The Middle Way Method: Wrap Up

The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by: Dr. SeussThis is the final entry in the Middle Way Planning series. Last November, I introduced this planning system to you. Then I showed you how you could create your own paper-based companion planner. Last month, I showed you how to use the two together. This month I wanted to address any questions you had on the system or its components.

When I put the call out for input, I was hoping to have a list of 10 to 25 good questions. I envisioned readers would come back with holes that I had not foreseen. Instead most readers discussed the use of Mission Statements and Vision Statements. There was also one question about Roles and their use in planning. Therefore, this article will have three sections. I will discuss Roles, Mission Statements, and Vision Statements as they relate to the Middle Way Method.

I want to start this article off by asking you a question. Imagine you have a jar. In front of the jar you have several bowls filled each with rocks, pebbles, sand and water. You are asked to fill the jar completely with all the items. What would you do?

Now, many people have seen this in team-building or prioritizing workshops. The answer is that you would put the large rocks in first. Then you'd put the pebbles in, shaking the jar so that the pebbles fill the space between the rocks. Then you'd fill the jar with sand, allowing it to seep deeply into all the crevices. Lastly, you'd pour the water in until the jar was completely full.

This "rocks, pebbles, sand, and water" metaphor is appropriate to the Middle Way. In fact, it's exactly what happens. You, or your time, is the jar. The rocks represent the most important commitments in your life. Commitments to yourself, and those you care the most about. The role of the Mission and Vision Statements is to help you set, and keep priorities in your life clear. That is why we need to examine it weekly. Over the course of a week we can forget our own priorities as we try to shovel sand and water into our jar. The Vision and Mission statements help us determine who, and what are the rocks in our life. The rocks are those things that are most important to us. They may take the form of others we care about (Roles), in which case we put down first what the relationship is, and what we are going to do to build it this week. For example: I am getting to be very busy with work, school, and starting a business. It is important to me to maintain my family relationships, so each week I pick a few things I can do to build my relationship with my wife, and children. I put these into my system first, so that they will be accomplished. Instead of wishing I had time to spend with my family, I find the time. I keep them separated in my planner so that I see them every day. Other forms of the "Rocks" in our lives are our commitments to ourselves. Humans are multifaceted, meaning we have more than one piece of our nature. We have a physical body to take care of, a spiritual core to develop, a mind to sharpen, and social abilities to master. Any or all of these can be washed away if not planned for each week.

Mission Statements
In my earlier posts I left the how to develop a mission statement out, because I decided that anyone who wanted to write a mission statement could find one of the many useful articles, or books on the subject. Doug, innowen, and myself have all at one time or another written on the subject. For the Middle Way, the mission statement is not use much time on a weekly basis. Once it is developed it is used to set up the week.

However, one of the first questions I received on my last post was this:

I have looked at many different planning systems and all of them have as a part of the system a "Mission Statement".

Do you really need a "Mission Statement"?

I can see setting goals. That gets a project done. But a "Mission Statement".

I as an individual have no mission. I just want to get my life in order and make sure I get things done that need to be done. Perhaps if I were setting up some sort of association, a small business whatever a mission statement might be important but it is a waste of time that can be occupied getting things done that need to be done and reviewing and editing it is doubly useless.

Or am I wrong?

The mission statement is a document which has to come from the heart. It can not be found outside of yourself. It has to come from within. The mission statement is a collection of what matters most to you. the following quote illustrates the frustration people have with mission statements when they fail to connect the person with their values, and beliefs in a meaningful way.

The next point from the discussion I want to comment on is:

I have just never understood the need for a mission statement and when I first started trying some of these organizational methods I tried to make one but it always seemed so silly and for the most part I would be copying the mission statements that were presented as examples.

This was my experience when I first started trying to develop a mission statement. I learned that I was so afraid of putting on paper what was most important to me. I felt that it just could not be a mission statement, because it was of a spiritual nature, not a day to day be successful nature. I caution anyone entering into the exercise of writing a mission statement that it is very personal, and example mission statements often derail the process. Also, remember that while you are committing ideas down to paper that it does not mean that your Mission Statement becomes set in stone. You are allowed to change it, in fact, that is why we revisit it in the Middle Way Method, so that you can decide for yourself whether or not you still want to be held up to those words or if you want to change them.

I Wear Many Hats and if I were to write a personal mission statement, it would have about 17 chapters, none of which tied in to each other.

Or, I guess I could spend a couple of hours searching my mind for some over-arcing principle to try to tie everything together. I could then do a typographic poster of my mission statement, hang it on the wall — and it wouldn't change whet I'm doing, not one bit.

I believe that our values transcend occupations. Who we are often defines what work we will do, but I can work in accounting, or flipping burgers, but my values of integrity, civility, and kindness transfer to the new job with me. I caution people to not let something as transitory as a job, occupation, or hobby define your values. The mission statement is a guide for choosing what you will do, and how you will accomplish it.

Vision Statements
Lastly I want to reiterate the value of the vision statement.

Please find your most comfortable place. Somewhere quiet, and private. If it helps play some music which helps you to relaxe, and maybe dim the lights. Now close your eyes, and ponder what would your life be like in two to five years if you were a complete individual. You have accomplished your present goals, you have learned all you set out to learn, you have developed the values in yourself you desire to posses. You are ready for bigger, and better things. How does your life look? How does it feel? Live it in your mind.

Immediately after doing that write a paragraph or two which bring those feelings back to you. This is your vision, keep it close to your mind. When you feel discouaged recite it to yourself. It has the power to pull you up, and to help you keep going.

I started out writing, because I hoped that in writing I would make a difference to someone, help someone solve a problem, or find a way to be a little better off. I am very grateful to the many people who have taken the time over the last few months to read, and share back thoughts about the Middle Way Method, and the system I created for it. I look forward to hearing about your successes, and being able to answer anymore questions you may have. If you have questions please feel free to contact me. I hope that this series gives everyone something to think about. I can be contacted through D*I*Y Planner's contact form, or through the website listed in my profile. When you e-mail me about the Middle Way method, please include the term Middle Way as part of the subject, so I can respond quickly to your message.

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Clarify, please,...

...the difference between the mission statement and the vision statement.

Many folks use the two terms interchangably.
You, it seems to me, consider them separate concepts.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

Just my take on what he means

While he will reply for himself, just wanted to comment that while I understand him to be thinking of the GTD distinction between the two highest levels (40,000 vs 50,000), his description of the vision statement does seem a bit like what many people would call a mission statement, doesn't it?

I don't need to think that hard about vision, and I suspect neither does anyone with a college education, since your vision was your excuse for getting that student loan, and what propels you in profession life, more or less.

Mission statement is supposedly your purpose in life, but who knows that? Even David Allen says it is not essential to have this established. No wonder many people consider mission and vision the same. I consider them different, but I could not tell you what my mission is, frankly I don't know. I think I will find out just before I die. :-)

Mission vs Vision

I look at the mission statement as where a person puts their values, and what motivates them.

I look at a vision statement as a brief statement of who you will be when you accomplish all of your goals, and have fully incorporated your values into your life. It is a snapshot from your ideal future brought back to the present to inspire you to achieve that future.

Middle Way Vision and Mission Statements

I think that the Vision statement is about things, jobs, money, wanting a relationship( will be married in five years)
contributing to larger goal. All about the things we want. Not saying that these are bad, or small or even unimportant things or goals, just that they are more tangible.
A mission statement to me is how we intend to get there. I will be kind even when I am tired. I will spread order and peace in the world. I will cultivate my intellect. More about non-physical things. More about "how" I will do things in the world instead of "what" I will do in the world.
And I will say that is not easy. Simple maybe but not easy. I have been working on mine for years. It gets shorter but not easier to do. And if what I am contemplating as a job or a next step, jars with the mission statement then it's time to reconsider. Sometimes it has been jump first and when the fit is not good rethink. Better to think first then jump. However being human it is not always possible to do it the way we think is perfect. Easy to get swept away in the moment.
It is also about revising both statements as we learn from our experiences. There are somethings in life we would not ever go back to and somethings we wish we had done differently. As I can not change the past, I can learn from it and do it differently this time, helped by the reminders in my mission statement.

Uhm, I'd probably add the

Uhm, I'd probably add the water to the jar first, then the rocks, then the sand.

The water keeps the rocks from hitting the bottom too hard and breaking it, it also might help limit dust from the sand.

And, yes, it does fit the metaphor well, or at least extend it.

There are big things in life (the rocks), and little things (sand). There is also the attitude with which we surround those things - our philosophy of how we live. I think of this as the water, and it comes first, because it gives context to everything else.

[Discourse and disagreement encouraged...]


Vision or Mission Statement or Goal Reaching or ....

Whatever it is called, I seem to find it in every self help best seller book written by authors trying to get an image out.
The words differ: more new age, more "corporate", more intellectual but they all have the same goal, marketing a book then a system.

I find that books without it are much better at giving me the help I want.

For example: I can't stand Covey and found many others annoying.

However, Julie Morgenstern, Suze Orman and Daniel Amen books have helped me tremendously.
They all help in a specific area of life and in a very concrete way.

I have a philoSophie :)
I don't need someone to tell me how to think.

Julie, Suze and Daniel, mentioned above, also have systems but I don't need them, I just read the books and make my own system.

And... This is why I am so happy with this site, people who share ideas and templates to get on with things in the least messy way possible. :)

Thanks for pointing out

Thanks for pointing out attitude, that's something I tend to ignore in the quest for my philosophy of life, when indeed attitude (thoughts and feelings) is what colors everything we do.
Working attitude is a more realistic and practical concept to work with than mission in life alone, at least for me.

On the other hand, the jar illustration seems pure Covey, which misses the point of the Middle Way as a mix of Covey and GTD.

"Life is not so much about where you are, but about where you are headed, so focus not on perfection, but on direction. Every step takes you to a destination."

Rocks pebbles etc

I think that the original story was about overfilling ones life and each of the items in the jar had a definition.
Rocks = important projects, goals, family etc
Pebbles = less important things
Sand = All those little tasks that fill up the day
Water = everything else that drowns someone's time.

I'd actually put in the rocks, sort the pebbles into the important ones and add them in, then some of the sand and some of the water. Leaving the jar mostly full, but with enough space for a small rock or some pebbles ... Just in case something new and unexpected comes along.

Or, we could DIY and change the analogy competely.

A Japanese rock garden sounds nice. All that lovely serenity and no glass walls :)

Japanese rock garden are serene but if one has a cat...

sand and easy to paw object can make for less than a serene day. :)

A different take on the analogy

Actually, the analogy as I originally heard it was:

Rocks = important projects, goals, family etc
Pebbles = less important things
Sand = All those little tasks that fill up the day

All as Katrina put so far, but instead of water, it was coffee:

No matter how full/busy your life might be, you always have time to have coffee with a friend.

But will it all fit??

Keep in mind in this exercise it all first comes out of the full jar. The trick here is when the exercise is actually done and not just speculated about, that if done any other way but rocks, pebbles, sand, and water, it will not all fit back in. Another words; something in your life will suffer, ‘be left out,’ often very important, ‘big,’ stuff.


Keep in mind in this exercise it all first comes out of the full jar. The trick here is when the exercise is actually done and not just speculated about, that if done any other way but rocks, pebbles, sand, and water, it will not all fit back in.

Even if you did the exercise in the "proper" order of rocks, pebbles, sand, and water, it would still not all fit in. Placing the rocks in first will give you a bunch of pebble sized nooks and crannies but without a pebble sized path to get the pebble into the space.

People do this all the time. They get so focused on their "career" rock that they can't fit the "get to know the neighbours" pebble, or the "take junior to little league" pebble, or "show my wife I love her" pebble into place. Then they wind up unable to fit the "smile" sand, the "say thank you" sand, the "smell the roses" sand in.

It's important to get the big things in, but it is also important to get some of the little things in too, because they can add up to a big thing.

The Jar

I LOVE your perception of the water. As for the mission statement, I developed one 10 years ago as part of a 40 hour "8 Habits" workshop. I really do need to frame it and hang it up. Every time I run across it, I realize how true to my soul it still is, yet I do not always remember to follow it.

Amazing post, write more

Amazing post, write more