How to Write A Personal Mission Statement
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[NAME]’s Personal Mission Statement:
I want to [GOAL].
I will do this through [CHARACTERISTIC]
so I can [IMPACT]
Let’s cut to the chase...if you want to live out the best version of your life...
You NEED a personal mission statement.
Let me tell you why.
Maybe you’re “lost” and looking for direction.
Maybe you’re a student struggling to choose a life path.
Maybe you’re a Type-A productivity nerd who wants to dial in on what’s important.
Whoever you are, you don’t want to float around aimlessly wherever life happens to take you.
In order to do that, you need a map. A “playbook”, if you will. That’s where a personal mission statement comes in to save the day.
If you’ve poked around the interwebs, you’ve probably noticed that most “how to write a personal mission statement” advice out there is kinda vague.
“Ask yourself what kind of legacy you want to leave.”
“Do some deep reflection and list out your strengths and values.”
“Put all your self-reflections together into one succinct statement. Not too long, but not too short either.”
Don’t get me wrong—it’s all good stuff. But if you’re like me, you’re thinking...
“Ummm ok, but how? What is this “deep reflection” you speak of? Break it down plz. GIMME SOME EXAMPLES.”
Well, that’s exactly what we’re about to do. This guide is chock-full of practical exercises, examples, templates, and even a magic mission statement auto-generator...
Actually, you know what? I’ll even write my own mission statement right alongside you.
Raw, uncut, and uncensored...*gulp*
Alrighty then, let’s get you missioned up and ready to crush life!
But first, some important things to define...
What is a personal mission statement?
Have you heard of an organizational mission statement?
It’s basically a couple sentences describing the “why” of a company. It’s like their DNA. It includes things like their goals, philosophies, and who they serve. It helps make decisions and stay on course.
A personal mission statement is pretty similar.
Think of it as your personal “compass” for life. It defines your life purpose, your roles, your priorities, what you stand for, how you want to live, and why.
And it’s not just about your career path. It’s a compass that directs ALL aspects of life. Your relationships, health, spirituality, life goals...everything.
Feeling dizzy yet?
If so, take my hand, young paddawan, and I’ll guide you through step-by-step.
Why life sucks without a personal mission statement
You know those speedy walking track things at the airport?
The ones that are supposed to make you get places faster, but really don’t do anything because all the lazy people just stand there and block your path? Yeah, those.
Imagine you’re surrounding by ten different speed walkie tracks, all leading in different directions to different boarding gates.
You’re job is to choose the one that will take you to your gate. Your plane is about to take off and you only have one shot.
The problem is - you’re drunk, blindfolded, and I just spun you around 10 times. (And shoot, did you need Gate 12 or Gate 21?) So, which speed walkie track do you take?
Odds are you won’t make that flight.
And, as crazy as it sounds, that’s what it’s like to live life without a mission statement.
There’s no basis for making tough decisions. No way to evaluate which choice leads you where you want to go (assuming you even know where you want to go!).
So how can you expect to get there?
Or here’s a more realistic example.
Say you get offered a huge promotion, but it means uprooting your family and moving across the country.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, you’ll make twice as much money, and it’s the next step towards your ultimate career dream.
The problem is, the work itself doesn’t excite you much. Plus, your wife loves the city you’re currently in because your 7-year-old daughter—who has a rare heart condition—is being treated by the top-rated specialist in the country.
So, what do you do?
Wait for another opportunity which may never come? (Let’s be honest, it probably won’t.)
Uproot the family? (There are doctors in other cities, after all, and your increase in salary could help.)
Take the job, leave the family behind, visit every weekend, and hope it’s temporary? (Win-win...right?)
Tough choice...at least for those without a personal mission statement.
Not only does a personal mission statement help you make the right decision, but it also gives you a reason why you made the decision. You’re living according to your values. There are no regrets.
How to write a personal mission statement for dummies
A quick warning before we start - this takes effort. This isn’t something you squeeze into the last 5 minutes of your lunch break with Janice posted up next to you slurping down her soup...
I did mine in two 1-hour sessions (and it’s far from perfect as you’ll see).
Turns out, deep reflection is actually kinda hard. It takes time. But the more you put in, the more clarity you’ll get. It’ll pay dividends the rest of your life.
You’ll laser in on what’s truly important, creating your own life script to follow (instead of following someone else’s). Let’s get started. If you’re just looking for a quick fix, try this...
Step 1 - Get to know yourself
Block out some distraction-free time, grab a notebook, and to write down the answers to these questions. Hint: Write down everything that pops in your head. No censoring. This process will be like a funnel. We’ll start with a bunch of raw info and filter it down into a concise mission statement.
1. List out all of your roles. Here are mine:
2. Rate your personality on the following scales. Be honest. Then ask someone who knows you well to confirm your ratings.
3. List out your top 20 interests and passions.
This one should be easy. What makes you tick? What do you happily spend your money and free time on? What activities would be hard to give up?
4. List out your top 20 strengths, talents, and skills.
For best results, ask others for input. Try one family member, one friend, and one work colleague for more well-rounded answers.
5. List out your 10 most important values.
This one’s tough. It’s easy to confuse your true values with the values society says are important. It’s a common mistake that can really jack up your “compass”.
Remember, this is YOUR mission statement. If you write your answers based on what others might think, you’ll end up with a map to the wrong destination.
To help us uncover our true values, we’re going to do a nifty exercise stolen directly from Stephen Covey’s, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (a must read, btw).
It’s called the Funeral Exercise (or “Beginning with the end in mind”).
Here’s how it works.
Imagine we’re in the year 2100 and you just died peacefully in your sleep.
Angel-You is excited to go explore heaven, but you’re curious about what people are saying at your funeral. So you sneak down to hear for yourself.
One-by-one, your family, friends, and co-workers walk up to the front of the room. Your daughter is first. She steps up and shares some honest, heartfelt words.
Angel-You smiles. It’s exactly what you hoped she’d say.
What did she say? Next comes your spouse. Your best friend. Your mentors. Your students. Your biggest client. Your gym buddy.
Picture them in your mind, one at a time. As you listen to them speak and see the audience nodding in agreement, you feel a rush of relief.
Their words are proof—you succeeded in your mission. You were true to yourself. You achieved what you were uniquely put on earth to achieve.
Now all that’s left to do is float back to heaven and treat yourself to a cookie dough ice cream (apparently they’re generous with cookie dough chunks up there).
So, what did they say?
Write it all down and highlight any values that stick out. *Be careful here. Remember that those people weren’t describing who you are now. They were describing the future-you who had lived a purpose-driven life (which actually may be way different from who you are today).
If you’re stuck, take a sec to ponder on these questions...
Here’s a sneak-peek into what mine looks like. Feel free to borrow anything that resonates with you, but try to make it your own.
Congratulations! You’ve made it through the hardest part. Now all that’s left is putting it all together.
Step 2 - Craft your unique personal mission statement
So, now that you know more about yourself than ever before, it’s time to polish that raw data down into your one-of-a-kind personal mission statement. There’s no one right way to write a mission statement. But for the sake of this exercise, we’re going to break ours into 3 sections:
1. Your mission (shoot for one sentence)
2. Essential characteristics needed to fulfill your mission
3. Roles that will take priority in achieving your mission
Think of it as a treasure hunt. Start by scanning through all your answers (especially your values) and look for patterns. Keep an eye out for:
1. Similar items that fall under an overarching theme
2. Any point that basically summarizes everything else
3. Any point you resonate extra hard with
Play around with it until you’ve narrowed it down to one sentence that sums up your most important points. This will be your mission. (Remember - this isn’t set in stone, so don’t stress about it too much. You can come back and tweak it later).
Here’s mine (a work in progress).
Ok, moving on to section 2...
“Characteristics to fulfill my mission”
Look over your Funeral Exercise and your List of Strengths.
Now, pick out the 3-5 characteristics that are most relevant to your mission (e.g., grateful, patient, humble, authentic, generous, selfless).
Next, write 1-2 short sentences describing what this characteristic looks like in action in your life.
Here’s what it might look like:
Writing everything in the present tense makes things more tangible and “real”.[/caption] Good work! Now for the last section...
“Roles that take priority in achieving my mission”
Go back to your List of Roles, and narrow them down to the most important ones.
Then, write short 1-2 sentence descriptions for each role. Describe what it looks like to live out your mission in each of those roles (in the present tense).
Take a look at what I wrote for some ideas:
And there you have it! You’re very own personal mission statement.
Here’s what it looks like all together:
But WAIT! You’re not done yet...
A personal mission statement written on a piece of paper means nothing.
You have to actually LIVE it. So instead of packing up your notebook and forgetting it forever, do this instead...
Step 3 - Build in some accountability
If you’re ultra self-disciplined and plaster your mission statement all over your house, you might stay accountable. But there’s a better way.
Share it with others.
First, share it with the people closest to you. Your husband, wife, best friend, mentor.
Ask them for feedback—but more importantly—ask them to keep you accountable. Give them permission to set you straight if you aren’t living according to your compass. If you’re anal like me, you might even want to schedule quarterly check-ins so nobody forgets.
Next, share it with the world. Scary, right?
But think about it for a sec. WHY is it scary? You’re making yourself vulnerable, yes. But you shouldn’t never be ashamed of your mission...
This isn’t about what other people think. It’s about who you are and what you stand for. If you’re afraid to share it with everyone, do you really stand for it?
Do whatever you’re comfortable with. But I’m convinced that the more people you share it with, the more likely you’ll stick to it. That’s why I shared mine with you!
Step 4 - Update as needed
Accountability is great. But the success of your mission is ultimately up to you.
That’s why I recommend scheduling one hour of self-reflection time at the end of each month. Break out your personal mission statement, think about the past month, and compare.
How well did you follow your compass?
If you strayed, what will you do next month to get back on track?
Re-read the descriptions you wrote for each role, and list a few specific action items that support those descriptions.
You get the idea.
As time passes and you collect life experiences, your beliefs on “what’s important” will change.
Having your first child, losing someone you love, surviving a near-death experience...
When your beliefs on “what’s important” change, your mission will to. Make sure you make updates whenever this happens.
Powerful personal mission statement examples
Here are some examples of personal mission statements of highly successful people. If you're struggling to come up with ideas, these will get your juices flowing.
A couple things to note here.
First, you’ll notice that the topics are all over the board.
Some focus on one idea, while others are more of a list.
Some focus on themselves, while others talk about helping other people.
Some focus on the career aspect, while others look like more general life mantras.
The point is, do it however you want.
All that matters is lasering in on what matters most to you, weaving it into your daily life, and following it wherever it may lead.
Personal Mission Statement Recap:
- Everyone can benefit from writing a personal mission statement (not just students or fancy CEOs)
- A personal mission statement is your “life compass” that guides you, keeps you from “getting lost”, and helps you make tough decisions
How to write a personal mission statement (see worksheet for detailed instructions)
- Step 1 - Get to know yourself. List out your roles, personality, interests, passions, strengths, talents, skills, and values (LINK: Funeral Exercise)
- Step 2 - Write your personal mission statement. Take what you’ve learned about yourself and your values and summarize it into one sentence. Then write out the important characteristics and roles involved in fulfilling your mission.
- Step 3 - Make yourself accountable. Share you mission with as many people as possible and ask them to keep you accountable.
- Step 4 - Reflect and revise. Schedule time to regularly reflect on how well you’re following your mission. Brainstorm action items to help you stay on track. Update your mission statement as your values mature over time.
- You can write a separate mission statement for each area of your life (career, finance, health, etc)...or you can write one that covers everything.
- Don’t get caught up on writing it the “right” way. There is no right way. All that matters is it helps you live according to YOUR unique values.
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