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Holley GerthHolley Gerth is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author, life coach, and counselor. She has sold over 500,000 books, cofounded the groundbreaking blogging community (in)courage, and now cohosts the popular podcast More Than Small Talk.
Why do I need a mission statement? Author Holley Gerth says a personal mission statement will help you decide between “good” and “great” pursuits.
Michelle: Are you struggling with burnout or feeling overwhelmed/feeling under the pile? You know you go and you do and you work harder and harder because you feel like you have this mark to hit; or maybe, it’s perfectionism. For Holley Gerth, she realized she wasn’t on the same page as God.
Holley: I realized God’s expectations for me were a lot lower than my expectations for myself. I sensed Him offering me grace, where I was not offering myself grace. I was saying: “Why can’t you do more?” “Why can’t you try harder?” “Why can’t you keep up with everyone else?” “Why aren’t you grateful?”—all of these things. The voice I was speaking to myself with was not kind.
Michelle: If you find yourself, like Holley, working harder and harder and being less and less satisfied, maybe, your problem is not your work ethic; maybe, it’s your mission statement. We’ll talk about that today on FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. We are a few weeks into 2021. Are you like me, and you’re holding your breath?—because in some circles, we were told that 2020 was going to be the best year; and for so many, it wasn’t. This year, I didn’t even attempt resolutions; I was just holding my breath and waiting for something to start unravelling. Maybe, you did write your resolutions and had a dynamic few weeks, putting them in place; and now, well, they are not in place anymore.
Today, I want to talk about a mission statement. It’s not really like a resolution; it’s something that, maybe, you need at the beginning of this year to help you realize just where you’re heading. Yes, a mission statement—you heard me right—it’s a statement that reflects who you are: your strengths, your passions, your vision, and who God made you to be, and how you’re living those out.
To help us understand what this mission statement is, I asked my friend, Holley Gerth, to come in. She is an author and a speaker, and she has spent time thinking through what a mission statement is. She is kind of my go-to mission statement expert friend. I wanted to talk to Holley and just have her help us understand why this topic is so important. Here is my conversation with Holley.
Michelle: What’s your mission statement?
Holley: I help others realize their God-given potential.
Michelle: Ooh! That’s nice and concise.
Holley: It is; it used to be longer. I’ve condensed it over the years to just that one short phrase.
Michelle: So was it longer as in more sentences and just more of what you wanted to do?
Holley: Yes; just more detail/more words. Just having one little phrase, that I can refer back to, is helpful; and that encompasses all areas of my life more. My longer mission statement was more focused just on my work. I like that this one—I can apply to any situation—and that can be helpful.
Michelle: Why did you write a mission statement for yourself?
Holley: I think that mission statements really serve as a filter for decision-making. We live in a world that is very busy, and noisy, and distracting. I found that I felt like I had to say, “Yes,” to everything and everyone, which led me to the brink of burnout. I had to, out of necessity, pull back and pause, and say, “Okay; how can I be more intentional with my time, and energy, and emotion?”
One way was coming up with a mission statement. I wrote books about it, and talked to people about it, went to counseling—did different things that helped me get to that place of being able to put into words—“This is what I really feel I’m supposed to be doing.”
Michelle: What is the importance of having a mission statement?—crafting those words together that say, “This is the descriptor of who Holley is.”
Holley: I think just clarity, knowing who we are and knowing who we are not. When opportunities come along, it’s a little easier to say: “Okay; that’s a fit,” or ”That’s not a fit.” I had a college mentor, who used to say, “Holley, the hardest choices in life aren’t between bad and good; they are between good and best.” That’s how I got to burnout—it wasn’t like I was choosing bad things—
Holley: —I was choosing all the good things, because I thought I had to. In doing so, I was missing out on God’s best for me, which was a few things that He had called me to. Being able to have clarity that helped me say, “No,” more often and more strategically was really a big turning point for me.
I naturally struggle with depression and anxiety, and exhaustion triggers it; that’s just part of my story. A mission statement is protection for my heart, and my mind, and my sanity, and the people in my life who get affected by that when I go there. I think it’s just about intentionality—is the main thing—that’s always a starting point. I think that’s the most helpful thing.
I think it can definitely change; I revisit mine every six months to a year. It looks totally different than when I first did it in like 2010. I think that’s okay. Often, I find that it’s like a target, with the rings coming out from the middle. Maybe, the first time we write it, it’s the outer ring; but at least, you’ve got a target; and you’re somewhere on it. Then, through the years, you start getting closer and closer to that bullseye, where, maybe five years from now, you only want a few words in that statement. But whatever is helpful for you, as a filter and to keep you focused and intentional, that’s enough.
Michelle: I think it’s neat how you just talked about how you are at your best. I took a class, a little while ago; and it was a class on a mission statement, just really understanding who I am and who the rest of the class was. The teacher of the class—he started it off with—he said, “We’re going to come up with mission statements, because this is a way to be the best version of who God created you to be.”
I would have never thought that coming up with a mission statement would have put those boundaries on that you’re just talking about. It helps you to say, “No”; or it helps you to go down a different avenue to say: “No; this is where my skills lie; this is where my talent lies—this is where I am going.” A mission statement really does help do that; doesn’t it?
Holley: Yes; I think the thing is: a lot of other people will have a mission statement for your life. Basically, everyone around us is probably going to have—even with the best of intentions—things they want us to do or be. Jesus dealt with that all the time; I mean, think about all the mission statements people had for His life.
Michelle: That’s true.
Holley: They thought, “You: my mission statement for You is You are going to be king, and You’re going to lead this political turnover that we’ve been waiting for.” That wasn’t His mission statement.
All these things—if we don’t write our own mission statement, other people will write it for us; I think even the enemy of our hearts will try to write it for us. I want a mission statement that I’ve developed in partnership with time with God; because then I can tell the difference between that and what, maybe someone around me, who has good intentions, but just it isn’t quite God’s plan and purpose for my life.
Michelle: How does someone go about crafting and creating a mission statement? What process did you go through?
Holley: Yes; I have a process that is in my book, You’re Already Amazing, and also my new one, The Powerful Purpose of Introverts. Basically, you start by looking at your strengths: “What are the core characteristics of who you are?”—“Kind,” “creative,”—think about the words from people, who love you most, use to describe you. Some of those are your strengths. I tell people: “Write down three of those; pick a top one.”
And then, “Think about your skills,”—and that’s what you do well—so your strengths and actions; for me, writing/communicating. “What do those strengths look like?”
Then, “Who are you called to serve in this season of your life?” If you think of those as overlapping circles—strengths; skills; “Who are you called to serve?”—your mission statement is going to be in the middle of those three things. Then asking yourself, “What is the result you want to see in the world?”—that is kind of the end of your mission statement.
Obviously, that is going to result in a much longer mission statement than the one I said at the beginning.
Holley: But those, if you think of, are the pieces. If you write out all of those on paper and then put them kind of in order: like, “I am a strength”—put one of your strengths there—“woman who”—put a skill there—“for”—put the people you serve there—“so that”—and then put your vision. That will kind of give you a Mad Libs® version of a mission statement.
That’s, maybe, a little hard to process if you’re just listening; but just getting a sheet of paper and start by writing down: three strengths, three skills, who you are to serve, and what you want to see happen in the world. Then, prayerfully processing with some people, using those building blocks, to put a statement together can be one way to do it.
Michelle: Where was God in this process of writing your mission statement?
Holley: Well, just a lot of praying, you know, and asking Him, “Help me see who You’ve created me to be,” and learning about that through different books, or conversations, looking into His Word—and seeing what the truth is there; of course, going back to that—and just making space in my life to listen. I think all of these are important.
It’s sounds kind of churchy when I list them out like that. Of course, it’s not as simple as: “I’m just going to do all these things; it’s going to be easy,” and “I’m going to get an email from Jesus, and I’ll know for sure”; but I think, especially just making space in our lives for reflection, that can be really powerful. It’s not easy to do: we’re all busy; the world is loud; so setting aside some intentional time can be the starting point.
Michelle: Has there been an instance, where someone has asked you to do something—whether it’s professional or whether it’s just something serving in the church—where you’ve had to pull out your mission statement and say, “Not the best use of my time”?
Michelle: Was that hard to turn them down at that point?
Holley: Very hard.
Holley: I used to do a lot more speaking engagements, which no one is doing a lot right now because of COVID, but pre-COVID/years ago, I thought I had to say, “Yes,” to every speaking invitation I got. That’s what led to me almost burning out at the end of a year of just constant speaking and travel; but I thought, “This is what I have to do; it’s a good opportunity. I have to say, ‘Yes.’”
God took me through a process of realizing I didn’t have to do that. What I came to understand is, a lot of times, I was actually, probably, taking someone’s spot—that there were people out there that He had equipped to do that that would love to do that—that said, “Put me on a plane every weekend; that’s my jam; I want to be at all those conferences and retreats.” Me, without realizing it, had said, “I have to do that,” when often I was the bridge to someone else who is supposed to.
I started referring speaking requests on. I would pray about it; and there were a few that God was saying, “Yes; this one is for you”; but there were times when I just sensed Him saying/He brought someone else to mind. I would say, “I can’t do this, but you know who would be amazing?—this friend of mine.” They would connect, and it would go great; and all because I said, “It’s okay if sometimes I am the answer, and sometimes I’m just the bridge to the answer.” My mission statement helped me know the difference.
Michelle: I had a friend who took this class with me, and she used to be a cellist. She put that up on the shelf for a long time, because they served here at FamilyLife®. They were on the global team; so they were travelling all over the world, mostly to Africa and then back. She just thought, “This is not who I am anymore.” Going through this class, and having to come up with a one-word descriptor, she came up with “musician-ary.”
Michelle: She took her cello back down—
Michelle: —and said, “I believe God is prompting me to pick this back up.” It’s neat to see that, with mission statements and working through this hard work, that God can really start forming our thoughts in who we are and what we are doing to serve others and to serve Him.
Holley: Yes; I love that. That’s a beautiful story; that gives me chills.
Yes; because I think we all just can get busy with life, and do our thing every day, and not realize that maybe we’ve lost part of who we are along the way or set it aside when we don’t have to. I think that kind of intentional time to think gives the opportunity for things like that to come to the surface. Then we are aware of them; and we can decide, “Okay, what is God asking me to do with this?”
Michelle: Wow; are you resonating with what Holley is talking about? I know I am because I love to say, “Yes; yes; yes,” and serve everybody around me; but then I’m not the best of who I am when I’m doing that. We’re going to talk more with Holley Gerth right after this break, but we need two minutes. Then Holley and I will be back to talk more about how to fashion that mission statement of yours.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. We are talking today with Holley Gerth, who is an author and also a speaker. She created her own mission statement, and she is helping others understand how God made you and how you are best living out how He made you. Here is Part Two of my conversation with Holley.
Michelle: Talk about burnout that sort of precipitated the mission statement. What did you feel like? What did you walk through at that point?
Holley: I think burnout, for me, just feels like exhaustion—not just physical exhaustion—but emotional exhaustion/spiritual exhaustion—just feeling like, “I’m empty. I’ve nothing more to give.” Yet, people are asking for more, which can make you feel like resentful/ike things I wouldn’t normally feel. I just knew, “I’m not at my best and truest self/the version of me that I want to be.”
For me, like I said, depression and anxiety is part of that; it’s like just going into a hole and not being sure how to find my way out. I’ve come to recognize what that looks like when I start going back to that place. When I’m suddenly tired all the time/when things, that would normally be exciting or fun or something I would want to do—I’m like, “Oh! No way! That just sounds exhausting,”—then those are red flags for me. That usually happens when I have drifted away from my sweet spot/from who I am really called to be.
It’s not even that I do it on purpose.
Holley: It’s like being at the beach, where you’re in the water. You’re one place; and you look up, and you’re towel and flip flops are way down the shore. You think, “How did I get here?” I think all of us go through that.
I think the difference, now, is I’ve learned to recognize it. I know how to get back home again, which, for me, means I can call my counselor; I probably need to get some sleep; I may have neglected rhythms in my life that I have to have: like moving my body and, at least, attempting to eat well; and spending time with supportive people; and staying true to who God made me.
Michelle: I have, for the last few years, have been going through burnout quite often. I pull out, and then I go back; and then I pull out, and then I go back. That first time that you went through burnout, how long before you were going, “Okay; I need to pull out of this”? Did it take you a while to notice the signs?
Holley: Yes; it took me several months to realize, “Okay; I’m not okay.” It was toward the end of a really busy year, and I had been busy that whole year. Toward the end of it, I just thought, “I can’t do this anymore; something has got to change.” Then it took a while to come out of it. It probably took the better part of a year to come back out of it. I think it can be—again, it’s more like a drift instead of a sudden fall or a sudden popping back up—it’s a slower process than that.
Michelle: And where is God in all of this? I mean, where was God on your mind as you were probably going through these ebbs and flows of wondering, “What’s going on here?”
Holley: Yes; well, when I was getting to burn out, I think I was just trying to be good for Him.
Holley: I assumed I knew what He wanted me to do. I thought, “I’ve just got to do it”; but I didn’t really ask. I was just going through, in my mind, “Okay; these are good things to do. I need to them, and then I will be a good person,”—that kind of thing.
Michelle: Which is so easy to do!
Holley: Yes; so easy to do.
Michelle: We presume upon God that—
Holley: I needed to slow down and take time to ask Him what He actually wanted me to do, which was a lot less than I had made myself do. I realized God’s expectations for me were a lot lower than my expectations for myself, which is something I struggle with.
I sensed Him offering me grace where I was not offering myself grace. I was saying: “Why can’t You do more?” “Why can’t You try harder?” “Why can’t You keep up with everyone else?”—all of these things. The voice I was speaking to myself with was not kind; but God’s, when I took time to listen, was relentlessly kind. It took some time for Him to convince me that it was okay to slow down/that it was okay to start saying, “No”; that it was okay to honor who He made me.
Michelle: Yes; I’m thinking of a young mom, who might be listening now, and probably has three to four toddlers running around, screaming. She is just trying to make it through the day. Why would it be important for her to have a mission statement?
Holley: I think because it’s easy to feel like we are supposed to be doing something different than what we are—especially in seasons of our life, where we may feel a little hidden or it may look different than we expected—I think a mission statement can be affirming that: “This is what I am called to right now, and God has placed me here.”
When I talk to women, who say, “I don’t think I have a mission statement,”—this happened with me and my best friend—she was like, “Holley—you and all your mission statement stuff—like I don’t know; I don’t think I have one.” She kind of was a little teasing me but, also, felt a little guilty, like, “Maybe, something is wrong with me.” I have found/when I sat down with her, I said, “You know what? You are living your mission statement so faithfully that you can’t even see it, because it’s your normal. You’re just in it every single day.”
I would say to that mom, listening—who is like, “Holley, I don’t know about that mission statement stuff,”—I would say, “You’re likely already living your mission; it is so your normal life that it is just hard for you to see.”
Michelle: What was your mission statement again?
Holley: I help others realize their God-given potential.
Michelle: That is awesome—such a—just to be able to say, “There is nothing that is big or nothing that is small; it’s all equal before Christ.” That’s why we are doing what we’re doing—whether it is something that is going to be seen by others; or something that is just behind the scenes, like changing a diaper, or paying bills, or washing dishes—that’s just as important.
Holley: Yes; I like to say, “My role is obedience; God’s role is results.” I think, without a mission statement, I get really confused about thinking results are the measure of my life rather than saying, “It’s just about obedience. It’s none of my business what my boss/my heavenly boss is asking me to do. If I say, ‘Yes,’ that is equally valuable as anything else.
Michelle: Yes; Holley, thank you so much for spending time with me today.
Michelle: I have appreciated it, and it has opened my eyes to mission statements.
Holley: Thanks for having me.
Michelle: What an encouraging conversation with Holley Gerth. You know, I shared with Holley that I have a personal mission statement; and it’s really given me some freedom and clarity. It’s helped me define why God put me here in this specific place.
Holley has put together some exercises to help get your brain thinking; we have a link to that on our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; it’s “15 Minutes to Your Mission Statement”; it’s 5 exercises to help you discover your personal strengths and direction.
If you are sitting there, thinking, “Yes; right, Michelle, why would I need a mission statement? My life is going just fine without one.” I want you to think about: “Jesus even had a mission statement.” You know, there is a lot more He could have done; He healed a lot of people, but there were a lot of people that were left unhealed. You’re probably thinking, “Why?”
Well, it’s because He stayed on mission; He was here to do the will of the Father, and that will—it was the cross. Think of these words from Philippians 2: “Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as man. He humbled Himself to being obedient to death, even death on a cross.” He knew His mission. Of course, we know that Jesus is enthroned on high, and He is with the Father. He is King of the universe, because He knew His mission/He knows His mission.
I just challenge you: “What’s your mission?” Maybe, spend a few minutes today going through Holley’s exercises and just consider what God has for you. Remember that Jesus did ask us to pick up our cross and follow Him. Don’t be surprised if there is, maybe, a cross somewhere with your mission—just something to think about over the weekend.
Hey, next week, Emerson Eggerichs is going to sit down with me and talk through an interesting topic—the topic of singleness. He’s going to have loads of encouragement for those of you who find yourself in the single state. That’s next week on FamilyLife This Week. I hope you can join us for that.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Thanks to our producer, Marques Holt. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
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