“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires…courage”. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), American essayist, lecturer, poet, and a leader of the Transcendentalist Movement of the 19th century
Do you have a personal mission statement? Businesses have them, schools have them, and religious organizations have them, but vary rarely do individuals have them. Mission statements exist to quantify an entity’s purpose, the reason for existence if you will, and also act as guideposts for future actions taken to fulfill that purpose. We as individuals are also created for a purpose, and therefore we too should recognize the need for our own mission statement.
Nothing is more discouraging than working for an organization that has a mission statement yet fails to follow it. You can easily recognize this kind of place: employee morale is low, growth has stagnated, and customers don’t feel valued. The reason? A gap exists between the real and professed purpose of the business. Priorities cannot be set, as a lack of fidelity to a mission statement prevents clear guidance to employees. This then leads to cynicism, low morale, and ultimately, to paralysis. And once paralysis happens, the mission, as well as the purpose of the organization, will fail.
Perhaps that is why so many seem to be adrift and hopeless in the world – they lack a mission statement that articulates their purpose for living. Like businesses, people need to set a goal and have a target to aim at in order to feel fulfilled. However, we cannot stop at just setting a goal; we must also have a mission statement in order to articulate our purpose. Why do we believe this way? Why do we have this goal? What do we seek to achieve by meeting it? What worth does it bring to us, our family, our world?
Mission statements should help direct our decision making, acting as a kind of map to keep us keenly aware so we don’t get off track. Sometimes people have a tendency to get so focused on the activity of life that they lose sight of where they are going. If we remain attuned to our mission statement, we reduce the risk of mistaking mere activity for achievement.
As a Christian, my spiritual mission statement is outlined in the Bible. Different denominations can give their own doctrine, but ultimately it all returns to this manuscript for me. As Americans, our national mission statement is outlined in our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. Bureaucrats can make the regulations and elected officials can make the law, but ultimately it is to these documents alone which we must pledge our respect and loyalty. A mission statement merely exists as the foundation on which a future rests. Without one we are merely blind seekers, without direction, paralyzed without a purpose. That is not what we were created to be.
If you are listless, perhaps it is because you have not yet articulated your purpose beyond that box which you have constructed around yourself. Are you willing to toss away the limitations you created and seek greater things? Or, perhaps you are unhappy with life not because you lack a proper personal mission statement, but instead work for an entity that either does not have one, has one but does not follow it, or has one that runs in conflict with yours. If so, are you willing to have the courage to help them find one, hold them accountable to the one they have, or move on to another organization whose mission does not run counter to your own?
We were all created for a purpose, designed to leave an individual legacy, and as such we are free to either set a new foundation or dust off one that already exists. The mistakes of the past cannot be undone, but we can avoid repeating them if we stick to a clearly outlined path and remember our mission statement. It will help keep us grounded, it will help keep us steady, and it will remind us of who we are when doubt enters in.
We cannot go forward until we know the direction we must go. You have a purpose. So, have you written your personal mission statement yet?
“People get confused between purpose, mission statements, and vision. ‘Mission’ is basically how you execute your purpose, and vision is a statement of how you see the world after you’ve done your purpose and mission. But purpose is the deepest river: You start with ‘What difference are you trying to make?’ Your tactics will change, your ads will change, your mission might too, but your purpose never will”. Roy Spence, co-founder and CEO of GSD&M, a global marketing & advertising company