As we head into the new year, it’s no surprise that many of us are feeling exhausted, stressed or unsure about what lies ahead. The last few years have been challenging and unpredictable, and many of us have been left uncertain about the future – both personally and professionally. So, what can we do to re-engage with a sense of motivation, energy and commitment to our own paths? One simple tool is the ‘personal mission statement’, and in this article Eloise Skinner takes you through a few quick steps to craft your own.
Eloise is an entrepreneur, author and teacher working in the field of education and social impact. Her newest book, ‘But Are You Alive?’ is published by Hachette in Spring 2023. An edited version of this article first appeared in digital wellbeing magazine ‘Rise Of Happiness’.
WHAT IS A PERSONAL MISSION STATEMENT?
A mission statement is normally defined as a formal summary of values and aims. From a business perspective, a corporate mission statement might capture ideas that already exist (for example, Amazon’s mission statement: ‘to be Earth’s most customer centric company’). But a mission statement can also be personal, used to explore and establish your own goals and ambitions. Used like this, a mission statement can be a developing, evolving tool to figure out where you want to focus your energy.
HOW IS A PERSONAL MISSION STATEMENT HELPFUL?
It’s not just about personal growth, when it comes to mission statements. There are a number of ways that crafting a personal mission statement can deliver direct benefits to you.
Whatever you’re up to, in your job or your personal life, you’re likely to come across a ‘pitching’ situation: a time when you’re required to state your purpose, intentions or motivations – or even just explain your background to someone else. A ‘pitching’ situation relies on passion, belief, and – ultimately – a sense of mission. Working out your core mission before you head into these types of situations can be fundamental to presenting confidently, even in an informal environment.
Defining cultural values
Whether you’re the founder of your own enterprise, or a small part of a huge corporation (or anything in-between), you bring a wholly individual set of values and principles to work with you. Companies often have their own sets of core values, but this is deeply personal work, too – do you stand for something? If so, what? What kind of culture are you willing to be a part of? What kind of culture are you willing to create? These are questions that can be explored within the mission statement format.
Finding purpose and direction in your life and work tends to be a long, slow process. A personal mission statement is a great tool to experiment with – and it can also form a strong foundation for the more challenging times of your life or career.
WRITING A PERSONAL MISSION STATEMENT
First, make three lists: what you’ve valued most from your past, what is most important to you now, and what you want in the future. These three lists become a map of your desired past, your present, and your future. Next, go through your three lists (past, present, future) and pick out any consistent themes, and any elements that stand out to you as key priorities.
After you have a collection of ideas for content, start to design the language you’ll use for your statement. Mission statements tend to work well with strong, goal-oriented language. Here’s a basic example, using my own mission statement:
“My mission is to create work that has lasting social impact and to lead a balanced life.”
This statement identifies two aspects: social impact and balance. One is externally-focused (doing work that makes a difference), and the other is internally-focused (leading a balanced life).
Another example could be as follows:
“My mission is to use my natural skills as a leader to encourage positive change within my organisation”.
Although your mission statement might start off sounding fairly high-level, you can always add more details as they become clearer to you, or use the statement alongside other personal development exercises. Try revisiting your mission statement every few months (or even every year, if that works better for you) to check if it still reflects your values, and to incorporate any necessary changes.