Writing Your Personal Mission Statement
How a personal statement can change your life
Brad Smith, President of Marshall University and former CEO of Intuit, highlighted this perfectly with the statement, “Mark Twain once said that the two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day that you discover why.” (ref)
My question to you: What is your why?
We often go through life with some idea of why we do things, but by not codifying it, we are missing the chance to be more impactful and precise in how we make decisions and assess opportunities. We allow things to happen to us rather than making intentful and conscious choices. Intentionality is important.
This is where a personal mission statement comes in. You are living by some credo even if you've never written it down. Somewhere in your heart, you are choosing what you believe every day. Making it explicit can change the way you look at the world.
If I had to ask you what your personal mission statement is, what would you say? By what goals are you living your life? What is your North Star?
I did this exercise in the past few years, and this is my mission statement. “God gave us a short time to make our mark, so I want to live each day with purpose. I want to leave people better for having met me. I am a problem solver, connector, and creator, so I will use these skills to live with no regrets.”
What is a personal mission statement?
A personal mission statement is a clear declaration of why you're here on this earth for the short time that you are and what you hope to accomplish. It is a statement of purpose and meaning.
Regardless of what it actually says in words, you are living it out every day. The actions you choose bear witness to what you believe whether you acknowledge it or not.
Companies have mission statements. Nonprofits have mission statements. Product teams even have mission statements. Why not people. It is not that we believe in our passions any less, or that our time and attention is not as precious.
Here are some succinct and impactful mission statements. Think about what it is these organizations do and who it affects their investments and execution.
Google: Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful (ref)
Instagram: To capture and share the world’s moments (ref)
Doordash: Grow and empower local economies (ref)
Disney: to entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling (ref)
OxFam: We fight inequality to end poverty and injustice (ref)
McDonalds: Make delicious feel-good moments easy for everyone (ref)
Once you discover that why, writing it down codifies it. It helps you center your life. It is a yardstick by which you measure. Whether or not what you're choosing to do are the right choices.
One of the things that's most important for companies or for products is to have a mission. It is a filter in which you are able to understand and assess potential opportunities. It also allows you to choose employees that aligned with that mission.
How do I write a personal mission statement?
When faced with a blank piece of paper, it is often hard to capture, so I created a short three step process to get to your statement.
Step 1: Answer some questions - twice
Take half an hour and think about these questions. Then write down the answers on a piece of paper.
What are the three things you are good at? What is your superpower?
What do you define success?
What is the biggest regret you have?
At the end of your life, what is something you want to be remembered for?
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