We’ve all seen them. Mission statements composed of a long series of meaningless words strung together just to look impressive. Things like:
We will work to interactively negotiate enterprise methods so that we may endeavor to globally recontextualise excellent solutions while maintaining the highest standards.
It is our business to seamlessly promote economically sound technology to allow us to conveniently foster parallel sources.
Our vision is to conveniently provide access to market-driven e-services materials to stay relevant in tomorrow’s world.
Ok so those three weren’t from real companies, but they easily could be.
Too often, mission statements or vision statements seem to be created purely for PR purposes. Case in point: my senior high school. The school had the audacity to promote itself with the slogan “Come Live Life In All Its Fullness” – while at the same time punishing girls whose skirt length was less than an inch below the knee, and requiring that students check the suitability of potential hairstyles with their House Dean before committing to them.
That’s right, kids, go out and live life to the fullest (as long as you don’t stick out from the crowd or show any individual personality).
But mission statements can (and should) be so much more. They should act as a signpost in decision making, helping companies and individuals stay in alignment with values that they’ve taken the time to consider are important.
A mission statement should represent your why.
Anyone interested in personal growth knows how important it is to take the time to think about what you want out of life. It’s the basic foundation of living a purposeful and intentional life – identifying what it is that you want to contribute during your time on earth.
And that’s why it’s a good idea to create your own personal mission statement.
What is a personal mission statement?
Whether you call it a personal mission statement, vision statement, personal philosophy statement or something else entirely, it’s a succinct description of your mission in life in a form that you can use to guide your behaviour.
Writing a vision statement is a great way both to clarify your life purpose and to ensure you’re spending your time here on our lovely blue planet wisely.
Not convinced it’s worth the effort? Here are 8 reasons why I think everyone should develop their own mission statement.
Benefits of writing a personal mission statement
1. It clearly encapsulates your “why”
The search for meaning in one’s life is a basic part of the human condition. Taking the time to think deeply about who you are (or who you want to be) and the contribution you’ll make to the world provides a sense of identity and meaning.
You decide what you need to life a life of meaning and significance, instead of relying on what society or peers or even advertisers tell you is needed to be happy. Capturing it in a written statement that you can look back on during the ups and downs of life can inspire you to keep living according to those values, even when the world is telling you to be someone else.
(For some great examples of the benefits of being guided by a strong sense of “why”, read Start With Why by Simon Sinek).
2. Helps you stay focused
It’s all too easy to get swept away by life’s never-ending distractions. The lure of “shiny object syndrome” can see our focus pulled away from our own path as we jump from new venture to new venture, bandwagon to bandwagon, following the herd. And it’s all too easy to wake up one day and realise it’s too late. (See The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying).
Having a personal mission statement keeps you on track. It reminds you of what you’re here for, and what you need to do, be or experience to live a fulfilled life.
As Stephen Covey said in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one should start with the end in mind. Your personal vision statement is the “end” – a picture of where you want to be. Having this vision written down helps you cut through the noise so you can focus on the things that are truly in line with the person you’re aspiring to be.
Once you have the big picture in place, you’ll be ready to start making plans on how to get there.
For a simple system that keeps you moving toward your goals, check out my free Excel Goal Tracking Worksheet.
3. Keeps you going through the rough times
When life is getting too complicated or difficult, having a personal mission statement to refer to can help you see the bigger picture, a picture that was painted by YOU. By taking the time to focus on your personal mission, you’re measuring yourself against your own standards instead of life goals that someone else has created for you.
So when life gets a bit dreary and tedious, referring to your personal mission statement refocuses your attention to the ideal future you’re aiming at, and helps you realise that the difficulties you’re trudging through are all moving you towards your higher purpose.
4. Simplifies decision-making
A personal mission statement gives you a standard against which to measure choices. When you have major life decisions to make, your mission statement helps you decide which one is more likely to help you fulfil your life purpose.
For example, let’s say your mission statement is:
“To continually stretch my intellectual limits and make a meaningful contribution to the academic world in the field of cancer research.”
Suppose you have two job offers to decide between: one is at a cutting-edge research institution, and the other is a highly-paid job in a commercial pharmaceuticals laboratory. The temptation of earning big bucks is a difficult one to resist, and without your mission statement you may well decide to go with the second offer.
However, because you’ve thought through your purpose and you’re clear about what you need to live a fulfilled life, you know in advance that the lack of intellectual fulfilment and meaningful contribution in the highly paid job means it would make you feel unsatisfied and unhappy. Money means nothing if you’re miserable every single day.
Because you’ve already taken the time to sit down and identify your core values, you have a clear vision of what you need for a fulfilled life. You can save yourself potentially years of misery and regret by choosing the research job – the one that aligns with your life purpose. Once you know your personal mission, the choice becomes simple.
5. Less hassle than a vision board
While it can be fun to create a vision board – especially a physical vision board where you’re flicking through magazines and cutting out pictures – it can also be a pain in the butt. Glue messes, having to flick through page after depressing page of shiny, photoshopped bikini models just to find one picture of a secluded beach…finding something that resonates with you means spending a lot of time searching through images that don’t. Crafting a written version of your vision is so much less hassle.
And while I’m in a ranting mood, my other grumble about vision boards is that they’re invariably ugly. Yes they’re deeply meaningful to the creator, but they’re always a mish mash of colours and textures and are never going to look aesthetically pleasing when on display.
On the other hand, if you choose to display your Personal Mission Statement – perhaps framed or painted on to a canvas – its minimalist nature means it’s going to fit in and look beautiful wherever you place it. It’s compact, simple, and can be either monochrome or whatever colour scheme best suits your surroundings.
Never underestimate the uplifting power of beautiful surroundings.
6. Living in line with your vision guarantees happiness
Your vision statement encapsulates your core values, and what you need to do to live a meaningful and rewarding life. You’ve worked out in advance the conditions you need to feel happy and fulfilled. It makes sense, then, that living in line with these conditions will bring you that happiness and fulfilment.
The feeling of being completely authentic and living in a way that matches your core beliefs is a foolproof way to inner peace and contentment.
7. Lets you set your own reality
Too many of us are swayed into living a life that meets other people’s expectations. Whether it’s manipulative advertisers, self-serving politicians, or even well-meaning friends and family, we’re bombarded with other people’s expectations of what we need to do and how we need to be in order to be a worthy person.
But we all have our own path in life, and taking time for introspection, to clarify your own personal beliefs about a meaningful life, helps you cut through the noise of others’ expectations. You can reclaim the ability to create your own life, and make it one that you love living.
Convinced? Actually sitting down to write a mission statement is a whole different bunch of coconuts. Join my email list to receive my free guide on how to write a personal mission statement as soon as it’s released next week.
Start With Why – Simon Sinek
This is a great book that distils down the key features of great leaders – they focus on the WHY rather than the HOW. Packed full of lots of examples, it’s inspirational and definitely worth a read.
Click to buy on Amazon.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey
This is an all-time classic that I genuinely believe everyone should read at some point in their life. None of the habits are revolutionary, and it’s tempting to just read them on Wikipedia then wonder what all the fuss is about, but when you take yourself through the book page by page the impact can be profound. It’s full of “a-ha” moments that will make you stop and stare off into the distance as you absorb their wisdom.
Top Five Regrets of the Dying – Bronnie Ware
Following the massive viral success of her blog post, Bronnie wrote a book that chronicles her time in palliative care and the life lessons she took from it. It’s more of an autobiography than a deeper exploration of the top five regrets. Still, she offers a fascinating glimpse into the reality of end-of-life care, sharing some beautiful moments and also some pretty horrible behaviour by family members of the soon-to-be deceased.
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