Mission and vision statements are essential aspects of business operations, but they can be beneficial for everyone! Let’s clarify the difference between the two before we get into the reasons that you should have them.
A mission statement is a summary of the core values that make up an organization or individual. In the case of a personal mission statement, it would explain why you are who you are and why you value the things you do.
A vision statement clearly states how a person or company envisions their future. These types of statements encompass a set timespan, mostly 5 or 10 years down the road.
People have a core sense of values that influence all the decisions they make. Identifying these values with a mission statement can have unimaginable benefits, even if you are not a business owner or leadership professional. Some of these benefits include:
- Determining who (and why) you are who you are
- Force you to reach a new level of self-awareness
- Set priorities and develop focus
- Make thoughtful and meaningful decisions easier
- Create change that fosters a more fulfilling life
The overall goal here is the same as when companies craft their mission statements: drive profound change and perform at a higher level.
“A mission statement is not something you write overnight… But fundamentally, your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life.” – Stephen Covey
How to get started on writing your mission statement
The first step, discovering who you are and how you came to be, is most easily accomplished by asking yourself a series of questions:
- What do you want for yourself? Dig deeper with this one and resist the temptation to use the first answers that come to mind. For instance, when I first asked myself this question, I had some pretty standard answers: happiness, safety, beautiful things, etc. Throw those out! Those are things that most everyone wants. What makes you happy? What makes you feel safe? What items do you need?
- What roles do you play? The characters we play in our lives might be critical aspects of who we are, or they might be just that, temporary positions that serve a purpose. Write down 10 “roles,” you have in your daily life, then cross out two that you could eliminate. Great job, now cross out three more. Get down to the ones that mean the most.
- How will you maintain relationships with the people that matter? What traits do you value in others? What have past events in your life taught you about how to treat or not treat others?
This part of the process could take a while, and the more time you spend honing in on yourself, the better your mission statement will be. Forcing yourself to become aware of your thoughts, values, and self-image will help you to reach a more meaningful level of self-awareness, which will, in turn, help you prioritize your life and create focus.
This renewed focus can create opportunities and open doors that you didn’t realize existed. Imagine if you will, a splinter embedded in your skin. It is there, irksome, and nagging reminding you of its presence. You wouldn’t approach a splinter with a machete.
No, you would get a tweezer, and maybe even a magnifying glass, and pluck it out. Yet, most of us continue to go through life flailing around wielding a machete instead of applying the focus necessary to solve our problems. A personal mission statement is like your tweezer and magnifying glass.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” ―Maya Angelou
Not only will it help you focus, but having a mission statement will make decision making a more streamlined process. For instance, if your mission statement reveals that you have a deep love for animals and reject animal cruelty, you might turn down the job in the research department at that make-up company that still tests on animals. Or maybe when you go to the store, you will buy the other product that costs a little more, because you know that it doesn’t test on animals.
How can all of this create change? Here is an example: You decided not to take that job at the make-up company that tests on animals. You felt so good making this decision because it aligned with who you are, and it compelled you to take your research skills and create an even better product.
You formulate something so innovative that you patent it and make more money than you would have at the company that initially wanted to hire you. The possibilities are endless when we make decisions that align with our most authentic selves, and mission statements help us to identify who that is!
Here is mine:
“Words matter. Sharing the pain and growth found in our life stories forces others to investigate, “How they came to be who they are?” Delving into the events that shaped us as children, creates a level of self-awareness each of us can use to create enduring and essential change.”
If a mission statement is the sketch of who we are then a vision statement is the blueprint that helps us get there. Your vision statement outlines what you would like to achieve. It is the purpose of the life you described in your mission statement. The “how and when” of the “who, what, where, and why.”
Looking into who you want to be in the future, and how you plan to get there is something anyone focusing on self-development should do. Companies create a vision statement to make sure the goals align with their mission statement, and individuals can benefit from this kind of direction as well.
“The impact of your vision, while quiet and ever-present, will be astounding over time as it becomes a reality.” ― Steve Shallenberger
How to get started on writing your vision statement
Here are a few things to keep in mind when writing your vision statement:
- It should be specific and describe the desired outcome
- Use clear and motivational language
- Keep an open mind and realize that your vision statement may change (whereas the mission statement usually doesn’t)
- It is often 3-5 sentences, while your mission statement should only be a sentence or two
- Dream big! Make your vision a challenge that you will want to chase day after day
- It should be relevant to your mission
Tom Wright uses Microsoft as an illustration of why your vision statement should focus on what you want action you want to do, stating:
“Microsoft famously had a vision statement to Put a Microsoft powered computer on every desk in the world (slightly paraphrased). Strictly speaking, what Microsoft ‘do’ is make computer software, but for the purposes of their vision, they looked forward to the actual outcome of this process – i.e., computers on desks.”
A vision statement begs the question, “How do you plan on achieving the things you wanted for yourself?” My mission statement portrays a desire to overcome traumatic childhood events, and to help others do the same, by sharing my stories. Here is an example of my vision statement:
“To create written works about my own childhood experiences, giving me a more in-depth insight into why I am who I am. Then to share those stories through blog posts, print, and other methods, with the hopes that my words will inspire others. To help other people realize they are the authors of their own lives, and that each of us possesses unlimited potential.”
You should write a mission and vision statement because your words matter
Whether you plan on using your mission and vision statement for an entrepreneurial endeavor, a self-development exercise, or a tool to help find clarity, the benefits are the same.
Coming up with these statements would also be a productive way to pass the time if you are feeling confined during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you find yourself with more time than you have ever had before, invest it wisely! What better way than to discover who you are and how you want your life to look!
When we write down our goals and our dreams, our beliefs, and our values, we can manifest a destiny that we hadn’t even imagined was possible. Clarity, focus, and a heightened sense of awareness are the first steps to creating a life filled with purpose and intention.
Take that step, write a mission and vision statement for yourself, and discover how much your words impact your existence. You might find that the things you thought were important don’t hold as much weight as you thought they did.
Feel free to share your statements in the comment section below! If you don’t feel comfortable sharing your full statement, then please share the process you used to create it!