Do you have a résumé for your future? I’m not talking about the conventional kind to land a new job.
I’m talking about a clearly defined personal mission statement.
As a concise expression of your vision for your life, a personal mission statement, once lived out, becomes a résumé. There’s so much attention, however, spent on defining our past—having a good résumé—that we often don’t give much thought to developing our mission statement.
What makes a good one?
The sentence construction is not difficult: subject-verb-object. My mission is to (your mission task) with/for/in/to (your mission community).
Here’s mine, for example: My mission is to rouse the extraordinary and powerful mission in people and business.
The challenge, of course, comes in defining the mission task and mission community. The mission task is what I’m wired to do and the community is who I am to serve.
Setting out to write this down, for many of us, can be an exercise of frustration. We stare at a blank piece of paper and don’t know where to begin. How do I describe what I’m good at, or passionate about? What if I don’t know? What if I’m not really good at anything?
When those thoughts emerge, it’s hard to stick with it. But these steps can help:
- Find a verb that moves you. Verbs are action words and our personality and gifting will naturally be drawn to certain ones more than others. Take my verb affinity exercise. Narrow it down to a handful that appeal to you.
- Solicit feedback. Because we live in our own skin, we’re often not aware of our own unique gifting. We can be oblivious to our gifting that’s so obvious to others. A few years ago I asked several people who know me well to answer these questions:
- What are the talents, skills and gifts that you have noticed in me? List as many as you can, but at least three.
- Which of these is most evident to you and how?
- Which of these do you think I should develop more? Why?
- If I were to move to another region of the country and two years from now you were to hear of something I did, what might be mentioned that would not surprise you?
- Which of the following verbs (a list of favorites from the verb affinity exercise) do you think best describe me? Circle the top three. Put an asterisk (*) by the one that is the best fit. Any others that come to mind?
I was initially apprehensive about asking them to take the time to give me feedback, even thinking the whole exercise was perhaps a little too narcissistic. Their enthusiastic response, however, proved my fears ungrounded and we enjoyed some great conversations kicking ideas around.
- Wear it for awhile. Try out a few variations of your mission statement, mixing verbs, rearranging the sentence. Then ask yourself: What would someone with this particular mission task do? Write down ideas. If ideas flow quickly, you’re probably onto something. If they don’t, you may need to go back to the verb list and look for other inspiring words.
It can take years to hone a good personal mission statement. Over the last five years, mine has gone through several refinements, and will likely be refined again—though the underlying direction has remained.
Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t come right away. The key is to start. The important thing is not to let tomorrow come without having a résumé for your future.
What’s your personal mission statement?
Thanks for a thought-provoking article. I’ve helped craft mission statements for several businesses, but never thought about one for myself.
Thanks for leaving a comment, Mark. As a fellow biz consultant, I’m constantly amazed at how many tools I’ve applied to business that make sense for me to use personally as well. Balanced scorecard, anyone?
Best wishes on your personal mission statement. Let me know how your crafting goes.
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My personal mission, which I intend to carry-out in my career, is to contribute toward the goal of global education with emphasis on promoting understanding of the relationship between humanity and the natural world.