What is all the fuss about creating your personal mission statement??
This guide will help you to understand:
- What a personal mission statement is
- Why having a mission statement can be so valuable
- How to write a personal mission statement
- What to do with your mission statement once you’re done
It is the synthesis of my findings after researching this topic and developing my own mission.
I hope you will find it useful as you pursue your lifelong self-improvement journey.
What is a Personal Mission Statement?
Your mission statement is like a roadmap for where you want to go and how you want to get there.
It can guide you in your daily decision making, by giving you a set of principles or core values that can help you decide:
- what you want to do or accomplish
- how you want to act
- where you want to be
- what you will prioritise
- how you will set your goals
You have to make sure that you allocate your resources in a way that is consistent with your priorities. You have to make sure that your own measures of success are aligned with your most important concern. And you have to make sure that you’re thinking about all these in the right time frame—overcome the natural tendency to focus on the short term at the expense of the long term.1
I’ll even throw in a copy of this post to download for future reference.
I’ll even throw in a copy of this post to download for future reference.
When you create your mission statement, you identify your most important values and beliefs, and consider how they interact with your long-term goals. As a result, you can realign your daily priorities and maintain a sense of purpose.
Why should you have a Mission Statement?
Developing your mission statement can be one of the most rewarding, satisfying, illuminating and challenging processes you can go through.
At the end of the process, you will have reflected long and hard on core values and why you hold them. Consequently, you will achieve clarity on what you want to be, do and achieve, and how the outcome will look.
There is as much value in the act of creating or refreshing your mission statement as in having one.
Writing or reviewing a mission statement changes you because it forces you to think through your priorities deeply, carefully, and to align your behavior with your beliefs. 2
Once you’re finished, you will have a set of guiding principles that reflect your personal values; a statement of purpose to counter your greatest doubts.
You will have developed a strategic plan that will help with decision making: it becomes much easier to say “no” when you know what you want to achieve and how you want to be. It can also inspire you to stay motivated!
Listen to Stephen R. Covey discuss the value of having a Mission Statement in the clip below:
How to write a Personal Mission Statement
Creating your mission statement could take weeks or months. This process of self discovery requires introspection, reflection, review and revision. Considering you are trying to capture your purpose in life, it isn’t surprising that it might take multiple rewrites to get to the end product.
There are many resources available that can show you how to begin. A great starting point is Stephen Covey’s famous book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Roles and goals give structure and organized direction to your personal mission. If you don’t yet have a personal mission statement, it’s a good place to begin. 2
In starting my period of reflection and creation, however, I relied heavily on the book A Personal Mission Statement: Your Road Map to Happiness by Michal Stawicki. Stawicki is a personal development blogger I highly recommend. You can read more of his writings at expandbeyondyourself.com.
In his book, Stawicki notes that his ‘recipe for making a mission statement is: examine yourself to the verge of insanity; use imagination; write everything down’.
Stawicki lists 27 different areas you should consider when assessing yourself, with examples including:
Identify the most important roles you perform or want to perform in the future
What is the meaning of your everyday work?
What do you consider your greatest failure? 3
I can report from my self-assessment that often these thoughts will provoke other topics or themes, and therefore I wouldn’t consider Stawicki’s list definitive. Feel free to follow flights of fancy but make sure to keep good notes!
Another way to get some inspiration in this part of the process is to try using the mission statement generator at Franklin Covey. This simple web form will walk you through considering your passions, skills and talents. It will also guide you through a visioning process, whereby you answer simple questions that might reveal profound truths. Furthermore, they also provide several mission statement examples, including material from Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and anonymous entries as well. Get inspired here.
Once you have spent time considering your values, personal goals, talents, passions, strengths, limitations and regrets, you will be able to move on to the next stage in Stawicki’s recipe.
Use Your Imagination
When you’re capturing the purpose of your life, employ creativity and be aspirational.
Stawicki suggests a visualisation process for this part of his recipe and provides several prompts:
Imagine you only have six months to live. How would it change your actions?
Visualise the end of your present career. What contributions, what achievements will you want to have made in your field?
Visualise how your life will be in five, ten and twenty years from now, if you don’t make any significant decisions for all those years. Do you want your life to look like this? 3
Among the many other imaginative tasks he sets, Stawicki finishes by asking you to write your own eulogy. If anything is going to provoke you to consider what you will achieve in life, it is likely to be writing out the words you would like people to use to describe you and your contribution to their lives!
Write Everything Down
The raw material that you generate in following the above process could come to pages of brainstorming notes, scribbles and diagrams. Some might come up with charts, or include images from magazines like when creating a vision board. Whatever materials you generate you will need to capture them in their entirety.
I know that I often forget real moments of insight when listening to a podcast when driving, for example. I always wish I had captured the thought somehow so that it wasn’t lost forever.
This process of self-appraisal and imagining will generate all kinds of thoughts, but they are easily forgotten unless recorded in a rough draft.
Chiselling your Mission Statement out of the Raw Material
The final step in Stawicki’s book is to take the ideas, thoughts, regrets and goals that you have identified and work through them. This process is about considering and selecting the precious few that best represent your character and values (in the most succinct way).
You could consider each one using headings as guidance, ensuring that each item addresses an important theme or facet of your life. The Franklin Covey web app mentioned above uses the following headings:
I am at my best when…
I will try to prevent…
I will enjoy my work by finding employment where I can…
I will find enjoyment in my personal life through…
I will find opportunities to use my natural talents and gifts such as…
I can do anything I set my mind to. I will…
My life’s journey is…
I will be a person who is…
My most important future contribution to others will be…
I will stop procrastinating and start working on…
I will strive to incorporate the following attributes into my life…
I will constantly renew myself by focusing on the four dimensions of my life… 4
Stawicki provides a list of the areas of his life that he wanted specifically to address:
- Following my friends’ examples
- Being present – focus on Now
Ultimately this is your mission statement, and the themes and domains that you choose to specify are yours. The important step is to take the raw material you have generated in self-appraisal and imaginative tasks and work until you have refined, combined or excised your way to a cohesive statement that reflects your innermost beliefs.
Traps to Avoid
Make your mission statement personal
The critical element of the term ‘personal mission statement’ is personal. This is your mission, so don’t adopt ideas or set goals that aren’t truly yours.
There can be a tendency to write what we think should be in a mission statement rather than what ought to be in our mission statement. You will struggle to adopt your statement as your own and live by its ideals if you include things you think should be there rather than those that belong.
Don’t fall into the trap of writing your mission statement to suit someone else. It is designed for your use.
Use specific language
Another trap is to use language that is non-specific or wishy-washy jargon. The video below of Dan Heath discussing company mission statements captures this trap perfectly:
When I am teaching my medical students about presentation techniques that allow them to effectively and efficiently handover clinical information to their peers or seniors, I always recommend they start using definite terms like ‘I will…’ and ‘I want…’ as soon as possible. I reason that the sooner they sound like they know what they are talking about the sooner others will take them seriously. They are then more likely to involve them in the day-to-day learning opportunities they need.
When asked questions like ‘You’re the intern in the ED, and this patient comes in – what investigations would you like and why?’ medical students will often respond with answers like “well, you could order a chest x-ray??”. They sound far more ready for their role as an intern if they say something like “I will perform a chest x-ray to confirm my suspicion of pneumonia”.
Similarly, the use of concrete (and concise) language will make your mission statement far more inspiring and meaningful. By starting your sentences with the word “I” you both personalise your statements and take ownership of the content.
I will be a loving partner and parent
I value ongoing personal development
I will ensure my good health by eating well and taking regular exercise
You can also have a copy of this post for later reading.
Go to the full version of this page to download a worksheet to help you create your own!
You can also have a copy of this post for later reading.
Although creating your Mission Statement isn’t all that hard, sometimes we all need some inspiration to get started.
Here are some examples that might help get your creative juices flowing.
Examples for Students
For my medical colleagues, there are a few publications listed in Pubmed that are relevant.
In Personal mission statement: An analysis of medical students’ and general practitioners’ reflections on personal beliefs, values and goals in life the authors examined medical student submissions of their mission statements. 5
Some examples from their paper include:
I will become a responsible, relevant (and) trustworthy doctor. I will put my patients first rather than myself.
To train myself every day to be the best husband, father, son and a [sic] doctor to all those who place their trust in me.
I will study hard, keep learning and growing in order to become a person who can contribute to the society and live a life of dedication.
I will live as a happy and successful person… live a happy, healthy and enjoyable life…
The authors of Promise of Professionalism: Personal Mission Statements Among a National Cohort of Medical Students provide further examples of medical student mission statements. 6 They include:
Let me listen to the best of my abilities, so that I can better understand my patients.
May I be a reservoir for your concern and pain, and may my training and humanity interpret and understand your need.
To remember who I am, to hear my own voice, to not lose part of who I am…
May I never forget, no matter how frustrated I may be at the time, that each patient is someone’s mother/father, sister/brother, son/daughter.
I hope these examples serve to inspire you as you create your own.
Now that I have my Personal Mission Statement, what do I do next?
Your personal mission statement is not a certificate of accomplishment to be put into the drawer. It is supposed to be your lens, starting point, the source of focus. Use it. 3
There is no point in spending all of the time and mental or emotional energy required to develop a mission statement only to discard it and go on with life as before. Hopefully, you wouldn’t want to!
Once you have invested in creating, refining and revising your mission it is important to keep it at the front of your mind. Stawicki suggests many ways to keep reminding yourself of the content of your personal mission statement:
Read it every day. Or even better – read it several times a day. Create a ritual for it.
Meditate upon it. Take a comfortable position. Clear your mind. Breathe deeply. Let it be just you and the words of the mission statement inside your head.
Listen to it. Record your personal mission statement and listen to it any time and any place you want.
Visualize it. This is especially important if you included some future aspirations or desired changes in the mission statement.
Create a vision board. Add some headlines with the words of your mission statement.
Make a mind movie. Make a movie and add the recording of your personal mission statement as a track or add music dear to your heart. 3
You created it: Now use it!
Again, this is your mission statement, so how you use it is entirely up to you. One good idea would be to review it as part of a morning ritual upon rising in the morning. Further, you could develop a short series of affirmations based on the values you describe.
When you next sit down to set short term goals you can do so with a clear vision. Your roadmap can also help you to reassess your long term goals. You could use your statement as a guide for review and accountability, as part of a personal development plan for continuous improvement.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure to keep your mission statement in your mind, so that you can draw upon it daily for guidance.
Finally, don’t hesitate to amend or adjust your mission statement in the months or years ahead. It isn’t a static document but should grow with you and change over time, just as you do.
Developing a mission statement for your life can be a rewarding experience that offers insights into what you value in life and therefore provides guidance for the day-to-day decisions we all face.
Although it might not be a short exercise, you could find that it is the best possible investment of your time.
Do you have a mission statement? Have you seen examples that are particularly meaningful? Let us all know in the comments.
- How Will You Measure Your Life? by James Allworth, Karen Dillon, Clayton Christensen [↩]
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey [↩] [↩]
- A Personal Mission Statement: Your Road Map to Happiness by Michal Stawicki [↩] [↩] [↩] [↩]
- http://msb.franklincovey.com/ [↩]
- Chew et al. Malays Fam Physician. 2014; 9(2): 26–33 [↩]
- Rabow et al. Ann Fam Med. 2009 Jul; 7(4): 336–342 [↩]