“We detect rather than invent our missions in life”…Viktor Frankl
Most of us have an idea of what we believe in and how we want to live our lives. We may have strong emotional connection to these values and beliefs and yet many of us would be hard pressed to articulate a personal mission statement.
Words like honesty and integrity come to mind, and both are excellent guideposts but neither really give a sense of purpose.
A personal mission statement can provide clarity, giving you a sense of purpose, defining who you are and how you intend to live your life.
So, if you already have an idea of your values and what you want to do with your life, why is it so important to be able to articulate them? After all, they are kind of personal.
It can be invaluable to articulate and formalized those thoughts and ideas, even if you never intend to share them. A personal mission statement is one way to do that.
Once you have your mission defined, it can serve to help you make decisions about how you want to interact and share your life with others. More specifically, being very clear on your personal mission can help you make the best use of your time, talents and resources. What could be more inspiring than that?
And, if a couple of paragraphs can help maintain control over your calendar, why not give it a try? Sit down with paper and pen, or your computer and work through the following steps. It may take a few intense sessions one weekend or several brief sessions over a couple of weeks. There is no magic word count, but typically 1-2 paragraphs should be enough to include what is important while challenging you to really be specific and distill your thoughts.
- Identify your past successes. Where have you excelled? Look at these successes and note any common themes. These are most likely areas of strength and interest.
- Identify your values both ethical and moral. Start with a long list then, distill it down to the most important ones to you.
- Identify your roles. As a parent, spouse, co-worker, yogi, friend, teacher, caregiver etc. These represent the individuals and groups with which you will interact.
- Identify your goals, both short and long term.
- Using this information, create a personal Mission Statement. Write in a positive voice, using clear concise statements. This may take several drafts. Write it out, read it out loud and hear how it “feels” to you. Revise, edit and read it again.
- Reassess your Mission Statement every few years to determine if you are living according to your mission. Maybe your life has strayed from your mission, or maybe your mission has evolved.
Up to this point, this exercise itself can be very satisfying for the insight it provides. But, now, as the statement is complete, it can start working for you.
Besides bringing clarity, your personal mission statement can be used as a tool to objectively evaluate requests for your time and resources. It can be very flattering to be asked to serve on a board or committee, or be asked to represent a charitable cause. Now, using what you have written, you can ask yourself “will the time and effort I spend fulfilling that obligation align with and support my personal mission?”.
Not only does this process help you avoid spending time and resources where you may not want to, but also serves as a way to seek out opportunities that further your mission.