My initiation into the realm of self-help began with a mandatory reading of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens in junior high. Despite it being a dumbed-down version of the classic (complete with dorky cartoons and cheesy anecdotes that my 13-year-old self was way too cool for) I secretly loved it. And, to its credit, a lot of the tips and information in it have stuck with me to this day — especially the idea of the personal mission statement.
We see mission statements all the time: in office lobbies and promotional brochures, on business cards and websites. But mission statements are not just for companies and organizations. As I first learned from 7 Habits, we can create our own as well. Just like a formal mission statement, a personal one will summarize who we want to be (our character), what’s important to us (our values) and what we want to do with our lives (our contributions/achievements).
In essence, a personal mission statement is our WHY? — our raison d’être. It puts forth our individual vision and creates a framework for our goals, helping us answer common life questions such as:
Should I continue seeing this person or is it time to date someone new?
Is my current career allowing me to thrive or should I consider a new path?
Is it more important for me to be able to travel now or to save for a house down the line?
It could be a single sentence, a well-crafted paragraph or a simple list of bullets. The length and format doesn’t matter; what’s important is that it allows us to evaluate the “big picture” of what we’re truly all about.
Here are a few popular examples:
“To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.” — Oprah Winfrey
“To have fun in my journey through life and learn from my mistakes.” — Richard Branson
“To use my gifts of intelligence, charisma and serial optimism to cultivate the self-worth and net-worth of women around the world.” — Amanda Steinberg
In order to craft an effective mission statement, it’s important to first consider where we are in relation to where we want to be. Imagine being diagnosed with a terminal disease and given just a few months to live. What would become most important to you? What would you change about your life? Why aren’t you living that way right now? As morbid as it sounds, beginning your mission statement with the end in mind cuts through the complexities of our current routines and allows us to condense our ambitions into long-term goals, forcing us to focus and prioritize our lives.
Once we have our values defined, we can move on to consider how we want to use our talents, asking ourselves what we’re good at and how we can use these gifts to contribute to the things that make our hearts soar.
Then, with these answers in mind, we can formulate our personal mission statements and start living them out.
I recommend writing them down and posting them somewhere visible like the bathroom mirror or fridge so they can be reviewed often. Visual prompts are often the best reminders. After all, we use maps to help us navigate where we’re going and keep us on course, and in a sense, that’s what personal mission statements are: life maps. So block off an afternoon, sit down and start writing.
Do you have a personal mission statement? How do you live it out?