In Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, principle 2 is ‘Begin with the end in mind.’ In ones life, the most effective way to begin with the end in mind is to develop a mission statement one that focuses what you want to be in terms of character and what you want to do in reference to contribution of achievements. Writing a mission statement can be the most important activity an individual can take to truly lead ones life.
A personal mission statement is a general description of what you are going to do to achieve your vision. Start the process by identifying your industry and the kind of work you do in it. You’re a _________ (heart surgeon, commercial real estate broker – whatever). To really shine, you need be clear on who you are, what you want, and you need to harness and build your skills and knowledge. The key is to not only build them, but to become known for them, in a way that differentiates you from everyone else.
It’s not just enough that you know what you know — others have to know that you know it. This is how you become a thought leader or an expert. And remember to be specific. If you think you can be known for everything, you run the risk of being known for nothing at all. Get clarity, build your deep expertise, and then you can become known for it.
Creating a mission statement is not something you do overnight. It takes deep introspection, careful analysis, thoughtful expression, and often many rewrites to produce it in final form. It may take you several weeks or even months before you feel really comfortable with your mission statement, before you feel it is complete and concise expression of your innermost values and directions. Even then, you will want to review it regularly and make minor changes as the years bring additional insights or changing circumstances.
Your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life.
Process of Creating a Personal Mission Statement
While writing your personal mission statement is not easy, it can be broken down into a number of straight forward steps:
- Identify an influential person in your life. Define the qualities you most admire in that person. List those and then ponder the qualities you would need to practice in order to achieve the future you desire.
- Define who you want to become; not just what you want to have and do.
- Define your life roles. You may have roles in relation to your profession, family, community, or other areas in your life. Describe how you would like to be described in each of these roles.
- Write a draft of your personal mission statement. Carry the rough draft with you and make notes, additions, and deletions.
- Write a final draft. Refer to it frequently. Use it as a standard by which you judge all your activities.
- Periodically review and evaluate your personal mission statement to keep yourself in touch with your own development and keep yourself in harmony with your deepest self.
- The final test of the value and effectiveness of a mission statement is: DOES THIS STATEMENT INSPIRE ME?
Let’s look at a few real-life examples of the personal mission statements written by several successful executives.
- Oprah Winfrey, Founder of own, The Oprah Winfrey Network: "To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be."
- Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group: "To have fun in [my] journey through life and learn from [my] mistakes."