Spotlight on ONEAL: The Importance of Personal Mission Statements


June 29, 2012 by molliveroneal

by Kristen Vails

While an emerging arts leader in the Oklahoma City community, I have realized I am passionate about connecting the dots for the arts in our community. With the momentum of progress happening in OKC, I am interested in how different aspects of our community can connect, collaborate and support a city where art is channeled into every part.

Between my role as an artist and leading the revitalization of the Plaza District, I am amazed at the number of circles in which my work has landed me–the art community, neighborhoods, civic sector, non-profit, marketing, economic development, sustainability, urban planning and so on. With a studio art degree and only 6 years out of college, somehow I’ve gained the privilege to work in all of these facets. The best part is, the arts have a role in all of this and that’s why I love the work I do.

The question for me is, how can I communicate to the community how important the arts are to these circles?

That is the question I took to San Antonio. I was very lucky to have received a scholarship to the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Pre-conference in San Antonio this June, thanks to NBC Oklahoma. Much of the focus of this conference was to inspiring emerging leaders to develop a mission for their role in the arts, and even for their personal lives.

Mission statements. In the non-profit world, they’re so engrained in our grants, reporting and fundraising, we tend not think of them much at all. So, when Rosetta Thurman, one of the speakers at the conference, suggested a personal mission statement I was a little skeptical.

But what, exactly, is a personal mission statement, anyway? Personal development website Dumb Little Man offers this definition:

Your personal mission statement should be a concise representation of what’s most important to you, what you desire to focus on, what you want to achieve, and, ultimately, who you want to become. In its purest form, it’s an approach to your life, one that allows you to identify a focus of energy, creativity, and vision in living a life in support of your inner-most beliefs and values. Also remember that your mission will change over time as you and your life change.


For a person whose life is work and work is life, I didn’t really understand how a personal mission statement would help my work. But then it hit me…this work IS me. All of my work–the choices I make, the inspirations, the way I treat people, solve problems, communicate, learn, create—all of it is a reflection of me.

So, I did what any artist who was in a conference and stuck on how to address matters of the self would do…I doodled.

On the way home, I thought about my recent adventure in San Antonio. I’d arrived a day early to explore the city on my own. I strolled through patchy neighborhoods filled with historic bungalows, and chatted up the Spanish-Canadian owner of a Mexican Bakery. I viewed an art exhibit at the Museum of Art and marveled at the work of new artists I had never seen. A stranger brought me lemonade after I’d ended up stranded on the riverwalk in 100 temps (long story). I visited a place where hundreds had died fighting for their independence.

Everywhere, I find beauty. It’s that simple concept that both inspires and puzzles me. So, I took a stab at writing this statement.

“There has been a desire instilled in me to create. When creating art, or community, I desire to create a life for myself and others that is better than the present. Beauty is in art, places and people, and I strive to show the world how beautiful it can be when those three things converge.”

Am I going to write this mission statement at the bottom of my emails? No. But I did come away with an experience, and a better understanding of what drives me. I think no matter where and what I do, I’ll be able remember what I’m really here for.

One thought on “Spotlight on ONEAL: The Importance of Personal Mission Statements

  1. Kelsey Karper says:

    Thanks for posting this, Kristen! It can be hard to separate your work mission from your personal mission (especially when the two overlap so much). But this is a good reminder to consider our personal goals as well, which can reinvigorate our passion for our work.

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