July 3, 2008 · Updated 1:28 PM
"I was a young teen when my dad began to put into words his deepest, innermost views on life. While I could have identified any number of my dad's beliefs, because he raised my brother and me with a consistency and dedication that spoke clearly of his values, I began at that time to enjoy talking with him. I valued the trust he placed in me. I thought back to those conversations this week as I watched a fascinating interview conducted by Charles Gibson, co-host of Good Morning America. He asked Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor for the Clinton administration, to take us back to those early years and offer his assessment of the president's legacy. Well known for his diminutive stature and well-fashioned words, Reich talked of the energy and passion of those days. He then reminded the viewers of something I had forgotten: At the top of his game, when the entire nation was beginning to experience what we have come to know as the economic boom of the 1990s, Robert Reich quit; he stepped away from the rat race and the notoriety, scandal free. Reich quit because of a conversation he had with one of his young sons late at night over the phone. Reich was wrapping up a typical 18-hour day and thought it would be a good idea to tell his young boy good night. When his son begged Reich to come into his room and wake him up when he arrived home -in spite of the midnight hour -just so he would know that his dad was physically near him, Reich stopped and evaluated his life. He was one good cabinet member. He was enormously popular as Secretary of Labor. Yet his work took him away from his wife and two sons. He rarely saw them. He missed them, and his guilt was building. Without a doubt my dad would have done the same thing. He did, in fact, decide against studying for his doctorate, because he knew that wouldn't have allowed him to parent in the way he felt best. That kind of approach to life, one that adheres to the basics in spite of pressure to strive for fortune and fame regardless of the cost, is the kind of decisiveness Stephen E. Covey talks about in his book First Things First. The best-selling author is a huge proponent of developing a personal mission statement, yet he dispels the myth that such activity is only business-related goal-setting. It is not simply a must-do list. Neither should a personal mission statement include your dream to own a home with a view or your hope to win the next local poetry slam. A mission statement is meant to clarify your most fundamental values and beliefs. The process will require that you ask yourself: What is my bottom line to living? What is my life about? What is most important to me above anyone and anything? What universal principles govern my behavior and choices, especially when that which is most alluring and fun outweighs what is best? Covey writes that Americans spend so much time putting out fires and focusing on the urgent that ultimately we experience very little human growth. We rarely think about incorporating activities that will best serve our bodies, hearts, minds, spirits and human relationships. A mission statement, Covey points out, gives each of us the courage to say enough is enough. If a request for your time and energy does not fit into your developed life plan, then it may be an activity that is right for someone else. Robert Reich did just that. He passed the baton and chose a career that allowed him to actively parent his sons. To produce a mission statement, you will want to return to the basics and ask yourself: Where do I come from? Why am I here? What am I to do with the talents God has given me? Who are the people in my life, and am I giving them my very best? How can I reprioritize my life so my best is given to the people who love and depend on me? How can I find joy when things are so difficult at times? This fundamental need for plausible answers leads millions of us worldwide to Jesus Christ. With a mission statement built on knowledge of and experience with Christ, I continually enjoy the process of defining my own sense of value and purpose. I encourage you to give it a try, as well. "