Are you lost?
Is there a question mark hanging over the direction of your career?
Would you like a compass for guiding you through difficult decisions?
A mission statement is a powerful and effective productivity tool that can help you clarify your purpose throughout life.
Although a mission statement is traditionally regarded as a statement of purpose by a company, organisation or sporting body, productivity gurus like Stephen Covey, author of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, recommend that we all take time to write a personal mission statement.
In times of crisis or indecision, your personal mission statement represents your
North Star. It will help you make big career decisions and identify if you’re working towards the bigger picture.
This just isn’t possible if you keep your dreams inside your head.
In this post, I provide six easy steps that will help you write a personal mission statement and take charge of your life.
Step 1: Brainstorm Your Life
Brainstorming is a powerful creativity technique that will help you come up with new and exciting ideas. It can also help you write a mission statement.
On a large piece of paper, rapidly jot down or brainstorm all the commitments and responsibilities in your life:
Typically these are:
You should also consider each of the roles in your life. These may include: spouse, parent, employer/employee, student, brother/sister and so on.
You can expand on each of these areas and roles in terms of your aims, beliefs, principles, progress to date and causes of concern.
It’s not necessary to go into detail, the point is only to capture what’s important in your life, what progress you want to make and why.
Step 2: Draw on External Resources
Next gather quotes, information and lessons from books you read, talks you attended, places you visited, music or art that inspired you or people you met.
Consider the roles models in your professional and personal lives and what you can learn from them.
You could read their biographies and examine what drives your role models and how they overcame personal and professional difficulties.
Spend time reading mission statements of others and see how or if they relate to your life. Undoubtedly your heroes took up many of the same roles and responsibilities that you now hold.
If you keep a journal, read through your older entries and look for a common theme or thread.
If you’re still stuck, Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech is (arguably) one of the most famous personal mission statements there is.
It’s also helpful to consider organisations or people you *don’t want to emulate* and how you can avoid making their mistakes.
There’s as much to learn from failure as from success.
Step 3: Ask Clarifying Questions
Now ask yourself questions about each of your roles and areas of responsibility. Sample questions include:
- When am I at my best/worst as parent/employer/employee/spouse etc?
- Where do my natural talents lie?
- What’s important to me in my work/home life?
- What energises me and what makes me feel apathetic?
- What is my passion?
- Who inspires me in my work, relationships, etc?
- Which role models can I emulate?
- What values guide my work/my studies/my relationships?
- Are there core values or principles I am not prepared to violate (these may include professional charters that you sign up to)?
- How do these values relate to my day-to-day life?
- What mistakes have I made in my life so far, and how I can avoid repeating them?
You can write these down in a file on your computer, or you can expand on these questions using a mind map. If you’re less visually orientated, you could write a personal question and answer document, make bullet points, or even just record your thoughts on paper.
Step 4: Consider the Big Picture
In the trenches of the working life most people just don’t have time to consider where and who they’d like to become over the next 12 months, five years and even ten years.
If you’ve made it this far, you know better.
When you’re considering the bigger picture, you can include a wish list of places you’d like to go, projects you’d like to accomplish or dreams you’d like to realise.
Consider what you’d do if you had unlimited time, money and resources.
Identify actions or projects in area of your life that will help you accomplish these dreams. These may include things like completing a college course, launching a product in a new territory or preparing a son/daughter for college.
This is also a good time to consider the resources available now and in the future and how each project will impact on the other areas of your life.
For example, going back to college will take time away from your family and may use up some financial resources.
Can you balance this with your values and goals? Nobody is going to answer this question for you.
Step 5: Bring It All Together
You’re almost there.
Gather your information into a single document or source. Then, consolidate your roles, areas of responsibility, values, goals and dreams into several key themes or principles.
If you’re stuck, write a few lines about what you’d like people to say about your life on your 90th birthday party or at your funeral.
The final result could be a mantra or motto that you repeat or it a longer piece of work that you read or review regularly.
Start with verbs or statements like:
- “I believe…”
- “I am happiest when…”
- “I stand by…”
- “I am at my best when…”
It could also be a mind map that you return to regularly or even a picture or logo.
I’m not going to lie. This step takes time.
*Tip: If you need extra help, use with this online mission statement builder developed by Covey.*
Step 6: Put Your Mission Statement Into Practice
If you made it this far, you should have a working personal mission statement. The question now is: what should you do with your mission statement?
You could put it on your wall or keep it somewhere private but accessible. Or you could put it in your drawer (bare with me on this).
Alternatively, you could expand on your personal mission statement and develop one for your family or even connect it to your company’s mission statement.
Remember, the success of your personal mission statement lies in your hands. Your mission statement will shine all the more brightly if you put a few minutes aside every few months to review it and see if your life is on track. Consider your personal mission statement as a living document that you refine over time as your life changes.
When trouble arrives, as it inevitably will, you’ll be ready.
Please let me know in the comments section below about how you created your personal mission statement.
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This is an expanded version of a post that originally appeared on http://www.becomeawritertoday.com.