Create a Personal Mission Statement for the Life YOU Want

Personal Mission Statement

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 personal mission statement can be so valuable
  • How you can develop your personal mission statement
  • What to do with your personal 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 self-improvement journey.

Want a checklist to help you create your own Personal Mission Statement? Download one today for free.
I’ll even throw in a copy of this post to download for future reference

 

What is a Personal Mission Statement?

Your personal mission statement is like a roadmap for where you want to go and, more importantly, how you want to get there. It can guide you in your daily decision making, giving you a set of principles that can help you decide what you want to do, how you want to act, and what you will prioritise.

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]

When you create a personal mission statement, you identify your most important values and beliefs, consider how they interact with your longer term goals, and realign your daily priorities and actions.

Personal Mission Statement - Stephen Covey

Why should you have a Personal Mission Statement?

The image above answers the question. Developing your personal 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 what you believe, why you believe it, 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 personal 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 deepest truths and are capable of answering your greatest doubts.

How to create your Personal Mission Statement

Creating your mission statement can take weeks or months. It requires introspection, reflection, review and revision. Considering you are trying to capture your very essence, it isn’t surprising that it might take multiple rewrites to get to the end product.

There are many resources available online that can guide you in the process. The godfather in the field is Stephen Covey, and a great starting point is his 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. [3]

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, and you can read more of his writings at expandbeyondyourself.com.

In his book, Stawicki notes that his ‘recipe for making a personal mission statement is: examine yourself to the verge of insanity; use imagination; write everything down’.

Examine Yourself

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? [4]

I can report from my self-assessment that often these thoughts will provoke other topics or themes, and I wouldn’t consider Stawicki’s list definitive. Feel free to follow flights of fancy but keep good notes!

Another way to get some inspiration in this part of the process is to try using the ‘Build a Mission Statement’ app 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. The Franklin Covey website also provides several personal 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, goals, talents, passions, limitations and regrets, you will be able to move on to the next stage in Stawicki’s recipe.

You might need a checklist to help you create your Personal Mission Statement. Download one now!

 

Use Your Imagination

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? [5]

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 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 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, and 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.

Chiselling your Personal Mission Statement out of the Raw Material

The final step in Stawicki’s book is to take all of the ideas, thoughts, regrets and goals that you have identified and work through them. This process is about considering the ideas and selecting the precious few that represent your character and values.

You could consider working through them using headings as guidance, ensuring that each item addresses a theme or facet of your life in some profound way. 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… [6]

Stawicki provides a list of the areas of his life that he wanted specifically to address:

  • Love
  • Children
  • Wife
  • Gratitude
  • Failure
  • Achievement
  • Wealth
  • Giving
  • Motivation
  • Following my friends’ examples
  • Being present – focus on Now
  • Self-examination
  • Language
  • Persistence

Ultimately this is your personal 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.

Dilbert - Mission Statement

Traps to Avoid

The critical element of the term ‘personal mission statement’ is personal. This is your mission. Don’t adopt ideas or goals that aren’t truly yours.

There can be a tendency to write what we think should be on a mission statement rather than what ought to be on our mission statement. You will struggle to adopt your statement as your own and live by its ideals if you put in things you think should be there rather than those that belong.

Another trap is to use language that is non-specific or wishy-washy. 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 terms like ‘I will…’ and ‘I want…’ as soon as possible. My reasoning is that the sooner they start to sound like they know what they are talking about the sooner others will take them seriously and involve them in the day-to-day learning opportunities they need.

Medical students often answer questions like ‘You’re the intern in the ED and this patient comes in – what investigations would you like and why?’ with answers like “well, you could order a chest x-ray??”. They sound far more professional and 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”.

In the same way, the use of concrete language will make your mission statement far more useful 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

Last chance… Download a checklist to help you create a personal mission statement of your own!
You can also have a copy of this post for later reading.

 

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. [7]

There is no point in spending all of the time and mental or emotional energy required to develop a personal mission statement if you then 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 multiple ways to keep reminding yourself of the content of your personal mission statement, as follows:

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. [8]

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. You could develop a short series of affirmations based on the values you describe.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure to keep the contents and meaning of your mission statement in your mind, such 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.

Conclusion

Developing a personal mission statement can be a rewarding experience that offers insights into what you value in life and provides guidance for the day-to-day decisions we all face. Although it won’t necessarily be a short exercise, you might find that it is the best possible investment of your time.

 

Do you have a personal mission statement? Do you have questions about how to create one? Please leave a comment below and I’ll answer as soon as possible.

References   [ + ]

1.How Will You Measure Your Life? by James Allworth, Karen Dillon, Clayton Christensen
2, 3.The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
4, 5, 7, 8.A Personal Mission Statement: Your Road Map to Happiness by Michal Stawicki
6.http://msb.franklincovey.com/