How to Develop a Personal Mission Statement
June 16, 2014 Leave a comment
Mission statements. Every company has one. Some are really good; some are really bad. Regardless of the quality of a mission statement, they all have the same purpose: to give direction to the daily actions of an organization.
Organizations aren’t the only entities that need mission statements to guide them. You and I need mission statements as well, especially as you think about building your personal brand. Having a personal mission statement is important for three reasons:
- It differentiates you from others
One of the things I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is that investors invest in people more so than products. For example, they would rather invest in an entrepreneur trying to create positive social change by selling widgets than an entrepreneur trying to get famous and make a lot of money selling the same widget. Having a personal mission statement helps potential investors, employers, friends, etc know your underlying motivations and what sets you apart from others.
- It gives direction to your career path
Knowing what your true mission is will help you select jobs that will allow you to accomplish your goals, even if on paper they seem unrelated. I currently am involved in the agricultural technology, young adult ministry, experiential education, and social media arenas, but I am still able to fulfill my mission in these seemingly random combination of jobs.
- It reminds you why you do what you do when things get tough
Your job isn’t always easy. There are some days you’ll want to quit or disengage. Having a purpose behind your work keeps you focused and moving forward even during the hard times. Your mission is a motivator pushing you toward a greater purpose than earning a paycheck.
Steven Covey refers to developing a mission statement as “connecting with your own unique purpose and the profound satisfaction that comes from fulfilling it.” Here are five questions to ask yourself in order to develop your personal mission statement:
- Passion: What motivates me?
This will either be the easiest or most difficult question for you to answer. It is certainly the most important. Passion is the fuel that propels you forward and is the heartbeat behind everything that you do. It is the end that you seek to fulfill using the means of your job, studies, or volunteerism. In other words, it is your “higher purpose”. Determining your passion will wear a variety of hats while moving toward the same goal.
- Core Values: What guides me?
If passion is the fuel, then your core values are the GPS. Core values include qualities like truth, consistency, integrity, creativity, dependability, and many more. They guide your decision making, career path, and priorities. Knowing what your values are allows you to say “yes” to jobs, projects, and other opportunities that align with your personal mission and keep you from getting distracted by superfluous detours. Core values are especially helpful when facing an ethical dilemma because they define the line that you will not cross.
- Application: How will I accomplish this?
Once you know your passion and core values are, you should decide what vehicle you’ll use to carry out your mission. The challenge here is to define an application that is specific enough to be actionable, but broad enough that it can apply to all aspects of your life. For example, an overly narrow personal application would be “by making the best pizza possible”. That would mean you are only fulfilling your mission when you are making pizzas and not when you are having fun with your kids. To find an appropriate application takes some abstract thinking, but think about what you really bring to the table in all the arenas of your life. As one consultant put it: “If you are marketing drill bits, you aren’t really selling drill bits, you’re selling holes.”
- Aspirations: Where do I want to be in five years?
Painting a picture of where you would like to be in five years (or any amount of time really) is an essential exercise. Having this long-term ideal in mind helps you to set goals and pursue opportunities today that will get you there. Take a holistic approach to your aspirations: think about your emotional, relational, spiritual, financial, and vocational areas and how they interact with each other. Realize that your aspirations may change during the time period and that you won’t meet some of the goals (i.e. you can’t force your boss to promote you), but it is still valuable to set a target and work toward it.
- Reality: How do others describe me?
After you have answered the other questions, it’s time to get a reality check. First, think about what others would say your passion, core values, and aspirations should be. Secondly, go and ask some of your close friends, coworkers, and relatives if your answers to the above questions are realistic. Since many of us tend to exaggerate our strengths and overlook our weaknesses, it is always valuable to live out what Proverbs 27:17 says: “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Ask others for honesty in evaluating your mission statement and then have them hold you accountable to sticking to it.
Going through this process may take you several hours, but it is definitely time well spent. Go to a location you can focus, think through each question honestly, and write down your thoughts. Once you have answered the questions, then write out your personal mission statement and put it somewhere that you will see it on a regular basis. Your statement should definitely include your passion, at least one core value, and part of your application. For example, here’s my personal mission statement: My mission is to glorify God and serve others (Passion) by building brands (Application) with integrity (Core Value).
Ultimately you want a livable mission that reminds you of who you are and where you are going.
Do you have a personal mission statement? If so, share it in the Comments below.
Learn It. Love It. Live It.
[image credit: antony_mayfield on Flickr]