leestijd 9 minuten

Why is there no ‘me-ology’ taught in school? In fact, why is there no formal education for it? How are you supposed to find out what floats your boat? A personal mission statement gives direction to your life. What is a personal mission statement? How do you draft one? Why should you put time and effort into creating one? This article explains everything you need to know about a personal mission statement so that you can go through life more energized!

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else

Yogi Berra

The personal mission statement in 1 minute

Organizations have a mission statement to indicate what they aim to achieve. A personal mission statement aims to provide a similar kind of guidance, but for you as an individual. It is your compass against which you validate your course to see if you are still on the right track.

A personal mission statement starts with “I, first name, last name, …” followed by 4 or 5 sentences in which you capture the essence of you as a person. Dependencies such as your place of residence, work or partner have no place in your mission statement. Also, words like try and maybe are out of the question: use an active tone when writing it.

Your personal mission statement is about the things that energize you. There are several ways to find out what gives you energy, for example by using guided visualization. However, this method is not very easily accessible. 

Alternatively, you can use the energy coach. Before-, during- and after- an event, you ask yourself how you experienced it. This way you find out where you charge your battery and where your energy leaks are.


The most valuable knowledge you can gain is insight into your own motivation. Knowing what you like enables you to do those things more often en thus be more energized throughout the day. However, as it won’t come your way in formal education, when are you going to work on it?

This article describes my path to come to a personal mission statement. Furthermore, I elaborate on the many benefits of having it has to me in the choices I make. Finally, I provide you with a useful tool to apply in your everyday life so that you can get a better sense of what truly motivates and energizes you.

Determine what is important to you

Many organizations have a mission or a vision, which indicates the direction the organization wants to head into. It is the ultimate goal the organization pursues. I’ll be the first to admit that at many companies the mission statement is nothing but an empty slogan. No one actually acts in accordance with it, as far as that is at all possible.

A good mission statement was that of Microsoft, in the days of Bill Gates. Back then, Microsoft wasn’t the gigantic, multi-billion dollar company it is today, but it was clear where they were heading. Their mission was to “[Put] a computer on every desk and in every home.” At the time, computers were far from the compact laptops we have today and they were far from accessible to the public. Microsoft’s mission stated a clear goal, namely to democratize computers.

A personal mission statement

If organizations have a mission statement, then why don’t we, the people who work at these organizations, have a personal mission statement? Isn’t it odd that all individuals that have to guide a company in the desired direction don’t have the same clarity of direction when it comes to their own life?

A personal mission statement guides you to become the person you aspire to be. It takes effort to draft your personal mission statement. That is no different from coming up with a mission statement for an organization. The benefit of your personal mission statement is that it doesn’t require convincing others of the legitimacy of your vision. It is about the essence of you as a human being. To get to the core of your being you will have to get to work.

Shaping your personal mission statement

In his book IK (which means “me” in Dutch), Remco Claassen provides a blueprint for your personal mission statement: “I, first name, last name, …” which is followed by 4 to 5 sentences that contain the essence of you as a human being. It states what you value and want to achieve.

This setup of the statement is very powerful, as it forces you to get to the essence in the limited space available. This is crucial, as any time you need to make an important decision you should assess the choice based on this statement. As an example, I will share my personal mission statement with you:

I, Lennart Nordin, have a positive worldview and live healthy. I respect others as they are and I express my appreciation. I am helpful and make use of the help of others. I enable growth both for myself and for those around me.

This is the essence of my being in four sentences. Do you notice anything special? My mission statement doesn’t state my workplace or the role I fulfill. There is no mention of my place of residence, my hobbies are not reflected and you could go on like this. These kinds of dependencies should be omitted in a personal mission statement. Even when all of those ‘certainties fall away, you should still be able to determine your way forward. Also, the mission statement has an active form, where words such as trying, maybe, and approximately must be avoided.

If you are tired, it’s not because you’re doing too much, but because you’re doing too little that gives you energy.

Omdenken

I have my mission statement, I am invincible!

Approximately 3 years ago my mission statement was finished and I thus knew exactly what I wanted and needed. I was invincible!

That turned out to be very naïve. Around the time I finished my personal mission statement, I also switched jobs within my company. I started a new position as a Product Manager at Simyo, KPN’s sim-only provider. Simyo is known for its award-winning customer service. In order to create this customer-centric company, the organization itself should also be human-centered. This was definitely the case for Simyo, which was a perfect fit with my personal mission statement. The position at Simyo was a fit for 5 out of 6 of the core values in my mission statement: positivity, health, respect, appreciation, and helpfulness. 5 out of 6 points is adequate in most tests, so that’s great…

But I wasn’t happy. How is that possible? Did I not think my mission statement all the way through? Why didn’t this position feel right for me? The good news for me was that my mission statement does indeed reflect my core values. However, these values are not all of equal importance. Growth is my most important value. If I experience too little growth, my main motivator is absent. It is thus important to be aware of the values that energize you, but also their order of importance.

Ineffective people live day after day with unused potential.

Stephen Covey

What energizes me?

To come to a personal mission statement you should be clear on what it is that energizes you. That’s easier said than done. How can you discover what energizes you?

There are different ways in which you can find out what drives you and I will elaborate on two of those. The first method is very powerful and I have experienced how this helps to quickly get to the core of your being. The disadvantage of this method, however, is that there is a barrier to applying it. That’s where the second method comes in. This method is as accessible as can be, but it requires more effort.

Begin with the end in mind

In his book, The seven habits of highly effective people Stephen Covey describes 7 habits that lead to living an effective life. The second of these seven habits is “Begin with the end in mind“. What is the ultimate end of human life?

That’s right, death! That is exactly what I used to come to the core values that energize me. Of course, I did not actually die. During a guided visualization I was a guest at my own funeral. Guided visualizations enable you to make good use of your imagination. In my case, I was lying on the floor of a candle-lit floor while relaxing music was playing in the background.

Visualizing the end of yourself

During the visualization, I was taken on a journey through my mind where several events took place. Eventually, I ended up in a small church. I got seated in the front row as people continued to flock. Once it became clear to me that I was in fact attending a funeral, I took a look in the coffin. To my surprise, I saw myself lying there! I didn’t see that one coming. When I sat back down, there were speeches by several of my acquaintances. The words my 5-year old nephew and niece spoke hit me, as I was completely absorbed in the story and my own thoughts.

This experience provided more clarity on the things I value in life. Although it was others speaking at my funeral, it was my own imagination that created these words. Those words were ultimately the way I wanted others to think of me.

In case the opportunity for a guided visualization comes along, I can highly recommend you to take it. The amount of insight you can gain in a relatively limited time is amazing.

The Power of ‘the end in mind

The impact of imagining your own death can be very powerful. Take Alfred Nobel’s story for example. We all know Alfred Nobel as the founding father of the Nobel prize, right? Or does he also ring another bell?

Initially, Alfred Nobel was a businessman and the inventor of dynamite. In 1888 his brother, Ludvig Nobel, died. A French newspaper accidentally swapped Ludvig’s obituary with that of Alfred. This mistake led to Alfred Nobel reading his own obituary, which stated that “the merchant of death is dead“. The article lashed out at Alfred for his invention of dynamite. The article read: “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday“.

Concerned about his legacy, Alfred decided to place a substantial amount of his earnings in a fund, from which the Nobel prizes were later paid. These Nobel prizes are awarded annually to those people that make the greatest contribution to humanity in fields such as physics, chemistry, and medicine. This is what many of us nowadays associate Alfred Nobel with. This is an example of the huge impact of having a clear end goal in mind.

While we wait for life, life passes

Seneca

The energy coach

The first method to come to your core values and beliefs is a guided visualization. As I mentioned before, there is quite a barrier to starting with this method. First of all, where can you find someone to guide you through such an exercise? Don’t worry if you don’t have such a person handy. The energy coach concept described below is very accessible and doesn’t require any specific resources or people. After reading it you can directly apply it!

Check-in before, during and after

The energy coach is the most accessible yet effective way to find out what energizes you. The method can be applied anytime by asking yourself three simple questions: how do I feel before, during, and after an event? Take in mind the next appointment on your schedule and ask yourself:

  1. Before
    How do you live up to the moment of the appointment? Are you excited for it, or dreading it? How would you feel if the appointment got cancelled last minute?
  2. During
    Are you excited to be present? Does time fly or is it difficult to keep the conversation going?
  3. After
    What feeling remains after the appointment? Did you energy level sink lower with every passing minute? Or did you feel totally energized and ready to move forward? If you had the opportunity to do the appointment over again, would you take it?

By asking these three questions before, during, and after various appointments, you will get a better understanding of your energy drains and your energy gains. It requires more time and effort than a guided visualization, but you can apply it more broadly.

…time to get started!

Time to get started! Take a look at the energy coach and ask yourself how you feel about your next meeting. Are you looking forward to it? After the meeting, take some time to assess how your energy level fluctuated during the meeting. Is this something you recognize within yourself? By applying the energy coach more frequently, you can come to the core values that identify the important elements in your life.

Go through the day more energized

By having a clear image of your core values, you can come to a personal mission statement. This mission statement is your compass to determine the course for your life. As I have personally experienced, it is not a quick fix for the challenges ahead. It can, however, give you a sense of direction for the future to come.

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens

Carl Jung