The U.S. Army, one of the largest organizations in the world, states on their official site that their mission is “To fight and win our Nation’s wars, by providing prompt, sustained, land dominance, across the full range of military operations and the spectrum of conflict, in support of combatant commanders.”
I like this mission statement because I can understand it. It’s clear and concise, and it gives me an immediate understanding of what the organization is all about. If I never saw this mission statement, somehow, in the back of my head, I would formulate one myself based on what I know about the Army. It wouldn’t be the same, and for sure, it wouldn’t be as concise and clear, but I would still be able to explain through it what the Army does.
But what if I were to think from the inside? What if I were a soldier in the U.S. Army? Would it make a difference if this statement wasn’t as direct and straightforward, or if it existed at all?
Would people still be able to fight? Sure they would.
So, then, what does the mission statement do, and why is it essential to have a personal one?
Why is Mission Important?
As humans, we often resist doing things that we don’t understand. If we don’t get the reason for doing something, unless we are coerced into doing it, we won’t commit. It’s human nature because we fear the unknown. That which we don’t comprehend might have potentially harmful results, and we fear how those might affect us or those around us.
On the other hand, we are ordinarily more than willing to do what we clearly understand. And the trick is, sometimes we even know that some of those things are bad for us, but we manufacture a meaning for ourselves. That’s because even when we do something that we know is bad for us, we still have a deep need to understand why we do it.
If you smoke cigarettes, you might say that it relaxes you or makes you look cool. Now you’ve given it a meaning, a rational reason to be. If you think about it, we create these little stories about everything we do because we need that justification. We won’t do them for no reason. That would make us irrational, and none of us wants to be that.
When it comes to positive actions in our lives, such as healthy eating or exercising, although we know very well why they’re good for us, we still don’t do them.
The dichotomy here comes from our habits and the way habit formation works. So, then, how the heck does the mission statement fit in, and how does it help us?
A mission takes your positive ideas for life and all the thoughts you have about achievement and accomplishment and boils them down into a concise, well-structured, direct, and clear statement.
By becoming deliberate about what you need to do and giving yourself a mission, you remove the fog.
Our Mission Grounds Us Into Reality
For example, you could create a personal mission statement that reads, “I will always keep healthy by eating nutritious, organic food, and by keeping all poison away from my body.”
That’s simple enough. Now you know where cigarettes stand relative to this mission, and you also know where your healthy food consumption stands.
Understand though that a mission statement, no matter how powerful, is not a habit-changing tool by itself. Instead, the mission statement is just a stepping stone.
Writing on the wall that they will provide land dominance is not enough for the U.S. Army to do so. In addition to those words, they also need to recruit, train, create strategies, spend resources, and so on. But the mission statement is at the center of it. If you are a soldier and find yourself in the middle of a war in a foreign land and have a moment of panic or feel lost, all you need to do is remember the mission.
There are big, overarching missions, such as the U.S. Army one, and then there are many smaller missions that all stem from and serve the main one. That soldier in the field may have a specific task, e.g., to capture an enemy outpost. That mission is true to the parent mission but takes “land dominance” to a more specific level.
By taking the time to create a high-level mission and then defining smaller, more specific tasks that act as an extension of the main one, you begin to create clarity and purpose in your life.
Why Having a Mission Helps Us
In your personal life, a mission statement should be wide enough to cover all aspects of your life. If you are to think in terms of the PEMS framework (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual/social), you should know how you are to approach your existence in each of those dimensions.
What is your personal mission relative to your physical body? Is it to stay healthy and fit and be a role model for your kids to do the same? You see, once you commit to this as your life mission, you begin to filter everything that you do through it. Although, as I said above, the mission itself is not a substitute for the work you have to do to change your habits and routines, it does provide that crystal clear definition of what you should be doing.
Creating a mission statement that spans all areas of your life also creates balance and harmony. By having a mission relative to your physical state but leaving your emotional self aside, you will create an imbalance, leading to multiple issues in time.
Once you define an overarching mission statement for all aspects of your life, you may decide to create smaller, more specific missions.
For example, if your life’s mission is to “be healthy and fit and be a role model to your kids,” perhaps this year’s mission is to “lose all extra weight and maintain a healthy diet.” The latter is a bit more specific, but it still serves the master mission.
From this clear mission, you can derive a personal twelve-month goal, such as “lose twenty pounds by December 31.”
As you can see, the mission is not doing the work but giving you the rudder that guides your way. By having the mission out there, clear and leaving no doubts as to what it tells us, we create a mental roadmap. We can use that roadmap to quickly map out what we do as serving or not serving the mission.
That’s why it’s crucial to create the overall, high-level mission statement first. That allows the creation of a mental guide across your entire life. The other, more specific sub-missions provide detail to the overall mission while acting as a support.
How Mission Fits into Your Life Plan
The mission is, of course, not the only thing that provides us with grounding and direction. The mission is sandwiched between your life vision and your goals.
The vision is your North Star, your life’s guiding light. It’s comprised of your dreams that are so big that they seem impossible to reach.
Your goals are the down-to-earth representation of your vision in an actionable form. If your vision is human flight, your goal is to design a device that can fly. This is why it is paramount that you use the right process to create your life goals properly.
Your mission fits right in-between there: “To help humanity reach the sky.”
So the mission has a visionary element to it, but it’s one step removed from the vision. It also has an actionable, grounding aspect to it, but it’s one step removed from that one as well. It’s like the glue that connects your vision to your day-to-day goal-driven actions.
Creating Your Own Personal Mission Statement
There are many types of mission statements. You probably have heard about them mostly in the context of corporate business. Businesses love mission statements for a very good reason; they are a simple and easy way for the management of a company to communicate to their employees what the company aims to do.
In one’s personal life, though, mission statements work just the same way. It’s tempting to think, well, of course, it makes sense in the corporate world. The company owners must communicate the mission to the employees so that they can act according to its guidelines. But me personally, why would it be the same?
I am the same person. Why would I tell myself something that I already know?
You see, when it comes to your personal life, your mission statement is nothing but your effort to separate the many thoughts and ideas in your head and decide what is essential. By creating a mission statement, you make deliberate decisions about what you want to do in life.
So, it’s not that you don’t know; the knowledge is there under layers of life stuff. It’s bringing the good parts up to the surface and giving them the priority that matters.
Creating a personal mission statement is like cleaning up your desk. Everything you need is there, but it’s all covered by layer upon layer of stuff. Once you remove the junk and only the critical items are left, you can proceed with your work.
Your brain works in the same way. When you give it something to focus on, it will work on that day and night. While you are awake, your conscious mind will put energy into it, and later, when you sleep, your subconscious mind will work at it. Soon, even your unconscious mind will begin to put effort toward it. Just like the soldier in the middle of the field who only must recite his mission in his head to regain focus, your brain also needs that reminder.
The mission statement becomes that constant snap of the fingers that puts you back on track. It reminds you of what you have already decided that you have to do.
10 Steps To Creating and Using Your Personal Mission
1) What is your vision?
Be clear on what you want your future self to be. Picture yourself far into the future, and decide who you want to be. One interesting technique from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which I discussed in my previous article on vision, is to imagine your own funeral. I know it sounds morbid but go with it; choose three people closest to you (for example, a family member, a friend, and a co-worker) and imagine what you would like them to say about you. Using this method, begin to create an image of who you want to be. In the end, you should have a vision that should include who you want to be, what you want to have, and who you want to be surrounded with. For a great way to visualize your vision, learn how to create a vision board.
2) What is your purpose?
Once you have the various items of your vision, start asking why. Understanding your purpose will provide the clarity needed for action. Why do you want to be or have the things you envision? Be very specific about why these things are important to you.
3) What are your goals?
With your vision and purpose defined, write down a few moonshot goals. These are big goals for your life that bridge the gap between today and your vision.
4) What are your values?
Your values define for you what is right and what is wrong. Understanding your values will provide you with clarity about why you do certain things and what you will tolerate in your life.
5) What is your ideal contribution?
Remember that your mission is bigger than you. Who and what you will touch along the way, and in what ways, will define your contribution. It could be on a large scale, such as the world or your community, or closer to your heart, such as your children.
6) Draft your mission statement in the form of Verb > Target > Outcome
With the first five items in front of you, write the first draft of your mission statement. Think big and aim high. Your statement must inspire you and push you to act. Choosing a verb, a target, and an outcome is a quick way to start drafting. Here’s an example: “I inspire generations of people through my teaching.” Or, “I teach my kids how to live life to the fullest by being their role model.”
7) Refine your mission statement
Although there is no particular rule about the proper length of a mission statement—after all, it’s yours, so make it as long as you need to—the more concise the mission statement is, the better. If you want inspiration, you can read some of the most famous mission statements out there. Please do not copy other people’s missions; instead, use them as inspiration. The more you can boil down your mission statement to a core message, the more you will find it more effective in keeping you on track.
8) Read your mission statement often
Have your mission statement visible or readily available. By re-reading the statement every day, you condition your brain to think about it. Your mind puts subconscious work toward the things you focus on, and you must train your brain to focus on your mission.
9) Share your mission with your closest circle
Since you do not live in a vacuum, making your mission public, at least to those that are closest to you, will make it more real for yourself and will also let others know what you think about yourself. At the least, your closest family should buy into your mission because you are on this path together.
10) Review and update your mission annually
Each year you should review your mission statement and make sure it is still appropriate. As things change throughout your life, your mission might shift as well. Although mission statements tend to stay consistent over time, especially when they boil down to a powerful core message, they might still need an update as you change. Make sure to review your statements at least once a year and make any necessary changes to keep them current.
Personal Mission – Conclusion
A strong mission statement is a powerful tool that should exist in anyone’s arsenal. Together with other tools, such as a vision statement, a list of goals, and a personal value system, the mission is what will keep you on your chosen path and ensure that you are moving not just forward but forward and in the proper direction.
Once you have your mission statement, display it somewhere where you can read it or at least see it every single day. Review your mission every quarter or year and see if it needs any changes. Keep it fresh, and make sure it evolves as your goals and dreams grow.
Now, before you go, I have…
3 Questions For You
- What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the mission?
- Have you ever felt like you were a part of a bigger mission? How?
- How do you think having a personal mission could help your life?
Please share your answers in the comments below. Sharing knowledge helps us all improve and get better!
Hi there! I’m Iulian, and I want to thank you for reading my article. There’s a lot more if you stick around. I write about personal development, productivity, fiction writing, and more. Also, I’ve created Self-Growth Journey, a free program that helps you get unstuck and create the beautiful life you deserve. Enjoy!