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:
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.
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.
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.
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.