Why Write a Personal Mission Statement?

Do you have a personal mission statement?

Most of us think of mission statements in corporate terms. Large corporations, non-profit organizations, universities, and philanthropies have mission statements. These messages are usually directed toward the people involved in the organization as well as the person who would buy their product, enroll in their school, or donate to their cause.

academic planners3They tell you where your money is going. They explain why—why they exist, why they want your money, why they do the things they do, and how they hope to accomplish more with your help.

Could such a statement help you? Might your actions improve if you based your decisions on a set of solid core values?

The strongest mission statements are simple. Nordstrom’s mission statement for example states: “At Nordstrom, our goal is to provide outstanding service every day, one customer at a time.”

When you shop at Nordstrom, more often than not, you experience that mission statement firsthand. That’s why people shop there again and again. It certainly isn’t because their prices are the lowest, it’s because they feel valued when they are there. The experience is worth the price. Similarly, many fine restaurants are more devoted to the ambiance and courteous service than they are to their food, because they recognize that you can cook your own great food. It’s the total experience that you pay for.

But what about us, personally—could we benefit in the same way? Could it be possible for people to know us simply by the way they feel when we were around them, or by the quality of our work?

Mission statements work because they give direction to every action that organizations, like Nordstrom, take. Successful organizations base their company standards on their mission statement. The mission statement molds company culture and affects the way employees treat each other and their customers. Because of that, you could blindfold a person and place them in the center of Nordstrom, and within moments they would know where they were. You could do the same at Wal-Mart.

A mission statement that we believe in will change us for the better. But that’s the key—we need to believe in it. At some places, like high-end fashion boutiques, the experience is worth the price—at others, such as big box warehouse supermarkets, the price is worth the experience.

Here’s the thing, perception is reality. We create our own reality by the way we, ourselves, and others perceive us. A personal mission statement is one more tool to help us ensure that our actions are in tune with what matters most to us. Although we can’t completely control how others perceive us, we can control the way we choose to act and the things we choose to do with our time. We can work to ensure that our actions support the way we perceive who we are and who we want to become. As we align our actions with our personal mission statements we become who we hope to be. Over time, those intentional daily decisions will affect the way others feel about us and the way we feel about ourselves.

Your personal mission statement is usually derived from your list of core values. As you spend time focused on those values that matter most to you, you’ll begin to see a few common themes woven through them. Those common themes will become the basis of your personal mission statement. Perhaps your themes are self-improvement and serving others. Maybe you’ll find that you want to improve your personal traits and skills so you can serve your family and friends more completely. (We’ll talk more about how to write a personal mission statement in a later post.)

Can you imagine how your planning sessions might improve if you had your own personal mission statement—a center post that supported all your actions and motivated your daily decisions?

In the olden days of film photography there was a term called a latent image. A latent image is the image burned into film or photo paper from the light exposed to it. That image came alive in the darkroom with the proper application of developer, stop bath, and rinse water. For a photographer, there are few experiences more thrilling and enlightening than watching that latent image appear.

We’re guessing you have a latent personal mission statement that has been formed by the things you’ve been exposed to throughout your life. That silent theme motivates the things you do. Not everything you’ve experienced has been joyful—some of it has been hard, even painful. Yet, this exposure to your world has given you your own unique perspective. Your perspective, the way you see yourself, others, and the world around you—and the way you hope to see them, shapes your dreams. Your personal mission statement gives those dreams direction, and it will be an even greater force in your life as soon as you develop it and bring it into the light.

So take a minute today and seriously consider what truly matters most to you—and why. As you do, you’ll discover your own mission statement and add greater purpose to your actions.

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