Act like the cat

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” said Alice.
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cheshire Cat.
“I don't much care where…”  said Alice.
“Then it doesn't matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

Some people have a roadmap for life. They know where they’re going and how long it will take to get there.

Most of us are, however, like Alice In Wonderland; we have no idea where we’re going and are surprised when we get to wherever we end up.

When we take the time to listen, to ignore the persistent chatter in our heads and the busyness of our lives, we remember who we are. If we don’t, or would like to change, we can decide who we want to be. Every moment we’re at a crossroads.

Every moment is the first moment of the rest of our life. If we go sideways at 10 a.m., we don’t have to wait until tomorrow to get back on track. We can do it this very moment.

It helps, however, to have a constant reminder of who we are because it’s easy to forget.

Near the end of the last millennium, corporate mission statements were the rage and every company with more than 1.5 employees had one mounted on the office wall, although it was often trite, ambiguous and didn’t reflect reality.

But a good mission statement can keep a company on track, if it’s realistic and has employee buy-in, and so can a personal one.

A mission statement can be our guiding star, our Polaris that can tell us, when we have been battered by the storms of life, where we are. Life, or life circumstances, will blow us off course, but if we remember where we’re going, it’ll be easier to get there.

Stephen Covey, a former university professor who leapt to fame with The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is a prophet for personal mission statements.

“The power of the transcendent vision is greater than the power of the scripting inside the human personality and it subordinates it, submerges it, until the whole personality is reorganized in the accomplishment of that vision,” he wrote in First Things First.

A well-crafted mission statement that sums up the essence of who we are can and has changed lives; it can re-program the tapes in our head and rewire our neural net.

Thinking destructive negative thoughts is a habit, a bad habit, one we can change. It takes about 30-40 days of constant vigilance to re-configure the net that produces the negative chatter in our heads – I’m not good enough, I’m fat, I’m ugly, I’m stupid.

If telling ourselves we are perfect, we are wonderful, we are worthwhile sounds empty and trite at the beginning, we’ll just have to fake it till we make it. The 100 billion or so neurons in our brain process information and help us remember to drop off the kids and pick up milk or think self-destructive thoughts – or find a cure for the all too common cold.

Thinking the same thoughts creates a web that re-inforces the power of a thought. If we think it enough times, the thought become stronger and we think it more often with more intensity.

An example of a one-sentence mission statement could be: “to live life completely, honestly, and compassionately.”

When we aren’t living that way, we’ll know it.

Bob Boxall, a former managing editor of The Daily Courier, credits a mission statement with changing his thinking patterns – and his life. Like the rest of us, he thought he had plenty of reasons to doubt himself and his worth, but after a lifetime of beating himself up, he knew there had to be a better way.

The mission statement was it.

“I realized that 98 per cent of the people in the world don’t have a mission in life and they’re willing to go through hell to get to where they’re going, but they don’t know where they’re going.”

When he has fearful or anxious thought, he imagines it’s a phone call. As he receives each thought, he says, “thank you, I’m going to put you on hold” and then repeats his mission statement.

“I use those thoughts as messengers not as the message. When that stuff comes into my brain, the message is, ‘Get back on mission, get back to the true you.’ I lived a life following my doubts, fears and anxieties and all that stuff fed to me by external sources for too many years and I was lost as a chameleon. Now, I know who I am and I remind myself of that every day.

“Over that initial 30-day period after I wrote my mission statement, I could see myself changing. I was a different person at the end of it. It was such an a-ha moment.”

Any time we stop at a red light, wait in a line, walk down the sidewalk, exercise, we can use that time to reflect on who we are and turn our mission statement into a jingle we can repeat a thousand plus times a day. If we’re patient and persistent, that neural net will change.

That might seem like a lot of trouble, but we think anyway. We have a choice: we can think our negative thoughts or we can re-engineer our life.

More Transitions articles

About the Author

Ross Freake, a former managing editor of The Daily Courier, has worked at 11 newspapers from St. John's to Kamloops. He is the author of three books and the editor and ghost writer of many others.

He can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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