You Need A Mission Statement

Ethan Hunt is a winner. No matter what, the man gets the job done. He’s over 50, and still kicking ass. Most men his age are looking at white sneakers and high-waisted jeans and thinking, “Yeah, that makes sense. And who says you can’t wear socks with sandals? Because even in the summer, sometimes there’s a draft.” But not Ethan. No matter how impossible the mission, he always accepts it.

Of course Ethan Hunt is a fictional character working for the Impossible Mission Force (IMF), an organization with a name only slightly less probable than the missions it does. I’m a fan, and since I can’t resist making this about something I like, we’re going to talk about missions today. More to the point, we’re going to talk about personal mission statements.

You only need to know three things

I’ve already had a few multi-year careers by this point in my life. At one point I was in the army. The US version, not KISS. I could never pull off the makeup.

One of the most valuable lessons Uncle Sam’s Big Green Machine taught me was that you only need to know three things to get the job done.

  • Purpose: Why?
  • Direction: How?
  • Motivation: What for?

But since most of us will never have to storm a bunker on a Normandy beach, how does this work for the rest of us?

Putting the kids to bed:

  • Purpose: You need your sleep
  • Direction: Take a bath, brush your teeth, read a story, go to sleep
  • Motivation: If you don’t, we will sell you to gypsies

Full disclosure: I don’t have kids, so I’m not sure we about the gypsies part.

Maybe getting yourself to the gym:

  • Purpose: I need to be in better shape
  • Direction: Find a workout plan and start doing it
  • Motivation: I know that being in better shape means feeling better about myself.

For me, it’s writing a book right now:

  • Purpose: I want to earn a living from writing
  • Direction: Put words down and repeat until done
  • Motivation: I don’t want to rely on a “job” for the rest of my professional life

A good mission statement, then, gives us all three:

  • Purpose
  • Direction
  • Motivation

And to help us achieve our vision of ourselves, we need a mission statement.

How do we get there?

If a vision statement tells us where we’re going, our mission statement tells us how we’re going to get there.

Businesses have them for the same reason. In case you’re curious, check out Busy 2 Done’s statement of vision, mission, values, and purpose.

And people who run businesses have them, too. Here are five examples of personal mission statements from some CEOs.

My favorite is from Oprah:

“To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.”

So why should you have your own personal mission statement?

Vision is what you want, your mission is how you get there

All of us need a purpose. And by “purpose” I don’t mean just converting oxygen to carbon dioxide.

That’s good for plants, and the plants thank you.

But that’s not a purpose.

So if you have a vision of what you want to be, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to do what it takes to achieve that vision.

And if this sounds like a business school exercise, remember: you’re the CEO of You, Incorporated.

And You, Inc., needs a mission statement, just like any other business.

It doesn’t have to be a complex exercise to write, either.

Just answer these five questions to find your life’s mission:

Why do you get out of bed every morning?

If you’re not sure what it is that gets your feet on the floor every day, now’s a good time to ask. Is it to provide for your family? To finish school to move ahead in life? Is it to savor the joy that only a new day can bring? (If it’s that last one, please, don’t tell the rest of us).

Who are you here to serve?

This is a customer question, and I’m big on the idea of “servant leadership.” Who benefits from what you do each day? And I don’t mean just who gets to see their bottom line improve because of your work. Who’s your customer? Your kids? Your partner? Work clients? Who are you getting out of bed to take care of every day?

Who do you want to be?

Ties back into vision, and the two are connected on a pretty visceral level. What kind of company is You, Inc.? And what kind of company do you want it to be?

What makes you special?

Let’s get past participation trophies and special snowflakes for a minute, and think about what’s unique about you. What do you bring to the table that no one else around you does? What’s your special talent? Is it being good with numbers? Being patient when everyone else is losing their minds? What makes you great?

What values are most important to you?

We’ll go into this more in a later post, so now’s a good time to think about how your values tie into your personal mission in life. What things do you value the most? Family? Friends? Money? Fitness?

And in case you’re curious, my answers look like this:

Why do you get out of bed every morning?

I believe I have something amazing to share with the world in order to help us all get to the important stuff.

Who are you here to serve?

First off my family: my wife is the most important customer of Dan, Inc., that there is. Then it’s anyone I come into contact with, because it’s not just about getting from busy to done, it’s about delivering joy. And I hope I can bring joy to those around me. For the record, this is very much a work in progress.

Who do you want to be?

A person who delivers joy and practical solutions to the problem of being too busy.

What makes you special?

I think in terms of systems and processes, which makes me able to figure out what part of a given system isn’t working and how to improve it.

What values are most important to you?

Family, health (spiritual, mental, and physical), service, and integrity.

My personal mission statement?

Every day I’m working to deliver joy to those around me by serving others with integrity.

And we’re down to three again

If you have a vision, you’re ready for a mission.

Give your life purpose, direction, and motivation.

If you’d like to know more about personal mission statements and how to write your own, drop me a line.

And let’s make this year the best year ever for You, Incorporated.

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