The goal of this post is to get you to do something.
Sometimes even very intelligent people confuse knowing how to do something, or reading about something, with actually doing it. I count myself in the ranks of this group from time to time.
Years ago I read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey, and I thought to myself, “Hmm. Creating a personal mission statement sounds like a great idea. I bet I’d learn a lot from that process.”
Then I turned the page, despite Covey’s protestations to stop and actually do it. Instead I just continued reading…
Don’t Just Read About This… Actually Do it!
Recently, I actually stopped and took the time to draft my life list and to create a personal mission statement. I can attest to the value of both exercises. I strongly recommend you do both. They serve different purposes. Unlike a life list, which may be constantly changing, a personal mission statement is meant to be a foundational document. A personal mission statement is your view of the forest; a life list catalogs the intriguing trees.
The value of learning comes from applying an idea or a process, not simply knowing it. I’m sure I learned something from reading Covey the first time, but it can’t compare to the value of thinking about my life and actually writing about the unique values and principles that drive me.
Write Your Own Mission Statement
Since this is your mission statement (a.k.a. creed or constitution), you can and should do whatever works for you. Create a list, a poem, etc. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Think of it as a high school creative writing project. I started with the major areas of my life that were most important to me (Family and Friends, Wellness, Learning, Empathy, Work) and then I just started writing. Don’t try to impose a form on your writing yet. Get it out of your head and onto the paper. Then, leave it for a little while and come back to it with fresh eyes. Some people may be able to write it in one sitting, but mine required a couple of drafts.
Your Personal Compass
You mission statement identifies the values and principles that will endure over time, your true core. Knowing these things consciously and explicitly will give you the ability to quickly respond to any change since you know who you are and what you value.
“Once you have that sense of mission, you have the essence of your own proactivity. You have the vision and the values which direct your life. You have the basic direction from which you set your long term and short term goals. You have the power of a written constitution based on correct principles, against which every decision concerning the most effective use of your time, your talents, and your energies can be effectively measured.” Covey.
When you’re uncertain or confused, rereading what you’ve written from time to time can help remind you of what’s important to you. It can serve as your personal compass in life – needing only to be recalibrated from time to time.