Here’s a sobering statistic: Nearly half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions, and yet a mere 8 percent are successful at achieving them. Ouch. Well, we have another tactic for you to this year: creating a personal mission statement, or purpose statement. Often when people make resolutions, they fail to think about their underlying motivation for achieving that goal. For example, they may vow to lose weight so that they can fit better into clothes; they may vow to eat healthier because they see so many people around them doing so; or they may vow to get organized because it feels like the right thing to do at the start of the year. Without focusing on their true desires and underlying motivations – the “why” – many people lack a strong enough reason to do the work required to reach those goals. Creating a personal mission statement forces you to identify your values, which allows you to tune into what will truly motivate you to make changes.
Popularized back in 1989 by Stephen R. Covey’s best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People®
, many mission statements are written for business purposes. However, they work just as well on a personal level. Defined by Covey, such statements capture what you want to be (your character) and do (your contributions and achievements), “and on the values or principles upon which being and doing are based.” Put more simply, a mission statement provides clarity and gives you a sense of purpose. Think of it as a way to focus your energy, actions, behaviors and decisions.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to get you started:
- What am I passionate about?
- What is most important to me in my life?
- What are my values?
- What are my greatest strengths?
- What is the ONE THING I could do in my personal life that would have the most positive impact?
- What have been my happiest moments in life?
- Whom do I admire, and why?
- If I had unlimited time and resources, what would I do?
Now take those answers, choose a sample sentence template (we’ve offered a few, below), and start writing.
"To live each day with ...[choose one to three values]... so that ...[what living by these values will give you]. I will do this by ...[specific behaviors you will use to live by these values]."
"To develop and cultivate the qualities of ...[2-3 values or character traits] that I admire in ...[an influential person in your life]... so that ...[why you want to develop these qualities]."
"To ... [what you want to achieve, do or become] ... so that ... [reasons why it is important]. I will do this by ... [specific behaviors or actions you can use to get there]."
As you write, keep in mind that your mission statement is meant to inspire you, not to impress anyone else. When you’re done, or have a solid rough draft, share it so that you have all the support you need to achieve your mission.