A personal mission statement is a powerful and effective productivity tool that makes it easier to make decisions and clarify your purpose for life.
In this guide, I will describe how to write a personal mission statement step-by-step.
We’ll cover how to brainstorm and clarify the areas in your life, consider the bigger picture, and bring this information together to write a personal mission statement.
Personal mission statements take some time to develop, and they have to be reviewed regularly. The process of creating one helps you consider your purpose in life and how you are going to achieve your goals.
Here are a few simple tips that should make the process easier.
Everyone has a different view about the careers you should follow, the relationships you should form, and the dreams you pursue.
If you’re stuck, a personal mission statement can help. Mission statements are not just for companies, businesses, and organizations.
A personal mission statement can help you make decisions, avoid repeating mistakes, and figure out your purpose in life. Stephen R. Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, was one of the biggest advocates of personal mission statements.
Effective people are guided by their own missions and manage their lives according to principles. Ineffective people follow other people’s agendas and manage their lives around pressing matters.
When I was unemployed, I used my personal mission statement to help me decide on jobs to apply for, people to ask for help, and college courses to take.
You can create your personal mission statement in five simple steps.
Let’s get started.
- Why Personal Mission Statements Are Important
- Step 1: Brainstorm What Matters
- Step 2: Draw on External Resources
- Step 3: Ask Yourself Hard Questions
- Step 4: Focus on the Big Picture
- Step 5: Write Your Mission Statement
- Step 6: Review Your Mission Statement Regularly
- Example Personal Mission Statements
- How to Write a Personal Mission Statement: The Final Word
Why Personal Mission Statements Are Important
I first came across the idea of a personal mission statement when I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
Covey explains how a vision statement or personal mission statement is a tool for living a balanced life. It can help anyone (including writers) work on the right things at the right time.
The most effective way I know to begin with the end in mind is to develop a personal mission statement or philosophy, or creed.
Author Richard Nelson Bolles also address in What Color is Your Parachute .
Bolles’ book is an annual publication that provides practical tips for the unemployed or stuck in a career rut.
In his book, he explains how important it is for job-seekers to spend time figuring out who they are and what they want from a career.
Unemployment becomes a life transition when you can’t find a job doing the same work you’ve always done. Since you have to rethink one thing,
Bolles explains how knowing yourself will help you find a better, more rewarding career.
Step 1: Brainstorm What Matters
Writing a personal mission statement is a lot like coming up with a personal brand, except it’s bigger!
Before you write your personal mission statement, organize your life into key areas using a mind-map.
Typically, these areas include:
Also, consider each of your roles. Normally, these include: spouse, parent, employer/employee, student, brother/sister.
Reflect on these areas in terms of your aims, beliefs, principles, progress to date, causes of concern, etc. Ideally, you’ll identify three or four core values that drive your vision or personal mission statement.
You could put this type of information on a vision board, a journal, or free write about each area. Spending time reflecting on each of these key areas will help you identify any common themes.
For example, perhaps you value consistency, adventure or learning?
Step 2: Draw on External Resources
Next, consider what you value in the world.
Consider inspiring leaders, people you’d like to emulate, and those you’d rather avoid. How can you apply teachings and lessons? And what mistakes should you avoid?
You can learn as much from failure as you can from success.
For this step, I gathered quotes, information, and lessons from books I read, talks I attended, and the places I visited. You could also talk to friends or family members about past successes and failures.
This step helped me think about the kind of writer I want to become and how I can use the written word to improve my personal and professional lives.
Similarly, if you use positive affirmations, draw on these as inspiration for your statement too.
Step 3: Ask Yourself Hard Questions
Asking and answering tough questions will help you create a more honest mission statement.
Ask questions like:
- When am I at my best and worst as parent, employer, employee, or spouse?
- Where do my natural talents lie?
- What’s important to me personally and professionally?
- What gets me up in the morning and what makes me want to stay in bed?
- What does my perfect day look like?
- What values guide my work, studies and relationships?
- What principles am I not prepared to violate? This may include professional charters that you’ve signed up to.
- What mistakes have I made so far, and how I can avoid repeating them?
- What are my goals?
I asked and answered these questions in a personal journal. You could write a personal question and answer document, make bullet points, or write notes on paper. Or use a mind-map to expand on each question and answer.
The answers to these questions should help you identify missing resources and skills and other areas from your career or personal life that you need clarification about.
Step 4: Focus on the Big Picture
Every good mission statement includes some long-term goals.
Consider where’d like to be and who you want to become over the next 12 months, five years and even ten years.
You could write:
- a list of places you’d like to visit
- an online writing course you’re going to take
- dreams you hope to realize
- a product you want to create
- write a book
Consider what you’d do if you had unlimited time, money and resources. When writing your personal goals, think big.
Remember, each of these big picture items will impact other areas. So try and make connections between them and see if they support or detract from each other.
For example, several years ago, I went back to college part-time at night. My studies were time away from family life, and it used up some financial resources.
At the time, the college was keeping with my mission statement as I knew (hoped!) it would enhance my career and give me free time later on.
Step 5: Write Your Mission Statement
Gather all your information in a permanent document, place or source that you’re going to review regularly.
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 at your 100th birthday party or at your funeral.
The final result could be a mantra or motto that you repeat. It could be a picture, logo, or a document that you read every week or month.
It should cover all of the aspects of your life including work, health and family, rather than just one area like work.
If you’re using words, it should start with verbs like:
- “I believe…”
- “I am happiest when…”
- “I am at my best when…”
That said, I don’t recommend writing one that’s more than a page.
Step 6: Review Your Mission Statement Regularly
You may choose to put your mission statement on your wall or keep it somewhere private but accessible. You could also expand this mission statement and develop one for your family.
You don’t need to it every day, but it’s good practice to keep a personal mission statement in an accessible location. Ideally, read it once a quarter.
That way, you can gauge if 1. you’re living up to this mission statement and 2. if it aligns with your current core values. You may need to edit a mission statement accordingly.
Writing an effective personal mission statement means examining if it’s fit for purpose and if it reflects how you want to spend your time.
For example, when my career goals changed, I adapted my mission statement accordingly.
Example Personal Mission Statements
Here are 2 famous personal mission statements:
“To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.” — Oprah Winfrey,
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style” Maya Angelou
And here are two examples I wrote based on the above steps:
“To teach other writers how to express themselves through creative and hard work.”
“To lead a purpose-filled and present life where I help others and support my family.”
How to Write a Personal Mission Statement: The Final Word
Writing a mission statement involves deep soul searching, and this takes time.
If it wasn’t hard work, it wouldn’t be worth doing. If you still need help, use this online mission statement builder developed by Franklin Covey.
Whatever your approach, the benefits of a mission statement are tremendous. In times of crisis or indecision, your mission statement will become a North Star.
It will guide you from the dark towards a meaningful life.
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Bryan Collins runs things around here. He's also a non-fiction writer and author.
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