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Why And How To Make A Mission Statement For Your Life

Why And How To Make A Mission Statement For Your Life

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:

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• 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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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