A personal mission statement is a written declaration of our unique direction or purpose. This statement makes it clear not just what you intend to do in this world, but how you intend to do it. It’s sometimes just one sentence, but it can be as long as you want.
Each of us has our own unique values, purpose, and desired direction, but often we don’t know exactly what they are. That’s why we can benefit from having a mission statement—something that gives us clarity about how we want to live our lives and ultimately achieve 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 during times of change (Searight & Searight, 2011).
Many of us have spent little time thinking about our personal mission in life. We’re too busy dealing with immediate, urgent tasks to think about what we want to do in this life and where we want to end up. As a result, we might feel this low level of discontent—we know the way we are living our lives is not making us happy, but we’re not sure why. Thinking about our mission can be one way to begin to resolve this discontent.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to explore your mission:
- What impact do you want to have in the world?
- How do you want to make an impact?
- Who do you want to have an impact on?
- What makes you feel most happy and alive?
Answering these questions can help you gain more clarity on your life’s mission.
Another way to gain more clarity on what you want to do in life is to think about the end of your life and what you hope to have accomplished. Then, work backward. Some people have suggested that we could 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.
Next, ask yourself, what are your values? That is, what are the underlying traits, beliefs, or experiences that drive you and make you feel like you?
Some values might be Love, Freedom, Creativity, Kindness, Adventure, Loyalty, etc…
Make sure that your mission reflects these values so that you don’t end up pursuing a goal in ways that are not a good fit for your values. This way you’ll have a better chance of feeling more fulfilled as you strive to achieve your mission.
In addition to your values, it can be helpful to get even more clear on your goals. It can be easy to focus on short-term goals, but thinking about medium-term and long-term goals can help you make sure your short-term goals don’t lead you astray.
Ask yourself a few quick questions about your goals:
- What do you want to have accomplished in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
- Where do you want to be in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
- How do you want to be spending your time in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
Take a moment to think about your short-term, medium-term, and long-term 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?
Sometimes a personal mission statement is just one sentence. In that case, it could be:
To do [X Action] for [Y group of people] to [have Z impact] with [optional: other details].
It’s okay to revise, rewrite, or make it longer. For most of us, creating a personal mission statement takes some work. 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).
- Li, S. T. T., Frohna, J. G., & Bostwick, S. B. (2017). Using your personal mission statement to INSPIRE and achieve success. Academic pediatrics, 17(2), 107-109.
- Searight, B. K., & Searight, H. R. (2011). The value of a personal mission statement for university undergraduates. Creative Education, 2(3), 313.