The Value of a Personal Mission Statement
I don’t know about you, but in my own professional life I often get so bogged down with the details of my daily work that I forget – or I ‘don’t have time’ – to sit back and widen my vision, to fly up and take a bird’s eye view of the whole landscape. Being in the thick of it all, I often don’t see the wood for the trees. In fact, the very idea of ‘sitting back’ and looking at the bigger picture somehow seems like laziness – shouldn’t I be working, doing something, being productive, not just floating around watching while everyone else gets on with things?
I am going to suggest that this attitude is quite wrong and that we should, in fact, be habitually taking in the bigger view, surveying the entire terrain of our lives and our world. If we don’t do this, we run the risk of being reduced to machines, trudging along, doing what we do without really thinking about why.
I suggest that coming up with a mission statement can, as part of a package of changes, be a very effective way of bringing more meaning and happiness into your life.
Most individuals don’t have a mission statement. They don’t have a clear idea of where they are going in life; they don’t know what they want to achieve. They just drift along, year after year, decade after decade. Most people live like that and they die like that. Napoleon Hill, in his famous book Think and Grow Rich, wrote that most people did not have a goal, did not now where they were going. He also presented a six step plan by which anyone could achieve financial success. If you want to find out about the plan, it’s presented in chapter 2 of the book, but the key element in the plan is that a clear statement of purpose, and a mission statement, can be a powerful way of achieving this.
A mission statement, however, cannot just be thrown together. It needs to be carefully crafted. Here are the elements of a good mission statement.
- Your goals should be specific and clear
What are your values? What do you stand for? What are you going to achieve? What are you going to contribute to the world? This isn’t about what you want to achieve – it’s not a wish list; it’s a definite statement of intent, it’s your ‘order’ from the menu of the universe, it’s what is going to happen. When you start to get bogged down in the details of daily life, think back to your mission statement – it will act as a compass to keep you on track; your decisions and actions will be guided by it. In this sense, it provides you with a wide angle lens through which you can keep the bigger picture in view.
- Your goals do not need to be (SHOULD not be) ‘realistic’ or ‘attainable’
We’ve all heard about ‘SMART’ targets which have to be measurable, realistic etc., etc. The point here is that the universe can do anything, however unbelievable or ‘unrealistic’ it is.
It should indicate how you are going to achieve your goals – this does not contradict the previous statement. You must not include a specific, detailed plan, but a statement about what you are going to offer in exchange for meeting your goal. For example, your goal is to be the best sales person in your company – you will achieve this goal by giving outstanding service to every customer. There’s nothing here about sales targets, how many clients you need to see, how many sales you need to make etc. Once you have written down the ‘how’ in general terms, the universe will do the rest.
- It should be short
Some organizations produce long rambling mission statements which nobody ever reads! Napoleon Hill suggests you read through your ‘mission statement’ every morning and evening; you’re not going to do this if it’s going to take twenty minutes. And the ideas aren’t going to be as powerful if they’re not focused. So keep it short, focused and powerful, like a laser beam.
- It should make you feel good
If you know where you’re going, you’ll live a life of eager anticipation and joy. Just as if you are sailing somewhere on a ship – you know you’ll get to your destination and in the meantime you’re enjoying the view. This attitude of anticipating a future you have already chosen (you bought the ticket, you got on the ship, the ship’s moving) whilst living in the present moment (you’re looking out at a wonderful sunrise, enjoying the view) is, to me, the only sensible way to live.
Taking time to write and regularly review your mission statement is one of the most important things you can do in life. Next time you get bogged down in the day-to-day detail of life, stop and think about your mission statement. It will keep things in perspective; it will clarify your vision and it will keep you moving on the right course.
Your life is like a ship – of course, you need a crew, busily working away to keep afloat and keep moving, but even more importantly, you need a map, you need a compass and you need a captain. Without them, your ship just won’t get anywhere.