Why Your Life Needs A Mission Statement

The same strategies used to create a business plan can tell you if you're on the right track in your career and personal life.

We’d all love to say we wake up in the morning feeling exhilarated—joyful even—and move through the day with purpose and intention, but the reality is most of us spend the larger part of our day going through the motions, feeling exhausted and wondering what the point of it all is.

Gallup's 2013 State of the American Workplace Report showed only 30% of American workers feel engaged or inspired at their jobs, and the vast majority (70%) feel they aren’t reaching their full potential.

Management consultant and coach Allison Rimm, author of The Joy of Strategy: A Business Plan for Life says it’s possible for all of us to find joy in our business and personal lives, but to do so requires strategy.

Rimm spent 16 years as a senior executive at Massachusetts General Hospital where, in addition to her duties as vice president of Strategic Planning and Information Management, she informally coached and mentored co-workers. "I had people ask me ‘should I take this promotion?’, ‘Is this the right career move for me?’, and I would say 'How can I tell you if this is a step in the right direction if you don’t have a direction,'" says Rimm.

She recognized the same strategic planning concepts she had been using throughout her career applied to the individuals she was coaching through difficult life and career transitions. She began advising these individuals to make a mission statement for their lives. "They left my office [after that exercise] feeling re-energized," she says.

Rimm says not having a direction is the number one mistake we make in our careers and personal lives. "Every great strategic plan starts with a declaration of an entity’s purpose that expresses why they exist, what they value and what they intend to accomplish," says Rimm. Too many of us, she argues, wallow in our unhappiness, waiting for a new opportunity to come along, or something that will change our current situation. "An organization would never leave their business results to chance," she says. "You would never get an investor to put up money for a project if they couldn’t see what the return was going to be on that investment." In order for a business to know that they’ve been successful, they first need a mission statement.

Forming a personal mission statement means identifying your purpose. While this may sound like too profound a question—on par with the meaning of life—Rimm says asking "what am I here to do?" isn’t as challenging as it seems. Here, she walks us through what it takes to make a personal mission statement:

Fantasize about your perfect day or week.

What do you need to have in a day to make it joyful? For Rimm, a joyful life meant connecting with people on a daily basis and doing something that made a valuable contribution to someone else’s life. Make a list of all the things you need in your day to make it joyful. Perhaps it’s as simple as spending time outdoors every day or seeing your kids off to school. "It’s not picturing yourself on a beach with a pina colada, but what you need to make your life meaningful to you," says Rimm.

List your passions.

Finding joy in your career and life means knowing what you’re passions are. If you have trouble coming up with your list of passions, think about the best experiences you’ve had, what you do when you’re procrastinating, or what you daydream about.

Identify your talents.

Conduct your own SWAT analysis by listing all of the things you’re good at. If you find it difficult to conduct your own talent inventory, ask others around you to tell you what they think are your greatest strengths. Another way to find your talents is to examine your past accomplishments. Think of something you’re particularly proud of—a stellar presentation you made, a major donor you secured for a fundraiser, or a party you organized that people are still talking about two years later. Next, examine the skill sets that made you successful in that instance. Creating a mission that aligns with your natural talents means success will likely come easier.

Consider core values.

Your personal mission statement must reflect the things that matter most to you. These guiding principles help you to set priorities.

Armed with your new mission statement, you can then begin to put together a strategic plan for how you’re going to get to where you want to go. Rimm says she’s had clients who hang their mission statement on their wall to remind themselves every day of what matters most to them and to help keep them on the right track.

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]

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  • Anupam Srivastava

    It is a confusing world. Some emphasise the importance of adaptability while some others focus on one's passions - the unchangeability of the individual and what is inherent and deep-seated. It is important to innovate, but also remain true to one's passions. Would that inhibit possibility? One may in pursuit of grown steer away from one's passions, and realise later that one is not so changeable after all. What are your thoughts? Anupam Srivastava, development professional and novelist

  • this is a great tool to use with people in long-term recovery from addictions and mental health issues. Sometimes we believe that our only purpose is to not use drugs and take our meds. Thank you

  • You know I could use that approach sometimes mostly women who cooperate instead of instigating a fight yeah! like talking someone into to spar with a client.

  • Hi Lisa,

    Thank you so much for this article, I will be sharing. I especially like the quote by Alison Rimm “Every great strategic plan starts with a declaration of an entity’s purpose that expresses why they exist, what they value and what they intend to accomplish,”

    You are so right, we all need to understand that we are individually powerful entities and our power and our strength and indeed our happiness rests on us investing in it and consciously tailoring and structuring our paths to happiness and fulfillment.. Thank you

  • Lisa Evans is so right about the importance of having a direction in life. The truth is, we are either living our mission, or someone else’s for us. Having a clearly identified reason for being acts like both a harness, and a sword. It harnesses all your talents into a clearly defined field of possibilities, and it cuts away anything that binds you to what is false.

    We all have many negative predictions and impossible goals laid upon us—often through our families and certainly through a media that insists we all be rich, thin, famous, and “successful.” Yet those people who can stand at any moment and say “This is where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing” have an almost immeasurable sense of certainty and satisfaction that is not based on outward appearances, but on an inner knowing.

    Congratulations to Lisa Evans and Allison Rimm.

    Continued: http://lauriebethjones.com/reply-to-fast-company-mission-blog-why-your-life-needs-a-mission-statement

  • James Munyoki

    Hi Lisa.This is wonderful piece of knowledge for everyone.Thanks for this contribution.

  • Imtiaz Lutful Baset

    Hi Lisa! Its a great experience that you have shared, no doubt people regardless their age and profession will be benefited immensely. Thanks for your contribution.

  • Imtiaz Lutful Baset

    Hi Lisa! Its a great experience that you have shared, no doubt it helps a lot irrespective of ages and professions.

  • Patrick Cheng

    WOW !! Lisa,

    I've been trying to draft my personal mission statement for the past year or so. You've really pointed me to the right direction !! At first, I had no glue and idea of what exactly a personal mission statement is. Secondly, even I know what it should be, I wasn't quite sure of how to go about it. I greatly appreciate your guidance. I have to do a lot of questioning and probing of my own interests, passions, talents, strengths, and weaknesses. Many Thanks ! Patrick Cheng Vancouver, BC

  • El Vaquerito

    This really amazing Lisa! I will write my Mission Statement from now.

    Thank you Very much.

  • Wanda Nunes de Pina

    Lisa, we all know this, but have to be reminded to it on a yearly basis. The true job exists of finding yourself (and your purpose). Herman Hesse.

    Thank you so much. We should be teaching this in schools. That is exactly what I am going to do. Once again; thank you!

  • Nadia McDonald

    This article speaks volumes. There are too many people existing and not living! I woke up one morning in the corners of my house perplexed. Hand underneath my chin, I shook my head in bewilderment. There has to be more to life than waking up every morning, going to work, returning home and then repeating the cycle. There has to be more to this thing called Life. What is my purpose? I asked myself. I suddenly realized life is what one makes it. Find your purpose and achieve long-term goals. Always pursue happiness and meditate day and night.

  • It's sad when you live life by just going through the motions. Don't get me wrong, going after what you're passionate about is often tough and leads to no financial security so it's scary but when you realise you're going to die one day, you can't just go through the motions and exist, you have to live, really live, and do something that is amazing in your book of life! http://madelienerose.com/

  • Most people spend more time planning a holiday than planning how they will live life. Take time out to ponder your direction and enjoy the benefits