Personal Mission Statement: Examples, Definition, and Writing Tips
What is a personal mission statement and why is it important? Here are some personal mission statement examples and tips to help you write your own.
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What Is a Personal Mission Statement? (A Definition)
A personal mission statement can be defined as a written declaration clarifying our unique direction or purpose. It's often just one sentence, but it can be as long as you want. As long as the statement makes it clear not just what you intend to do in this world, but how you intend to do it, then you're on the right track to creating a useful personal mission statement.
Why Is a Personal Mission Statement Important?
Many businesses have mission statements, but we are not our business. We have our own unique values, purpose, and desired direction. We too can benefit from having a mission statement—something that gives us clarity about how we want to move forward. It can serve as somewhat of a map, preventing us from getting lost and making sure we do the things that really matter to us, the things that ultimately lead to personal fulfillment and well-being.
Writing a mission statement can help us get clear on our values and better understand whether we are spending our time in the best ways. It can also provide a sense of inner stability even during times of change (Searight & Searight, 2011).
What Is a Personal Mission Statement For?
Most people write a mission statement to clarify the type of work they want to do, decide on the types of companies they might like to work for, and highlight personal values or beliefs that might affect their experience in a workplace environment. But I'd like to propose that a personal mission statement focus on your truth, your goals, and your values, and not be unnecessarily restricted by focusing only on the job, career, or work you want to do. Our "work selves" are only a small part of who we are. A personal mission statement that focuses only on that one part of ourselves seems woefully incomplete.
If we take a broader view, a personal mission statement can guide our lives, help us make decisions that are good for us, and help us make an impact in the ways that matter to us. This type of mission statement is for more than our work, it's a tool to help us succeed in life, regardless of how we might define success.
How Do You Know What Your Personal Mission Is?
Many of us have spent little time thinking about our personal mission. We're too busy to pause and reflect on who we want to be and what we want to do during the short time we're here on this earth. Yet, we might feel this low-level of discontent—we know the way we are living our lives is not making us happy. Because we haven't thought much (or at all) about our personal mission, the first step is to figure out what our mission is.
Reflect on your personal mission
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to explore your mission:
Your answers to these questions are like pieces to a puzzle. You probably don't have all of them yet, but hopefully, you're starting to see the bigger picture of your personal mission.
Begin with the end in mind
Another useful strategy is to think about the end of your life and what you hope to have accomplished. Then, work backwards. Some suggest that we might imagine attending our own funeral. Think about what would be said in the eulogy and whether it reflects your values and goals (Searight & Searight, 2011). If you find that the eulogy of today's version of you isn't what you really want, clarify for yourself what you do want and consider how your mission statement may guide you to that end goal.
How Do You Gain More Clarity on Your Personal Mission?
Hopefully, by this point, we have some ideas of what our purpose is and the direction we want to go in. But, maybe it is still feeling hard to get that personal mission statement to feel right. Or, if we're currently revising our mission statement, why didn't that first statement guide us in the right direction? We're stuck and we don't know why.
Let me give you an example. This is the one-sentence mission statement I generally use on my resume: "To help people build life skills by developing online programs, tools, and content." Technically, this is correct. But this mission statement led me towards getting a bunch of jobs that we're only mildly fulfilling.
What was I missing?
Values are key to your personal mission statement
If you haven't yet explored your personal values, your mission statement can feel flat or inauthentic to some degree. So ask yourself, what are your values? That is, what are the underlying traits or experiences that drive you?
As an example, some of my top values are: Freedom, Creativity, and Kindness
But there was little to no mention of these values in my personal mission statement. As a result, some of my employers were very controlling (which conflicted with my desire for freedom). Other companies I worked for treated their employees badly (which conflicted with my desire for kindness). Other roles were very prescriptive or dull (which conflicted with my desire for creativity). Of course, no job is perfect, but it's helpful to clarify, at least for yourself, the values you want to live by. This way you'll have a better chance of feeling more fulfilled as you strive to achieve your mission.
So, what are your values?
Identify your long-term goals
In addition to your values, it can be helpful to get clear on your long-term goals. If you're writing a personal mission statement for a job or resume, it can be easy to focus on the immediate goal—getting a job! But, by taking the time to think about your long-term goals you can better ensure that any job you get is more fulfilling and hopefully contributes to your long-term goals in some way, whether those goals be for work life or personal life.
Ask yourself a few quick questions to get a better handle on your goals:
Sometimes when we ask ourselves these types of questions, we realize that our short-term goals don't actually lead us to our long-term goals. For example, my short-term goal to develop online programs and content didn't move me towards my long-term goal of working for myself and creating my own programs (oops!). I kept building this awesome well-being content for other businesses. Then when I was done and I was no longer needed, I had no job, and I was back to square one. I needed my short-term goals to align with my long-term goals.
How about you? Take a moment to think about your goals like a pathway. Ask yourself, how will your current goals lead to medium-term goals, and how will those lead to your longer-term goals?
Video: Discover Your Personal and Professional Mission
How to Write a Personal Mission Statement
Now that you've done the thought-work that goes into creating a good (and useful) personal mission statement, how do you write your personal mission statement? If you are writing a one-sentence statement for a resume or job, consider starting with the practical details below.
Personal mission statement template
To do [X Action] for [Y group of people] to [have Z impact] with [optional: other details].
Here is an example of how my mission statement might look:
To create content for Internet users to help them increase their well-being more easily and effectively.
Evaluating your personal mission statement
Once you have a draft of your statement, let's make sure this statement is consistent with your values and goals. You could start by asking yourself these questions:
Based on this evaluation, I noticed that creating content to someone else's specs doesn't align with my value of freedom, and creating content for a company that will let me go as soon as the content is done is not consistent with my long-term goal of security. Here is an example of my revised statement:
To design and create content that helps my website viewers increase their well-being more easily and effectively.
Final thoughts on writing a personal mission statement
For most of us, creating a personal mission statement takes some work. Maybe we need to think things over, maybe we need to let it sit and come back to revise it later. Or, maybe we need to redo an old mission statement that isn't getting us where we want to go. This process doesn't have to be a "one and done". In fact, it is quite common for personal mission statements to change and evolve over time, just as we do (Li, Frohna, & Bostwick, 2017).
Remember, your mission statement should give you energy—it should be positive or uplifting for you so that it inspires you to take action towards achieving it. If you don't feel that way, it's okay, just keep revising.
Video: Create a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Life
Personal Mission Statement Examples
Are you still feeling stuck? Here are some more personal mission statement examples:
As you can see in these examples, a personal mission statement can focus on work, or it can focus more on our life philosophy—how we want to act and who we want to be in the world. In theory, the most useful mission statements will do both because both your work life and home life are important aspects of who you are.
Articles to Learn More About Mission and Goals
If we're not yet sure of our purpose or goals, it can be helpful to start there (or read more) to gain more insights about what might be relevant to our personal mission. These articles may help.
Writing a personal mission statement can help you clarify what's important to you. This can be a good tool to better understand and motivate yourself and to communicate your goals with others. It can be useful for work, but more importantly, it can help guide you in the direction you want to go, helping you to create a more fulfilling life for yourself.