Write, Teach, Laugh

Avoiding the Alligators


(Updated for 2016)

It’s resolution season, but resolutions are not enough. Why? Because most resolutions are “alligator” resolutions.

In the military there is a saying that “When you’re up to your behind in alligators, it’s hard to remember that your mission was to drain the swamp.” (Actually, the saying is slightly more colorful than that, but you get the idea.)

Our lives are full of “alligators” — that leak in the garage, the annoying number on the scale, the cigarettes in your pocket, the mess on the desk and more. But, as important or frustrating these may seem, they may not be the drivers we want for our future. How do we find what is really important?

Like the soldier in the swamp, you need to remember your mission.

My mission? What mission? Well, if you don’t have one written down, now is the time.

Your mission statement should be a statement of your values and the goals which emanate from those values. A helpful tool to accomplish this is provided by Stephen Covey, author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  I used it years ago to get started on my statement and I recommend it, but it is just the start. (If you use this tool, be sure to copy or print the generated mission; the “e-mail me my mission” button didn’t work for me.)

My personal mission statement follows as an example. I read it every Sunday, before planning my week. It helps me avoid doing nothing but slaying alligators.


To find happiness, fulfillment and value in living, I will:

REMEMBER the  central importance of health, integrity, family, and financial security, and that I am at my best when I am in the zone, writing about things I value.

LEAD a life which celebrates freedom, creativity and virtue.

DIRECT my creative efforts in support of endeavors which foster belief in self-reliance, individual initiative, volunteerism, tolerance and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.

REVERE admirable characteristics in others such as commitment and wisdom; and seek to implement similar characteristics in my life by being  dedicated and thoughtful.

RECOGNIZE my strengths as a writer, artist and technologist. Develop these talents for my personal benefit and for the benefit of my family, while remembering that we are rewarded in this world to the extent that we bring happiness or are of service to others.

HUMBLE myself by acknowledging that I can be disorganized, a procrastinator, and compulsive. Work to overcome these weaknesses by organizing weekly, doing the most demanding tasks first, and sticking to my plans.

FOCUS my energy only on projects that:
Increase my health and fitness;
Provide love and care for my family;
Maintain possessions with which I have been blessed;
Improve the community and nation;
Create art worth reading or viewing; and,
Stimulate intellectual, spiritual, and social growth.

ENVISION myself becoming a person who:
My daughter Leia thinks is caring, forgiving, generous and responsible;
My cousin Wayne thinks is ambitious, creative and educated.
My clients think is hardworking, reliable, organized and industrious; and,
My peers think is committed, dependable, principle-centered and inspirational.

FOLLOW my dreams.

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