“What lies behind us is nothing compared to what lies within us and ahead of us.”
― Stephen R. Covey
I remember in the early 1990s, when writing a personal mission statement was the thing to do, nearly everyone I knew had one. It seems like everyone was reading “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey. In his book, Covey urges people to write their mission statements. A personal mission statement is a clear statement of a person’s life purpose and the practicalities of achieving that purpose.
Writing out your core values, your vision, your expectations, and your commitment to others, makes you think about what’s important to you. That’s when I began writing my mission statement. I began exploring and articulating my desires and asking what motivates me?
I always considered long-term goals, but up to that time, I never specifically wrote them out along with a strategy for achieving them. Writing a personal mission statement helped me visualize my future clearly, and writing a simple, practical plan for achieving it was self-empowering.
Why do you need a mission statement?
A well thought out mission statement causes you to focus on who you are, what you want, and what you do. Your mission statement is both the foundation you build on and the framework that sets the boundaries for your life’s work. Your mission statement brings clarity to your purpose and helps to guide you and those who work with you, giving both a point of reference from which to work.
Mission statements set you apart from others. Your mission statement should be specific enough to clarify your life’s purpose for both you and those who work with you. Your mission statement should be comprehensive enough to allow you room to grow into the future you envision.
What should your mission statement entail?
Your mission statement should communicate who you are and why you exist. Developing your mission statement isn’t about showing others you’re the best; it should explain your uniqueness. Your mission statement should be a simple and practical guide for your life.
John C. Maxwell has a simple yet very practical mission statement containing twelve words; “Every day I add value to leaders who multiply value to others.” John’s life is simple; he’s about investing in others who will, in turn, multiply that value exponentially.
Maxwell uses a simple guide he calls “my Rule of Five,” it helps him live out his mission statement daily, In his own words,
- Every day I value people.
- Every day I think of ways to add value to people.
- Every day I look for ways to add value to people.
- Every day I do things that add value to people.
- Every day I encourage others to add value to people.
How can you write a mission statement to guide your life?
For starters, your statement must contain more than a clever catchphrase or inspirational words. Your statement must motivate you to move forward, tethering it to your strengths.
Your statement must resonate with you, or it will never do so with others. Most importantly, you must have a definite outcome in mind and a way to chart your progress. If your writing one for your organization keep in mind, it must reflect who you are because your values will influence those around you, thus developing your organizations’ culture.
Here are five important questions to ask yourself as you develop your mission statement:
1) Is it personal?
Does your mission statement reflect who you are? Your statement should act as a mirror to your soul. Ask yourself specific questions: what gets you going? What are you most passionate about, and what are your natural gifts? Does your statement match your ethics and personality? Examine your skillsets closely; you’ll be honing them for the rest of your life.
2) Is it practical?
Your mission statement should be realistic and attainable. A statement that sets the bar too high can be discouraging and do more harm than good. Your statement must be something you do daily; Maxwell’s rule of five begins each phrase with “every day.” Your mission statement should influence your decisions. You may not know what challenges you’ll face in the years ahead but at least you’ll know what you must do each day.
3) Is it realistic?
If you can’t see yourself doing it, don’t write it, unrealistic ideas are not motivating; make sure your mission is achievable. Remember, your mission in life reflects your values, and it is your values that dictate your potential. Character is everything and your mission statement must reflect yours. Though your statement must be grounded in reality, you must value exceeding expectations.
4) Does it include others?
Your good mission statement should inspire those who read it and work with you. It’s wisely said, “One is too small a number to achieve greatness,” Your vision should add value to those who help you because it’s those who help you that will take your mission to the next level.
5) Can you chart its progress?
Good leaders know that the best mission statements are measurable. When you add value to others who can lead, you help them increase their influence, which in turn multiplies yours. You can easily chart your progress by monitoring the progress of your team.
“The thing I learned is that you don’t invent your mission, you detect it. You uncover it, as it were.” ― Stephen R. Covey