I have been developing my personal mission statement for almost a year now. It’s been a truly rewarding process to write and revisit my goals and values for my life and compare them to how I actually balance my priorities. There’s something really powerful and empowering about being able to say YES or NO to opportunities that come into your life based on how you want to live out your personal values. Dumb Little Man has a great definition of what a personal mission statement is:
Your personal mission statement should be a concise representation of what’s most important to you, what you desire to focus on, what you want to achieve, and, ultimately, who you want to become. In its purest form, it’s an approach to your life, one that allows you to identify a focus of energy, creativity, and vision in living a life in support of your inner-most beliefs and values. It is important to remember that your mission will change over time as you and your life change.
There are many ways to go about creating your own personal mission statement but I will highlight a three-step process here. In my session, we only had an hour, so this entire process was expedited. However, you can take as short or as long a time as you need to reflect and write out your mission statement. It can be short-term, career specific, or it can encompass your whole life. The key is really just to get down on paper what values and visions you want to manifest in your life. The process and the final statement can help you make many different kinds of decisions. And if you’re in a career rut, it can certainly help you figure out what to do next!
Step 1: Identify Your Values
What matters most to you in life? Often we find that we’ve forgotten about that which we care about because we’re stuck doing something else. Take 5 minutes to jot down a free-for-all list of what means a lot to you. Just a few examples of values include:
- Achievement, fame, advancement, leadership
- Money, power, authority, economic security
- Having a family, children, love, community, friendships
- Nature, religion, public service, ecological awareness, healthy living, physical challenge
- Democracy, civic involvement, wisdom, integrity, truth
- Location, privacy, country, adventure, fast-paced living
Step 2: Identify Your Goals
Once you’ve reflected on what matters most to you, then take 5 minutes to think about how you want to be remembered. How do you want to contribute or what goals do you want to accomplish for yourself or your career? This question is especially relevant to nonprofit professionals who for the most part, came to the sector to make some kind of social change. Other goals can relate to how you want to go about building your career. Just a few examples of goals include:
- Career aspirations
- Volunteer interests
- Ways to make social impact
- Ways you want to grow in your career or personal life
Step 3: Write Your Mission Statement
Now that you’ve identified your values and what you want to be when you grow up, you can take the ten minutes to begin drafting your personal mission statement. It can be as short or as long as you think it needs to be. And remember, it will continue to change as YOU change over time. I’m also sharing some concrete examples to get a feel for what the final version could look like.
Here is MY current mission statement:
I value education, achievement, adventure, creativity, and independence. I especially value authenticity in myself and others. I appreciate laughter, good food, music, art, poetry and Black history & culture. Before I die, I want to have made a positive impact on the world for young people, women, and people of color. As a writer, professor, consultant, and board member, I can lead according to my values by teaching others and helping nonprofits reach their goals. I will network to stay connected to others who are living a life of purpose. In my journey to take care of others, I will not neglect my own family, friends, finances, health, or spirituality.
Here are other examples of mission statements that others have written:
- I have a wonderful new job. It is located within thirty minutes of where I live. I work for forty hours a week. The job is with a first rate company which is successful, generous, ethical, well organized and embraces trying new approaches to leverage innovation and synergy. The company has good products and services which add to the quality of people’s lives. My employer appreciates my skills and there is good mutual communication. It is a joy to work with them. I really like and respect the people I work with and vice-versa. I have flexibility and can choose which projects I can stretch with. I love what I do and have frequent opportunities to meet interesting people and travel. I am paid $60,000 per year.
- I am a responsible spouse and parent; I give priority to these roles. I value differences and view them as strengths. I seek to build complementary win-win relationships with family, friends, and business associates. To keep these relationships healthy and to maintain a high level of trust, I make daily “deposits” in the “emotional bank accounts” of others.
- My mission is to give, for giving is what I do best and I can learn to do better.
If you already have a mission statement for YOUR life, please share it here! We want to know - how has it impacted the way you work, lead, or live your life?
Rosetta Thurman is an emerging nonprofit leader of color working and living in the Washington, DC area. She holds a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management and blogs about nonprofit leadership and management issues at Perspectives From the Pipeline.