“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” Victor Frankl

Couple reaching out to the horizon over the clouds.

Do you have a mission statement for your relationship? No, not the corporate kind about shareholder profitability (snore!). The kind that ques up the Mission Impossible music in your mind! If you don’t, it’s time to create one. Why? Because we know from research that creating shared meaning is essential to continued relationship satisfaction! A mission statement can help you do that. It doesn’t have to be a long term mission, either, but one you can both align on to get you to a destination. I really like Donald Miller’s framing on how to create a mission statement, not just for companies, but for individuals, couples and families. Here is a quick primer on how to create one, including the elements needed to accomplish the mission. These are: define the required key characteristics, the critical actions to take, and a story pitch to remind you of why you are on this mission. This pitch includes a theme for the mission, its foundation.

Couple laying beside each other on the forest floor.Create your mission statement by defining a challenge or something that you want to address. It should include or foreshadow the outcome or destination you are going to. It should also talk about the stakes, which create a sense of necessity. Here is an example of a couple looking to manage stress together. “We know life can be stressful. That’s why we create a safe harbor in our relationship so that we can be successful in our lives.”

The statement is just the start. What characteristics does this couple need to accomplish this mission? These can be characteristics that need developing, not just ones the couple already has. It is essential only to choose three (about the limit of what we can remember, so keep it simple) and put them in rank order. For our example, the characteristics could be supportive, loving and trustworthy.

Couple laying beside each other on the forest floor.

Now, what actions does this couple need to take to be a safe harbor for one another? These must contribute to the mission and be repeatable. As with the characteristics, keep them simple and maximum three. For our couple looking to manage stress, the critical actions could be: 1) Have a daily stress-reducing conversation. 2) Keep communication positive (i.e., without the four horsemen). 3) Have rituals of connection that relieve stress, like taking an evening walk together.

The last element is a story pitch — like in Hollywood! The pitch helps to remind you of the reason you are doing this and helps to keep you energized around your mission. The pitch for our couple: “We know life can be stressful, which can cause irritability, burnout, and conflict. That’s why we will help one another to manage stress so that we are calm and successful no matter what life throws our way.” Did you catch the theme at the end there? The theme is the why of what you’re doing. Your theme should include two components, 1) a truth put into action 2) that creates a result.

So there you have it — a mission and everything you need to accomplish it! In his podcast, Donald Miller gives an example of a family mission about spring cleaning and a garage sale that benefits a charity. So give it a listen for another detailed example.

Creating a mission statement with all the bells and whistles is a fabulous date night activity. And it doesn’t have to be just one conversation. Create an outline of each of these steps and develop them over a few weeks. Perhaps make creating a mission statement your first mission!

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LeMel Firestone-Palerm, LMFT, LPCC, CGT
LeMel Firestone-Palerm, LMFT, LPCC, CGT About LeMel...
Helping Create Healthy Relationships Since 1997
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist MFC 42162
Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor LPC 1534
Certified Gottman Therapist