Most people measure us by our accomplishments — what we’ve done. In my experience, most people compile their track record of accomplishments BY MISTAKE; that is, we don’t have a plan, we simply react to opportunities as they arise. In other words, our accomplishments are externally motivated, not internally driven. What this argues for, of course, is a consciousness of mission — what each of our lives is really about. That’s what this short article will discuss — your Personal Mission Statement. A Personal Mission Statement will help you to organize your entire life — your time, your thoughts, your priorities. Actually, a personal mission statement, conscientiously developed, will change the way you view everything in your life.
Your personal mission statement will force you to constantly re-evaluate who you are, what you’re about, and what you’re doing. As an example, just look at the Constitution of the United States. The essential mission statement there is “…to create a more perfect union.” Where would we be as a nation today if they had not outlined the goals and hopes of a new nation in those terms?
The basics of a mission statement are as follows:
1. Make it short and to the point. Nelson Mandela’s mission statement, developed over his 27 years in prison in South Africa, says just this: “End Apartheid.” Another great mission statement was developed by Abraham Lincoln upon his inauguration as President. “Preserve the Union.” Note that mission statements can change. Perhaps a mission is accomplished. Franklin Roosevelt started his presidency with a mission to “End the Depression.” By the time that was almost done another threat had arisen and the United States had become involved in World War II. Now the mission statement was “End the War.”
2. Keep your mission statement simple. Use direct language. Be sure that a 12-year-old could understand the statement and you’ll be more or less on track.
3. Make it memorable so it can be burned into your consciousness. The rule of thumb here is that if you can’t recite it from memory, it’s too long and too complicated. Remedy: simplify, condense, and “laser” your thought process until you’ve said everything you need to say in the fewest and strongest possible words.
4. Eliminate excuses. Before you can write an effective mission statement you must clear away the excuses that prevent most people from writing one in the first place. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your job IS your mission. It’s only part of it…or not. Either way, remember that a mission is larger than a job. Your job may change, but your mission may not. In fact, there are times that a job MUST change in order that a mission is completed. So don’t lock yourself in a box that says that you ARE your work. You’re far more than that. Another trap…excuse…is “My role is my mission.” If you’re a man you may think of your role as “breadwinner.”
For a woman, this might be “wife” or “mother.” The operating principle here is that your role, too, may change. In fact, as your life evolves your role will almost certainly change. The third excuse — the one most of us don’t want to cop to — is that we may believe that we’re just not important enough to have a mission statement. Sure, it’s fine for a big company to have one, or for a country to have one, but I’m just one of the “little people,” so I don’t DESERVE one. Parenthetically, we almost never say this aloud. What we do say, at least to ourselves, is that we don’t NEED one. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!! Get rid of all that silly thinking. Focus. You’ll be glad you did.
Finally, clear out influences that have driven you in the past. A mission statement isn’t about what you think you should be doing. It’s about what EXCITES you. So instead of listening to all those voices from the past…the ones that told you you weren’t worth anything, that you’d never succeed, and so forth. Concentrate on your gifts, your dreams.