Finding Your Mission: Steps to Help You Write a Personal Mission Statement
Why should you write a personal mission statement?
Bronie Ware worked for many years in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She found the five most common regrets of dying people are:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a lie true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I didn’t work so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
In the book Repacking Your Bags, authors Richard Leider and David Shapiro state that their research shows that the number one deadly fear that people have is “Having lived a meaningless life.”
Creating a personal mission statement seems to be a good starting point to avoid such regrets at the end of your life. Finding one’s mission, and then fulfilling it, is perhaps the most vital activity in which a person can engage.
A mission statement is, in essence, a written-down reason for being – whether for a person or a company. It is the key to finding your path in life and identifying the mission choose to follow. It’s about your life’s purpose which determines the quality and quantity of your life. Literally.
Life’s purpose – it sounds grandiose, doesn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be lofty, enormous. Most of us are just common folks who struggle with our fears, doubts, anxieties, past. We don’t dream of being a hero, rescuing the world. We dream about a few sources if income to be able to support our families and look to the future with hope. To heal our relationships. To break up our additions. To reduce the pile of our problems.
Your mission statement is your philosophy, your creed. “It focuses on what you want to be (character) and what you want to do (contributions), and on the values or principles upon which being and doing are based.”
People who know what they live for tend to have happier and more fulfilling lives than those who don’t.
A mission statement should be:
- No more than a single sentence long. The mission statement does not have to be excessively long. The best statements are clear and concise.
- Written in the positive. It’s important to avoid negations (“I don’t want to…”) in your mission statement.
- Easily understood by a 13-year old.
- Able to be retrieved by memory at gun-point.
Below are some steps and thought experiments to help you begin developing your own personal mission statement.
Step 1: Identify what make you great in the past.
This step of creating your mission statement takes a reflective approach. By highlighting your past successes, you can gain a better understanding about existing qualities that you would like to preserve or expand upon. Everybody has already an excellent foundation they can build upon. It’s not necessary to throw everything over.
- What did you do for fun when you were a child?
- What were your favorite toys? Your favorite games?
- Do you remember anything that came particularly easy to you as a child?
- What did you tell people you were going to be do or be when you grew up?
- What were your best accomplishments?
Step 2: Determine your core values
The second step is designed to help you discover the most important values that define who you are. You can ask yourself what your priorities in life are and what specific qualities resemble you the most.
- What most excites you in or about the world?
- What most angers you in or about the world?
- What principle, cause, value or purpose would you be willing to defend to the death or devote your life to?
- If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you give your life to?
For example, some people’s core value might be “joy” or “service” or “justice” or “family” or “creativity” or “freedom” or “equality” or “faith” or “excellence.” What is your core?
Step 3: Identify your core talents
The third step is centered on the identification of your talents/abilities.
- Ask yourself which of your skills and talents are above average?
- People say “Oh, you are so good at ______________________.”
- Even more importantly, reflect on which of your best talents and skills add joy and fulfillment to your life.
- For an objective assessment of your natural talents, see the Highlands Ability Battery.
Your talents, when it comes to your personal mission statement, tend to be things that make you feel food when you think about doing them. Some people’s core talents might be “inspire” or “teach” or “enlighten” or “create” or “build” or “entertain” or “design” or “defend” or “persuade” or “improve.”
Step 4: Determine what you can contribute
Your personal mission statement lacks a great deal of motivational power if you do not know how your life contributes to the greater good. It’s a common trap many people fall prey to.
Every mission implies that someone will be helped.
- Whom is it that you feel called to help? The more specific you can be, the more focused and powerful will be your energy.
Examples: The environment, Children, The Poor, Immigration, Spirituality, Human Development, Animal Care, Nutrition, Veterans, Computer Technology
Below are a few examples of personal mission statements from past clients
- My mission is to create, nurture, and maintain an environment of growth, challenge, and unlimited potential for all those around me.
- My mission is to inspire, educate, and lead those I care about through athletics.
- My mission is to coach, teach, and heal depressed people through nutrition.
- My mission is to discover, illuminate, and inspire creative potential for the evolution of human consciousness.
- My mission is to accomplish, create, and provide an environment of growth, creativity, challenge and unlimited potential for those around me and others.
People with clearly defined missions have always led those who haven’t any. You are either living your mission, or you are living someone else’s. It’s a simple as that. Which shall it be?
Note: If you like this article, let me know and I’ll send you an exercise to better help you define your personal mission statement.