Confusing, isn’t it?

Everyone has a different view about the careers you should follow, the relationships you should form and the dreams you should pursue.

If you’re stuck, a personal mission statement can help.

Mission statements are not just for companies, businesses and organizations.

A personal mission statement can help you make decisions, avoid repeating mistakes and figure out your purpose in life.

Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, was one of the biggest advocates of personal mission statements.

He wrote:

Effective people are guided by their own missions and manage their lives according to principles. Ineffective people follow other people’s agendas and manage their lives around pressing matters.

When I was unemployed, I used my personal mission statement to help me decide on jobs to apply for, people to ask for help and college courses to take.

You can create your personal mission statement in five simple steps.

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Brainstorm what’s important to you

Before you write your personal mission statement, organize your life into key areas using a mind-map.

Typically, these areas include:

• Relationships

• Career

• Health

• Religion

• Finances

• Education

• Family

You should also consider each of the roles in your life. Normally, these include: spouse, parent, employer/employee, student, brother/sister and so on.

Elaborate on these areas in terms of your aims, beliefs, principles, progress to date, causes of concern etc.

Step 2: Draw on External Resources

Next, consider what you value in the world.

Think about leaders who inspire you, people you’d like to emulate and those you’d rather avoid. Then, consider how you can apply their teachings, lessons and mistakes to your life.

You can learn as much from failure as you can from success.

If you need inspiration, Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech is one of the most famous personal mission statements there is.

For this step, I gathered quotes, information and lessons from books I read, talks I attended and places I visited.

This helped me think about the kind of writer I want to become and how I can use the written word to improve my personal and professional life.

Step 3: Ask Yourself Hard Questions

Asking and answering tough questions will help you create a more honest mission statement.

Ask yourself questions like:

• When am I at my best and worst as parent, employer, employee, or spouse?

• Where do my natural talents lie?

• What’s important to me personally and professionally?

• What gets me up in the morning and what makes me want to stay in bed?

• What does my perfect day look like?

• What values guide my work, studies and relationships?

• What principles am I not prepared to violate? This may include professional charters that you’ve signed up to.

• What mistakes have I made so far in life, and how I can avoid repeating them?

Again, a mind-map can help you expand on each of your questions and answers.

Or you could write a personal question and answer document, make bullet points, or write notes on paper.

I asked and answered these questions in a personal journal that I keep on my computer.

Step 4: Look the Big Picture

Ah, the big picture.

This is what the mission statement is all about.

If you want to see your bigger picture, consider where’d like to be and who you want to become over the next 12 months, five years and even ten years.

You could write:

  • a list of places you’d like to visit
  • a college course you’re going to take
  • dreams you hope to realize
  • a product you want to create
  • a book you need to write

Consider what you’d do if you had unlimited time, money and resources.

Think big.

Remember, each of these big picture items will impact on other areas of your life. So try and make connections between them and see if they support or detract from each other.

For example, several years ago I went back to college part-time at night. My studies time away from family life, and it used up some financial resources.

At the time, college was in keeping with my mission statement me as I knew (hoped!) it would enhance my career and give me free time later on.

Step 5: Bring It All Together

We’re almost there.

Gather all your information in a permanent document, place or source that you’re going to review regularly.

Consolidate your roles, areas of responsibility, values, goals and dreams into several key themes or principles.

If you’re stuck, write a few lines about what you’d like people to say about your life on your 100th birthday party or at your funeral.

The final result could be a mantra or motto that you repeat. It could be a picture or a logo, or it could be longer piece of work that you read every week or month.

If you’re using words, it should start with verbs or statements like:

• “I believe…”

• “I am happiest when…”

• “I am at my best when…”

You may choose to put your mission statement on your wall or keep it somewhere private but accessible. You could also expand this mission statement and develop one for your family.

And Finally…

Writing a mission statement involves deep soul searching, and this takes time.

If it wasn’t hard work, it wouldn’t be worth doing. If you still need help, use this online mission statement builder developed by Franklin Covey.

Whatever your approach, the benefits of a mission statement are tremendous.

In times of crisis or indecision, your mission statement will become a North Star.

It will guide you from the dark.

Do you have a question about creating a personal mission statement? Please let me know in the comments section below.

Featured photo credit: Paul Stang via flic.kr

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