Why You Need to Write Your Personal Mission Statement
You can’t keep putting it off for long.
Humans are complicated animals. As smart as we are, we often get too overwhelmed by the many emotions, desires, and thoughts that compete for a spot in our consciousness. It’s ironic how we spend lots of time getting to know other people when we barely know ourselves.
Self-awareness, commonly overlooked, often ends up being the single most important thing one could ever acquire. Not surprisingly, it’s a great unlock for life’s toughest intrapersonal dilemmas.
A very common one many of us face is not knowing what to do in life. This can be often rephrased into several questions — “What is my life’s calling”. “What career path do I take?” “Do I get a master’s degree?” While each is different from the other, they all fall under the same umbrella.
If you’re dealing with this yourself, don’t fret. It’s not your fault. Truth be told, it is a hard question to answer and you’re not the first one who has ever struggled with it. I’ve been there myself. What’s not okay though is idly leaving this question unanswered. Because unlike most of life’s difficult questions, this one has an hourglass strapped to its back. You’ll have to answer it eventually. The sooner the better.
Life is long and short.
— Gary Vaynerchuk.
As a longtime Gary Vaynerchuk fan, I’m all too familiar with one of his core messages — patience is king, that it’s never too late to get up and live your passion, even if you’re 40.
In a way, I agree with him. Because of unemployment and other effects caused by COVID-19, thousands are now starting long-awaited passion projects. Common examples include starting a business around things they love or taking on a completely new career path, oftentimes at 30, 50, or even 60 years old!
I’m glad that more and more stories like this are being published. It makes me grateful that we exist in a world where it’s possible to earn money around your passion.
That being said, Gary’s patience notion is not without its caveats. For instance, I’m sure you can agree that it’s a lot more comforting to have a clear goal in life at 20 years of age compared to 50. Because as great as finally starting your dream business after retirement sounds, wouldn’t it be better to get over that hump much earlier? I mean, we’re talking about 20, even 30 lost years spent in an unwanted career — years that you could never recall.
The solution? It’s rather simple — gain as much self-awareness as you can and as early as possible. The more you know yourself, the more likely you’ll know which path to take.
From Stephen Covey’s bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we find a rather simple tool that helps solve this common problem — the personal mission statement.
The Personal Mission Statement
At the basic level, the personal mission statement helps one know him/herself by serving as a personal creed or constitution. Much like the latter, this document is meant to be unchanging — mostly composed of all-encompassing manifestos, it serves as your rock and foundation for a huge variety of circumstances.
The best mission statements are centered on principles and help the individuals who own them navigate through the often turbulent changes that occur in the world.
The problem is, people don’t always start out as principle-centered. As of reading this, you might currently be family, spouse, pleasure, career, or even money-centered. Though perfectly understandable, none of these provides a secure foundation for the changing circumstances we humans go through. Unlike principles, these things are subject to frequent or immediate change. If they go down, you too go down with them.
For instance, if you’re wife-centered, you’re more likely to become her accomplice instead of helping her address her favorite vices. The same goes for career-centered workaholics who neglect their own families as they clock in longer hours.
The opposite can be said though for principle-centered individuals. Since principles are unchanging truths deeply linked to reality itself, you can count on them to provide you with wisdom and strength when times get rough.
As you write Version 1 of your personal mission statement, you will come to know your very own center. This is the starting point of self-discovery and is a very valuable step to your progression. Once done, don’t stop. Continue to make adjustments to it as your growth towards becoming more principle-centered accelerates. It might take months or even a few years to produce that solid, final version but it will be well worth the effort.
Once you finally have it, take it with you wherever you go. Cherish it and let it guide you as you take on this tumultuous world. Use it to live a life you can be proud of.
Here is a sample that was taken directly from the book. This one belongs to Stephen Covey’s friend, Rolfe:
Succeed at home first.
Seek and merit divine help.
Never compromise with honesty.
Remember the people involved.
Hear both sides before judging.
Obtain counsel of others.
Defend those who are absent
Be sincere yet decisive.
Develop one new proficiency a year.
Plan tomorrow’s workday.
Hustle while you wait.
Maintain a positive attitude.
Kee a sense of humor.
Be orderly in person and in work.
Do not fear mistakes — fear only the absence of creative, constructive, and corrective responses to those mistakes.
Facilitate the success of subordinates.
Listen twice as much as you speak.
Writing Your Own Personal Mission Statement
Much more than a writing project, drafting a personal mission statement is an introspective activity, requiring a lot of self-discovery and learning. I could imagine why it could seem quite a daunting task for many.
The truth is though, writing that version 1 shouldn’t take you more than an hour! Simply set aside a portion of your day where your mind is at its clearest and just have at it.
If you need more information, you can check out the exact portion of the book within chapter 2 where the author discusses it in full detail. Alternatively, you can make use of these simple templates made by Hubspot to get started:
1. To [what you want to do] by [how you’ll do it] so that [what impact you hope to make].
Example — “To serve as a leader by encouraging innovation and forward-thinking so that my employees can create technology that will improve the lives of those in developing countries.”
2. I value [one or multiple things you value] because [why it matters to you]. To do this, I will [how your professional path will align with these values].
Example — “I value education because I believe it can help women get involved in politics and become world leaders. To do this, I will teach women’s studies on policy and law.”
3. To use my [skills or expertise] to inspire/lead [group of people] so that [ultimate goal].
Example — “To use my skills as a journalist to inspire people, so that they are educated about the world around them and are energized to make change.”
When I started writing my personal mission statement, a great sense of clarity immediately came over me. I got to know myself better as I put on paper the things I believed in. It made them more tangible, more real. By reviewing it constantly, I’m always reminded of the people and ideas I value the most — giving me the courage to fight and suffer for them. The level of self-awareness I developed? Unparalleled. It’s quite amazing to think that a simple writing activity could have such an effect. I would wish it upon everybody I know.
If you haven’t written yours yet, what are you waiting for? This is one of the very few things you can do now that could actually have a dramatic change on your perspective. You’ll get to know yourself more and be properly equipped to take on this great journey called life.