Writing Your Personal Mission Statement

Written by Paul Wolf

setting a mission statement to reach your goalsSuccessfully navigate your life with a mission statement. You've heard the term, "brand you?" What or who do you want to be? What's unique about you?  A personal mission statement can help clarify your life's goals.

Wearing his customary cowboy boots and blue jeans, and speaking in his folksy style, Brian Henicks laughs as he tells one of his favorite stories:

A guy is climbing up a big ladder, feeling good about every step he takes. But when he reaches the top, he realizes the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.

Practical Spirituality for Busy People
Start with one mission statement for your life as a whole.
Address specific areas of your life (marriage, work, etc.) in separate statements.
Don't get sidetracked with New Year's resolutions that don't fit your mission.
Don't be so idealistic that the statement is unrealistic.
Write it down.

Tap into Your Happiness
To Henicks, the moral is clear: You may be steadily earning money, achieving higher positions, creating a name for yourself in the community and be doing absolutely nothing to advance your life's true calling.

"It's like taking steps in the wrong direction without a compass," says Henicks.

It's like living life without a mission statement, something Henicks, a photo finishing professional and cowboy, wouldn't dream of doing.

A mission statement, writes Stephen Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Successful People , "becomes a personal constitution, the basis for making major, life-directing decisions."

Life is going to hit you with at least a few surprises. You can't plan for them, but you can get through them by keeping in mind what is most important. "People can't live well with change if there's not a changeless core inside them," writes Covey.

Henicks' first rough mission statement dates back 13 years. It has evolved into a powerful personal credo, one that influenced his recent move from California to Colorado.

His mission statement is this: "My mission is to live a simpler life in harmony with my surroundings helping to heal the land and create a sustainable future for all."

Last year, he moved his family east to a place where they could all live more simply. He lives closer to the land, drives less and enjoys a more rural existence.

Henicks continues to review his statement often and recognizes there is more to do. Somehow, some way, perhaps after the children have grown, he will contribute more in the conservation field. He's 44. He has time to figure out how to keep moving in the right direction.

 A mission statement can be 25 or 250 words. It can address life as a whole or just a major area. A marriage orfamily mission statement can be an effective way to keep a household working from the same page.

"The most important thing is that everyone buys into it," says Carol Kaplan, a marriage, family and child counselor in Monterey, Calif., who uses mission statements as a therapy technique.

Consider using your mission statement as a springboard for writing week-to-week or month-to-month goals. And make your goals specific.

Saying, "I will make fitness a high priority ," isn't valuable unless you also establish a strategy and time frame for hiring a personal trainer or finding a diet that helps you to lose weight, explains Kevin Gogin, a marriage and family counselor in San Francisco.

Avoid being overly idealistic or pragmatic with your mission statement. The statement should reflect how you intend to live your life on a daily basis, but also your hopes and dreams.

Henicks may never quite live up to the implied high standards in his mission statement. This cowboy can't live without cable TV and Internet access, for example. But he simplifies his life in other ways; he doesn't buy anything he doesn't need.

In the end, he knows that holding that trusty compass in his hands takes him closer to his destination than he would have otherwise traveled.

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