Crafting a Personal Mission Statement

According to author Stephen Covey in his book First Things First, a personal mission statement is a way of “connecting with your own unique purpose and the profound satisfaction that comes from fulfilling it.” I see it as a personal ritual and magical spell.

While it’s based in the corporate world, a personal mission statement is a way to formalize (usually in writing) your goals and your values. It is a way to express not only who you are, but who you want to become. The ‘who you want to become’ is where the magic happens, so the formalizing is the spellwork.

But I’ll backtrack a wee bit and point out that a mission statement is not meant to be forever. Our values may change over time, as well as the direction we want to take in life, so we don’t want to write it in stone, paper will be more than adequate. And much easier to change when we need to! In fact, most experts recommend revisiting and reassessing your mission statement on a regular basis. I, personally, intend to review and rewrite my mission statement annually to see how I can improve or change it. (I’ll fold it into my annual Tabula Rasa exercise.)

A well-crafted mission statement will help you to learn more about yourself, express yourself more clearly, and shape your way of life. If you keep it fresh in your mind on a daily basis, it will help to guide your decision making in every aspect of your life.

With a nice big sheet of paper (or, in your journal or Book of Shadows) answer this: What are my Strengths & Values?

There are a few questions that you can ask yourself here to help determine your strengths and values:
What do I want from life?
What are my values?
What am I good at?
How do I want to be remembered?

Sometimes we just can’t see our own strengths very clearly. If so, try this:

  • Look for the places where you get excited. When we do things we are good at, and love, we get physically excited: heightened color, faster language, arms opened.
  • Look for the places where you do things differently from others. When we are not with the crowd, we’re often using our strengths and showcasing our uniqueness.
  • Track your activities by writing down what you do for a week, then rate them according to how much you enjoy them

Values are also sometimes difficult to define or articulate. “I am a good person” is a descriptor, but it doesn’t actually say very much of value. If you get stuck, try this:

  • Think about a few people you respect. What do you admire about them? What traits do they possess that you value? How do you see these in your own life?
  • Imagine you could change one thing about your community. What would it be? Why? What do you think that shows about what’s most important to you?
  • Remember a moment in your life where you felt very satisfied or fulfilled. What was that moment? What happened? Who were you with? Why did you feel that way?
  • Imagine that your house is on fire (but all pets and people are safe) and you can save just 3 objects. What would you save, and why?

Looking at the above answers, what themes do you see repeated?

When looking ahead to answer what you want from life, try not to get stuck in material desires (a new car) or abstract scenarios (die in my sleep). Instead, look for how what you want can be expressed as part of the question ‘how do I want to be remembered?’ Will your friends remember the new car? or your generous spirit?

Rules for structuring your personal mission statement
Keep it positive. Avoid using negative language in your statement. This is an affirmation, not a chore.
Instead of “stop procrastinating”, try “increase my productivity”.
Make it emotional. Tying your emotions into the language is one of the ways the mission statement becomes a spellmaking apparatus.
Instead of “increase my productivity”, try “look for ways to engage my whole self on the same task”
Keep it simple. The most effective statement is concise and to the point; three to five sentences is more than enough.  Need some examples?
To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.” – Oprah Winfrey
“To have fun in my journey through life and learn from my mistakes.” – Sir Richard Branson
“To use my gifts of intelligence, charisma, and serial optimism to cultivate the self-worth and net-worth of women around the world.” – Amanda Steinberg
“Through faith, vulnerability and an anchoring presence, I hold space for others to courageously risk revealing their messy, broken pieces; discover the redemptive power of grace, and stand in their most authentic truth so they may unravel into their best selves.”  — Makeda Pennycooke

 

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