How often do you stop to think about your mission in life? Not about specific goals or objectives but the type of person you want to be and how you want to live your life. For most people, the answer is rarely or never, and that is why each of us needs a personal mission statement.
A personal mission statement is a means of defining to yourself your core values and beliefs. It can act as a reminder, in both good times and bad, of the version of you that you aspire to be. An invaluable guide in all stages of life, creating and upholding a mission statement can help you shape your life around what matters most to you and reap the rewards that come with it.
Understanding Personal Mission Statements
To understand the value of a personal mission statement, it is first crucial to distinguish between a mission and a goal. A goal is something you can complete. It has a finish line, and the purpose of defining a goal is to reach the finish line and move on to the next thing.
A mission, in this context, is ongoing. It is not something with a clear endpoint but something you keep with you indefinitely. A mission may change or evolve over time, but it isn’t something you should strive to “complete.”
It is, of course, worthwhile to have goals in life, both big and small, discrete goals. They help you achieve the desired outcomes and reach the places you want to go. But a mission is broader than that; it transcends any specific goal. It helps remind you of the ideal version of yourself that you would like to be, and it informs your choices along the way.
A personal mission statement is a way of defining your mission to yourself. It can take many forms, but it is an invaluable tool in every case. It can also help you to both define and achieve your more objective-focused goals.
Personal vs. Corporate Mission Statements
When a company makes a mission statement, it defines what it strives to be, its mission that transcends any one particular goal. Although company founders or other leadership usually create it, it stands as a rallying flag for every employee. It helps to keep everyone on the same page so that the many people who make up a company can work together to accomplish shared goals.
A personal mission statement is strictly for you, by you. You do not need to convince anyone else to buy into or uphold your mission and values. That means you’re free to craft it in whatever way suits you best.
Business mission statements, especially for large corporations, have the burden of needing to be agreeable to everyone. As a result, they can become quite diluted and hard for anyone to feel inspired by. Your mission statement is uniquely you. It defines who you want to be and the mission you aim to accomplish.
Benefits of Having a Personal Mission Statement
We’ve all had moments where it would have been invaluable to have a loving and all-knowing guide point us in the right direction. Well, good news. There is just such a guide, and it’s you! Like with written goals, there are practical benefits, for both person and organization alike, to writing down your core values and defining a clear mission for yourself.
- Clarity in your decisions. A mission statement is built upon years’ worth of your own wisdom and self-guidance and can be an indispensable advisor in navigating life’s difficult decisions.
- Appreciation for yourself and your choices. It’s far easier to feel good about your direction when following your internal compass.
- Confidence in your journey, knowing that introspection and self-awareness guide you, rather than emotion and impulse alone.
- Results for the goals you set. While the mission statement doesn’t contain individual goals, it usually does influence your commitment to systems that move you toward and beyond each goal.
- Growth that aligns with who you want to be. Of course, what you set your mind to, you inevitably manifest into reality. With a constant reminder of your ideals at your side, you will find yourself in a steady state of asymptotic ascent to your ideal version of yourself.
Think of this artifact as your guide to life, a strategic plan to pursue a powerful mission. We have most of the guidance we need already; all we need is a way to distill and bottle it so it’s ready when we need it.
What Should a Personal Mission Statement Look Like?
There is no single, clear answer for what a personal mission statement should look like, and that’s actually great news. The purpose of a mission statement is to reflect your unique character and aspirations back to you to inspire you to live by them. If that doesn’t look the way someone else’s does, all the better!
Personal mission statements can take many forms. The most common mirrors what you usually see for company mission statements: simple prose, a paragraph or so of text outlining your core mission. There’s nothing wrong with a classic, but there are plenty of other ways to make your statement, too! For instance, you can outline your mission and vision as simple tenets in a bulleted list or compose them into a poem.
The content of a mission statement can vary as much as the format. What is most important to you? Answering that question will start to reveal what your mission statement can evolve into.
As long as your mission statement is in a format that makes sense to you, that you can come back to check on regularly and occasionally update as your views evolve, you’ll have nothing to worry about.
Personal Mission Statement Examples
Every personal mission statement is a unique reflection of its creator, but you have to start somewhere. Below are a few examples of personal mission statements to give you a sense of what yours could look like. Feel free to use any of the following as a starting point, or go elsewhere for inspiration and create something new!
Example 1 – Simple Statement
For those who don’t feel motivated to reinvent the wheel, a “classic”-style simple mission statement is a great way to go. Simply take the beliefs and commitments you want to include and compose them into a concise few sentences, like so:
In all things, I will seek to show others kindness and offer my support where I can. I will not always get everything right on the first try, but when I don’t, I will learn from my mistakes and try again. My career is only as important as the life it enables me to live, and when it comes to it, I will always put my family first. My time is finite, and I will spend as much of it as possible fostering joy.
Example 2 – List
Do you value brevity? If so, one way to craft a great mission statement is as a short list of values. You can think of these as personal tenets to guide your choices and actions. This format is also incredibly easy to update over time, free to add, remove, or tweak items as you see fit:
- Always offer to help
- Never stop learning
- Make time for family
- When in doubt, keep it simple
- Measure twice, cut once
- Know when to quit
Example 3 – Poem
A poem is a great way to go if you’re looking for a more creative format for your personal mission statement. While this style may take a bit more effort to create and modify later, it may be well worth it. Taking the extra time to sit with your thoughts and formulate them this way is a great way to internalize them further and make your statement easier to recall later:
When I get the chance to take a leap
I’ll jump right in with both my feet
When I feel I need a break,
I’ll take one for my body’s sake.
Whenever others cause me hurt,
I’ll first remember my own worth.
I’ll know my friends and keep them close
Because they’re the family that I chose.
How to Write Your Personal Mission Statement
In keeping with the theme we’ve established so far, there is no one perfect way to develop a mission statement. You’re free to follow any process that makes sense to you. However, if you’ve never made a mission statement before and you’re feeling a little lost as to how to go about it, here are a few simple steps you can follow to go from 0 to 1 and get your mission statement started.
Step 1: Brainstorm What Should Go Into It
The first step to making a new mission statement may be the hardest, and it is worth dedicating some time to figure it out. At this stage, you want to start putting together the content that will go into your mission statement – the values, beliefs, and aspirations you most want to uphold and live by.
You can polish and refine these thoughts later, but for now, all you need is a brainstorm list. Remember, these are not completable objectives like landing a certain job or buying a house. Focus more on the “how” of living your life than the “what” you want to have or achieve. You can start by deciding if any of the following are of vital importance to you:
- Spending quality time with your family
- Being creative and expressing yourself
- Maintaining strong friendships
- Showing up in your romantic relationships
- Exploring, learning, and growing
- Connecting with nature
- Building a successful career
- Laughing and entertaining others
- Showing kindness and support to those in need
The list can go on and on, but you will know what matters most to you. Try to stay away from platitudes and generic qualities you think a “good” person should have. Focus instead on what fills you up and makes you feel happy, proud, enthusiastic, and connected to your life. The more personal and specific you can be, the better.
Step 2: Pick a Format and Make a V1 Mission Statement
Once you have brainstormed your list of essential values and the wisdom you want to live by, it’s time to put it together into your first mission statement.
Using the examples above, decide what format you want for your mission statement. A paragraph, list, or poem are three reliable options, but you don’t have to be limited to those three. You could even put your mission into a song, a picture, or something entirely new!
It’s good to spend some time at this stage to filter through your initial brainstorm of ideas, pick the most valuable to you, and massage them into a format that clearly evokes those feelings in you. This artifact should be a reminder that you can draw on anytime that says, “This is who I am going to be today and who I will continue to be going forward.”
Step 3: Check in Regularly
The third step of crafting a personal mission statement is to make it part of your life. Some people post it in a visible place in their home where they can review it daily, like on a bathroom mirror or in the closet where they get dressed every day. Others sit down with it once a week or a month and do a more focused reflection session.
These regular check-ins keep your mission statement on your mind and your values present in your day. The purpose of a mission statement is to guide you using your own accumulated wisdom and self-knowledge. It cannot serve that purpose if you create it once, leave it in a drawer, and forget about it.
Step 4: Update It as Needed
For the final step of this process, it is crucial to reiterate a bit of nuance with personal mission statements. The ideals in your mission statement should be ongoing and indefinite, not completable or time-bound like a SMART goal. However, that does not mean a mission statement should be set in stone once and for all time.
A mission statement reflects your best understanding of yourself and your mission at any given time. These things can, and likely should, gradually evolve as you do.
For instance, maybe when you first created your statement, you thought that your career track was of vital importance to your life, and now you don’t. Perhaps you became a parent since you made it and want to reposition your values to reflect that. Or maybe you discovered a passion for sustainability or social progress.
Our life situations, perspectives, and understanding are constantly evolving, and it’s more than okay for a mission statement to evolve with them.
In the initial stages after first making your mission statement, you will likely want to adjust it often to work it into a shape that feels just right. As it matures, there probably won’t be as much need to change it very often. But like the pursuits within a personal mission statement, the statement itself never needs to be considered “done.”
Becoming a You on a Mission
Life can be beautiful, painful, and incredibly messy, sometimes all at once. There will always be things you want to achieve, things you want to overcome, and things you want to feel or acquire. All of these things can change, and most of them likely will as the years pass by. But through it all, some things stay pretty consistent: the core of your character, your most treasured values, and the version of yourself you aspire to be.
A personal mission statement helps you to identify these central truths in your life and hold on to them through good times and bad. A reminder of your mission, even when it evolves gradually over time, sharpens your focus and keeps you on track with the life you want to live. By keeping your mission statement on your mind, you can continuously mold your life around becoming your ideal version of yourself.