Life Without a Personal Mission
In 2000 and at my age of 50 years, a man with great wisdom asked me a question that took me six months to answer. He asked, “What is your mission?” I sat there for a minute or two and then asked, “What do you mean?” He said “Why are you here? Why are you alive? What are you here on this earth for? What is your purpose? What do you hope to leave when you pass on?”
After being highly educated, having a successful career and business, and experiencing 50 years of a rich and fulfilling life, I sat in that moment and could not answer these questions. There were no words that could express what I was feeling. Nothing coming from my brain, but the noise that one gets when there is simply a breakdown in thought.
Over the next couple of days, these questions rattled in my head. Then it came to me, the deeper unanswered question was the first… “What is my mission?” The recognition that I could not answer that simple question led me on a journey to focus in on it. Six months later the answer to the question came to me and my mission was etched in my brain, heart, gut, and sole.
“To empower others to be better than they ever thought they could be
through the intimacy of coaching, mentoring, and challenge.”
That mission as memorized is my stake in the ground that leads me through every year, month, day, hour, minute and second of my life and has since 2000. Consider this, if one were to account for the average of 6.8 hours of sleep per day, there are 1,456,358,400 awake seconds in a person’s life who will live to 70 years old.
404,544 awake hours
24,272,640 awake minutes
1,456,358,400 awake seconds
And, in every measurement of time, there is a choice to be made. So, what is the compass that we use to make those choices. As we grow through the years, I would suggest that we are offered many compasses that are shared from our experiences, our learnings, and our life’s story. At 50, I realized that while I did not know the answer to the mission question, the ultimate result of defining that mission was a part of my life from the very beginning. While I did not know the words of the mission statement, I knew what the actions felt like and how my life had shown up. And, to this day I am in mission! My being state nurtures my mission, and my choices are congruent with that mission.
So, what is a personal mission? A personal mission statement is a written-down reason for being and many believe it is the key to finding your path in life. A mission statement is focused on the practice of what you need to be doing. More importantly, it is the being state that best enables us to show up as our true self.
There are several definitions for mission in every dictionary. Here are two that may resonate for you:
- A mission is a specific task that a person is sent to perform.
- A mission is an allotted or self-imposed duty or task; a calling; one’s mission in life.
A personal mission statement or personal philosophy is what you feel you would like to become in your life. It is an internal process that comes from the core of who you are. There are no right or wrong answers; defining your mission statement is just a way to put your purpose or calling into words.
Why would we want a mission statement? Well, it…
- Integrates who we are and provides a framework to encompass our core values.
- Provides focus and direction similar to a needle on a compass.
- Simplifies decision-making processes and validates our actions are congruent with our choices.
- Holds us accountable for our decisions and actions and provides for self-regulation.
- Grounds us in all situations by enabling us to go and reach into our core!
Here are some mission statements of some people you may know…
- Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group
“To have fun in [my] journey through life and learn from [my] mistakes.”
- Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla
“If something is important enough you should try, even if the probable outcome is failure.”
- Oprah Winfrey, Founder of OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network
“To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.”
- Denise Morrison, CEO of Campbell Soup Company
“To serve as a leader, live a balanced life, and apply ethical principles to make a significant difference.”
- Walt Disney, Founder of Walt Disney Productions
“To make people happy.”
- Joel Manby, Herschend Family Entertainment CEO
“For me, being successful is defined by how well I follow my personal mission statement: to Iove God and others.”
- Amanda Steinberg, Dailyworth.com Founder
“To use my traits of charisma, intelligence, and optimism, to bolster the self- and net-worth of women all over the world.”
Now, the unique characteristic of a true personal mission statement is that if it is true, then it probably is not attainable in our lifetime. That is what makes a mission statement so powerful. The vision target is always out there, and it is the same target throughout our life. It is the core constant in our life. Yes, we will attain from time to time aspects of the mission. But in the end, there is always another step on the path to attain the vision. It is like taking a trip without a final destination. We are on the route and passing each town along the way, and there will always be another town to pass.
Those in history with great personal missions that were enormous, were people like Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Susan B. Anthony, Harvey Milk, Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller, Margaret Mead, Nelson Mandela, and Sally Ride. Maybe there’s a man or women in your community who lives a life of extraordinary courage and vision and is always on a mission.
I particularly focus on attaining my mission every day. In the end and on my last day there will still be one more opportunity to empower someone on this earth to be better than they ever thought they could be through my intimacy of coaching, mentoring, and challenge, even if I do it through the words I leave on paper after I am gone.
As you search the Internet to find a process to develop your mission, it can seem complicated and confusing. I think preparing a mission statement can come down to a simple formula:
Mission = Vision + Action
The “vision” in part is the outcome you are seeking. It is not the ride; it is the destination. It is the big hairy audacious goal (“BHAG”). It is so big, so grand, so enormous, that it cannot be attained in one’s lifetime and is the target that is the light at the end of the tunnel. As we stay in mission, the light gets brighter and it is never fully attainable. It is a clear declaration of the being state that will be the foundation of our legacy. It is not the surface stuff or the day-to-day routine, it is that special deep dive diamonds that make you who you are and leave others in “ah”. It is not the steps in the process towards fulfillment, it is the fulfillment of those steps.
Now the “action” in part are those few things that one does over and over that attains the vision. These are the unique and personal things that we do to fuel the engine that leads to the attainment of the vision. They are the answers to the what, where, when and how. Most often they are not specific tasks, but rather the specific ways of “being” or our “empowerment states”, which lines up with our core values. They are such things as humility, accountability, positivity, patience, and assertiveness, etc. It is what we do to get what we want… our vision. And when combined with our vision, it is special and unique to each of us alone.
To round out our formula of a mission statement with words, we use the word “by” or “through” in place of the plus (+) sign. The formula ends up like this:
“My mission is to [fill in words from your vision] [by or though] [fill in words from your actions].”
Here are some additional ground rules to simplify the process for building your mission:
- The number of total words used after “My mission is to” should be no more than 15-20 words. More words create complexity and misinterpretation. And it is harder to memorize.
- The final mission statement is one single sentence.
- The “vision” portion of the mission statement should be one or two clear statements of the target.
- The “action” portion of the mission statement should contain no more than three complementary actions that together can attain the vision.
- Use words that are clear and understandable to you. Don’t worry about what others think of the words or if those words resonate for them. They simply have to resonate for you!
- Recognize that mission statements are alive and are refined and polished as life unfolds. However, the basic core of the mission statement always remains in tack… if it is right for you.
When the mission statement is complete, put it into your memory! When you have your mission statement and you complete the process you will know it! You feel it in your gut and heart. It will resonate in your mind. And, you will get the sensation of “aha”, a deep space will be filled in your body, and you will feel it.
Here are some examples of mission statements:
- My mission is to create a world of success and tranquility by being patient, focused and full of joy.
- My mission is to be a player on the world stage through education, curiosity and being engaged in my world community.
- My mission is to nurture those around me through love, joy and being authentic and humble in the moment.
- My mission is to strive in a world of perfection by being perfectly imperfect myself and empowering others to share in this wisdom.
Once you have a mission statement, it is now time to put it to work. Here are some thoughts:
- First, measure every choice you make, every word you speak, and every action you take against your mission statement. On a scale of 1-10 measure where you are with 10 being fully in mission. If you rate yourself 7-10 congratulations, you are well on your way. Any lower, then it is time to go introspective and share where you might want to focus and/or improve.
- Second, when you are in stress or in a challenge where you need to dig deep to overcome the situation, repeat your mission statement to yourself in your head, over and over. You will be surprised how you will get quickly grounded and will find the strength to get through the situation.
- Third, repeat your mission statement three times every morning when you wake up and three times every evening when you go to sleep. Let it become the ritual to start and end every day. Over time, you will “be” your mission.
- Finally, live and be your mission. Over time it will become who you are if it is not already. As with me, once I was able to define my mission in 2000, I realized that I had lived my entire life up to that point in the mission. Now, I had a clear definition of what it was.
A final note! It is time to energize your mission. Like the Energizer Bunny, it simply takes a quality battery. The human battery is an “affirmation statement.” An “affirmation” is a powerful tool that creates energy to move you towards your mission. It is a positive self-reinforcement. An affirmation is always in the present tense (no use of “will” or “should” or “can be”). It creates excitement and it allows you psychically to be in your mission all the time. And, it is happening in the present moment… not the past or the future. The affirmation is stated as:
“I am [fill in words from your vision or action]”
Simply fill in the blank with either words from your “vision” or “action” parts of your mission statement. It makes no difference which you choose… so choose the one that resonates most with you.
So “What is your mission?” Why are you here? What is your purpose? What do you hope to leave when you pass on? You have read here in just over 2,200 words. These words can change your life forever. Don’t sell yourself short! Don’t over-analyze! Take the time to be creative and capture the essence of who you are and how you are going to be. In the end, I can assure it will be a journey well worth traveling.
“My mission is to empower others to be better than they ever thought they could be through the intimacy of coaching, mentoring, and challenge.” If these words have resonated for you and have empowered you to take the next step, then I am just that much closer to my target which someday I may hit. I just don’t know when!