus on and continually work towards achieving on a personal level while the frenetic world rages on. I’d like to share those here as a model for others to look at and consider. Not to adopt mine but simply to establish this thought process for you. In martial arts training I refer to this as the “Internal Morality” aspect of black belt training, one of the 6 Elements.

My Personal Code of Conduct

1. An Obligation to Teach Others
I believe people have an obligation to teach others and share their knowledge proactively. Certainly we all do this to some degree. Parents automatically do this with their kids, to an extent by setting proper examples of behavior (sometimes not). In work situations this can easily be done. For example, I spend a lot of time coaching new sales people, or even those that don’t sell professionally but need to know the basic principles, just as others did for me earlier in my career. This blog is a reflection of that principle, something I want to continue to expand and grow.

2. Demonstrably Show Appreciation
I am constantly amazed at how little appreciation we show towards one another. I see this a lot in the workplace, for example. It also happens on a personal level as we take for granted those we know – family, friends, and loved ones. There needs to be more proactive kindness. At work I try and do this regularly, thanking employees for contributions they have made or a job well done. I am surprised more company executives don’t do this. It is such an inexpensive motivator that really means something to people and it’s free.

3. Actively Offer Dignity
This is a challenge for a lot of people, me included. I see a lack of dignity being offered to others, notably strangers. A simple example is how we treat those that serve us. When you are at the market do you push your money towards the checkout worker or politely hand it to them? Have you asked them how they are today, just out of courtesy? I know I haven’t done this as much as I should. Perhaps the most troubling of all is our actions towards strangers. Not offering any amount of dignity to the beggar on the street. I am not saying make someone in this situation your best friend. But given the state of the world economy more people than ever are in places they don’t want to be and I think we need to be cognizant of that through external action. I know I do.

4. Embrace Differences
I am honestly tired of the whole “Red State vs. Blue State” mentality in the United States. There is no problem in disagreeing but the escalation that is occurring now is counter productive on a societal level. Fortunately I have traveled a good part of the world having been to 30 countries so I find the uniqueness and differences of other cultures and countries very appealing. Yet, even I forget that these differences are valuable learning methods. This is a reminder for me to try and see viewpoints other than my own regardless of what I personally believe. I can only grow by doing this which is something I want to expand on through this blog.

5. Be a Good Steward of Planet Earth
I wouldn’t call myself an environmentalist but more and more I believe there is an obligation to future generations for us to be cognizant of how we live right now. I think I have done somethings well in this regard. My family recycles like no one’s business, something I wouldn’t have imagined we would have done to the extent we now do since moving to Northern California last year (it’s just huge up here). I’ve been telecommuting for 4+ years and sold my SUV. We live with just one car, which do-able as a telecommuter, but still tricky in transportation challenged California. I have a feigning interest in astronomy and I am blown away by the scientific discoveries going in the Universe right now. Earth is so small in that context, but it is all we have. We need to do a better job protecting her. The samurai would, that’s  what any true warrior does.

As you can see, this is not goal setting, it is much deeper than that. In order to achieve peak performance in anything, I believe you need to look at yourself and reflect on more than a superficial level of what you want to achieve in life. It’s how you live right now that matters just as much, if not more. These are deep seated values one carries with them.

If you decide to try this exercise, it is fine it doesn’t come out for you exactly how you want it to the first time. The important aspect of this is to simply start the process of really identifying these core values for you and course correct them over time.

I’ll wrap up by saying that ff you know me than keep me honest on these. And if you don’t, well keep me honest anyways. Thanks for training with me.

Photo Credit Courtesy of Piero Sierra

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Respect and the Power of Dignity
March 11, 2010 at 8:41 am

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