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How to write a powerful personal mission statement

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by Jennifer Bridges  @JenBridgesRD

A young African man in a red sweater leaning against a red brick wall.

A personal mission statement is an important part of your online presence. Essentially a declaration of your personal philosophy, this statement defines the values that guide all your decisions, who or what you want to affect in the world, and the special skills you will use to do so. 

To write your own personal mission statement, you’ll need to take some time to think about what’s important to you and why. Here are some steps to make the process easier.

1. Decide what you want to be known for

This is the most important step in creating a personal mission statement because it helps you identify what’s most important to you.

If you are having trouble deciding what to include, ask yourself these questions:

  • What are the top-three principles you try to live your life by?—For example, “treating others with respect,” “being independent,” or “taking responsibility.”
  • What do people notice about your personality when they first meet you?—For example, “welcoming” or “thoughtful.”
  • What personality trait do you wish they would notice instead?—For example, “Insightful” or “fearless.”
  • What do you want people to remember most about you?—For example, “generous” or “talented.”

2. Identify what you want to do

The next step is to decide how you want to live out your principles. What actions do you want to take?

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A good way to answer this question is to reflect on two or three of your most satisfying life achievements. What is it about these things that makes you feel good? Do these achievements have anything in common? 

For example, you might discover that your most memorable achievements all involve helping people or satisfying customers. Or, you might notice that you find fulfillment in solving problems or coming up with new ideas.

3. Choose who you want to do it for 

Now that you’ve decided what you want to do, you need to sharpen your focus by deciding who you want to do it for. 

Will you help everyone, or will you use your talents to benefit a certain group, like “children,” “entrepreneurs,” “the underserved,” or “individuals in crisis?”

4. Point out core skills you’ll use to do it

This is where you decide what your superpower is. What skill do you have in abundance, and how will you use it to achieve your mission?

For example, you might be great at teaching, mentoring, designing, or simplifying complex ideas. Other people might excel in coding, writing, or inspiring others.

5. Write down your goals 

You also need to think about what you aim to accomplish with your efforts. What big results are you looking to achieve?

Do you want to “give hope to people,” “teach children the joy of learning,” or “empower women to start their own companies?” Think of the phrase that best describes your ideal outcome.

6. Decide which details belong in other professional documents

The best personal mission statements are roughly 50 words long. This means that you probably won’t be able to fit all the information you have gathered in the previous steps into your statement.

However, the work that you’ve put in so far will be helpful in creating other professional documents, including the following:

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  • Personal biography—A brief description of your experience, skills, and personality traits that make you good at what you do.
  • Career portfolio—A collection of artifacts that demonstrate your education, skills, and abilities.
  • Professional background summary—A short paragraph (or bulleted list) at the top of your resume that summarizes your qualifications for an open position. 
  • Personal vision statement—A clear and inspirational picture of where you want to be at some point in your future.
  • Career goals—A list of your specific career objectives and your plan for achieving them.
  • Personal value statement—A concise statement describes the things that are most important to you.
  • Strategic career plan—A plan of action based on your mission statement and an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, as well as market opportunities.

As such, it’s a good idea to make a list of the professional documents you are working on—or plan to create. Then, you can go through all your answers to questions in steps 1 – 5 and sort the details you have gathered under the appropriate type of professional document.

For example, if you listed “communication, empathy, and project management” in Step 4, then you could add these items under several document types, including personal biography, career portfolio, and professional background summary. Similarly, you could use the principles you mentioned in Step 1 to write your personal value statement.

7. Distill the big ideas into your personal mission statement

The next step is to take what you have learned from your self-exploration and distill these ideas into a word or phrase that you can use to construct a brief personal mission statement. 

Here is a simple formula you can use to get started:

To use [SKILLS FROM STEP 4] to [VALUE FROM STEP 1] for [PEOPLE FROM STEP 2] in order to [PRINCIPLES FROM STEP 3], resulting in [THE GOALS FROM STEP 5].

For example, your mission statement could look something like this:

To use my business experience to teach aspiring entrepreneurs how to grow their companies, give back to their communities, and lift people out of poverty.

Remember, your personal mission statement should reflect your unique personality and goals, so feel free to add or subtract elements that don’t work for you.

Examples of great mission statements

If you are unsure what a powerful personal mission statement looks like, here are some real-life examples to inspire you:

  • I want to serve the people. And I want every girl, every child to be educated”—Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Prize laureate and activist
  • To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.”—Oprah Winfrey
  • To use my gifts of intelligence, charisma, and serial optimism to cultivate the self-worth and net-worth of women around the world.”—Amanda Steinberg, founder of DailyWorth
  • My mission is to be a positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing influence in the lives of those I touch.”―Laurie Buchanan, PhD
  • To laugh often and much: To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children: To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
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  • My mission is to help others live the lives they would if they only knew how.”—Andy Andrews, bestselling author
  • To serve as a leader, live a balanced life, and apply ethical principles to make a significant difference.”—Denise Morrison, former CEO of Campbell Soup Company
  • To do well by doing good while supporting and elevating those around me.”—Scott Shuda, Chairman of Infusystem, Inc.
  • Treat people how you want to be treated.”—Lou Gerencer, CEO of a top-performing Harley-Davidson dealership

How to use your personal mission statement

A personal mission statement serves as a guidepost, preventing you from wandering too far off your chosen track. This way, when you encounter a tough decision, all you need to do is see if a choice fits within your personal mission statement. If it doesn’t, then you can quickly decide against it.

Without a mission statement, you may get to the top of the ladder and then realize it was leaning against the wrong building.”—Dave Ramsey

Additionally, a personal mission statement can be an effective vehicle for defining your personal brand, giving employers, clients, and others a solid sense of who you are and what you stand for.

With this in mind, it’s important to post your personal mission statement where the right people will be more likely to see it. This means including it:

  • On your resume
  • On your career portfolio
  • On the “About me” section of your personal website

Next steps

Once you’ve finished writing your personal mission statement, you should share it with the people closest to you, such as your spouse, a friend, or a mentor. These individuals can provide you with invaluable feedback that can help you make your statement even better.

Additionally, you should set aside time each year to review your mission statement and make any necessary adjustments. After all, a personal mission statement should change with you as you evolve in your personal life and your career.

If you need help crafting your personal mission statement, give us a call. We are happy to provide free advice. We also offer personal mission statement creation as part of our ReputationGrower service.