The week after Christmas last year, a friend and I went on a movie binge. In five days time we saw five movies and no double headers either). Two of the movies, Big Eyes and Wild shared the theme of finding one’s strength, though the main characters took very different routes to do so. The character in Wild started me thinking about personal missions.
In this true story, Cheryl Strayed undertakes a 1200-mile walk along the Pacific Coast Trail. Her “mission” is far greater than to just get from Mexico to Canada; she is on a journey to get her life in order after falling into addiction with the death of her mother. Success for this woman was not finishing the trail; it was rediscovering who she was and transforming her life.
Most of us don’t undertake such monumental journeys for any reason; yet each of us can do better in life and in our careers if we have a framework to help guide our decisions and make us aware of why we do what we do. Companies have mission statements to guide them. Why don’t we?
A mission statement is a clear, concise declaration of what a company wants to be. If you were a company, what would your mission statement be? How do you intend to be in the world? What is your purpose? How do you want to be perceived?
Two interesting company mission statements I discovered were from Apple (of course) and surprisingly, Jamba Juice. In a montage of Steve Jobs video clips, he said over and over again, “We strive to make the world’s best personal computers.” It’s brief, specific and in terms of guiding decisions I can imagine the C-suite at Apple asking, “But does it help us make the best personal computers?” as they discussed going one direction over another.
What does “enriching the daily experience of our customers” mean? Jamba Juice, Inc. included what they call their FIBER Values: Fun, Integrity, Balance, Empowerment and Respect
What makes writing a personal mission statement daunting is that each word is critical and brevity is important. I had little luck in my online search for personal mission statement examples. What might be called a mission statement for a company is often called a personal vision statement when attributed to an individual. Vision statements are often guided by values.
In a 2013 article for Forbes.com, Patrick Hull offers four questions to ask when crafting a mission statement:
- What do I do?
- How do I do it?
- For whom do I do it?
- What value do I bring?
I suggest adding another question: Why do I do it? In some cases this may be the only question you need to ask for your personal statement. If your personal mission statement is to help guide your decisions and behaviors in the world, the why is crucial!
Simon Sinek, in his fabulous TED talk on leadership, speaks of “the why” and how leaders who start from “the why” instead of “the what” are more effective. People internalize the why over the what. http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html
In my career, I have helped company executives as they struggle to compose their company’s mission statement. It is hard, painstaking, and thoughtful work. It will be no less for you.
My advice is to simply brainstorm some ideas on paper. Ask trusted friends how they would describe you in the world, not in the physical sense but in terms of spirit/energy. Write it all down, and then let it sit. Revisit it in a few days. Revise and let it sit. You will know when you get the right words.
My mission, written some years ago after a Covey workshop, and revisited yearly is not exactly succinct, but it reflects how I want to be at work and in my personal life.“I rejoice in the abundance, potential and opportunities given to me each day. I recognize my power to influence the world around me and will use my skills, talents and gifts to the best of my ability and for the overall good. I understand my behavior, both deliberate and unplanned, impacts others. I will live in a way that helps others recognize their own worth and potential.”
This statement has helped me make life choices and career decisions. Will a proposed project allow me to use my talents for the overall good or is it just good money? My statement lifts me up when things are not going the way I hoped and helps me understand that even when I don’t intend to, my behaviors have an impact on others. Best of all, it reminds me of the abundance in the world.