"Who am I and what do I want to do with my life?"
This is a question so many of us ask ourselves. Sometimes, we ask this when we're trying to find our life's purpose. Sometimes we're trying to settle on a career path. Sometimes, we're just stuck in a rut.
When you attend a professional networking event, you are tasked with introducing yourself to new contacts in a clear, concise manner. This allows them to get to know who you are and what you're professionally about. We are told how important it is to know who we are, what we offer and how to express that, ideally in 30 seconds or less. (After all, people have a very short attention span.)
This little jingle is better known as your elevator pitch.
Learn it, memorize it and practice it. You will never know who you could meet and need to impress on a whim. This idea has become that much more necessary with personal branding popping up on every social and professional network.
When considering all of that, remember that you hold a lot of power — you really can define yourself as anything that you want to be, provided that you're willing to work at creating yourself as such.
What is a personal mission statement?
It makes perfect sense to have an elevator pitch to describe your professional goals, but do you have a personal mission statement? If not, you should.
A personal mission statement defines your work, skills, and career goals. Like a company's mission statement, it defines what your main aspirations are and the major ways you will go about accomplishing them.
Learning about ourselves and what we want in life is a path of self-discovery. It can open us up to ideas and opportunities that we had never considered until we asked ourselves what we truly want. Professional fulfillment is but an aspect of our lives and doesn't fully define who we are as individuals.
So what makes a great personal mission statement? Every effective mission statement...
- Provides clarity
- Gives you a sense of purpose
- Helps to outline your path
- Holds you accountable
When should you use your personal mission statement?
Your personal mission statement is most useful to you: It helps you define your own goals, outline the steps for reaching them, and hold yourself accountable.
It's also important for personal branding. While your elevator pitch helps you market your services and talents to others, a personal mission statement provides a more holistic overview of your path and trajectory, as well as your ultimate goals. If you have a website, you might put your mission statement on a page there. You can also discuss your mission statement with colleagues, friends, and acquaintaces—and, of course, at networking events.
Questions to ask yourself when crafting your personal mission statement
So you've decided that you need a personal mission statement? Great! But how can you craft one?
According to William Arruda, author and personal mission statement expert, there is a simple template to use when creating your own: the value you create + who you’re creating it for + the expected outcome.
Still struggling? Ask yourself the below six questions:
1. Who deserves your time?
Who do you want to help? Remember, your time is valuable. Family, friends, loved ones... identify who enriches your life and brings you joy. (If you need to, you can even create a family mission statement to identify the people you want to associate with more.) Similarly, identify those with whom you would be better off limiting interactions with or even removing from your circle completely. While it may seem harsh, surrounding yourself with negative influences hurts your goals, mission, and vision in the long run.
2. What is most important to you?
Think back on life events and experiences to try to identify what makes you the happiest. What examples and people best align with your inner beliefs and values? Which will help to improve your overall quality of life by choosing to make time for them? What are your talents? As you look at your life journey, try to find recurring themes from over the years. You may have already been focusing on what's most important to you, but just haven't noticed yet.
3. When will you make time for you (and your goals)?
You can't live a purpose-driven life if you're pushing yourself to the extreme. Even as you're working to achieve your career goals, remember that self-care is important! Keep yourself a priority and focus on what you want to accomplish — not what the world tells you to.
4. Where will you go?
Whether it's a specific city, company or somewhere else, your dreams will take you somewhere. Will it be based on the future you see in your personal vision? Will it be based on your family's needs? Will it be based on something else entirely? That all depends on you. You need to be the one to dictate where your career mission takes you.
Your personal mission statement should provide clarity on why your goals are important to you. Not just your career goals, but your personal goals as well. Why is it so important that you make these happen?
6. How are you going to make it happen?
Map out your time. Block off your calendar just like you would for other important business meetings. Resolve to place your success, your values and your action plan at the top of your to-do list.
Examples of personal mission statements
Many successful people have crafted personal mission statements for themselves, their brands, and their businesses. Here are just some examples:
“To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.”
Amanda Steinberg, founder of DailyWorth
"To use my gifts of intelligence, charisma, and serial optimism to cultivate the self-worth and net-worth of women around the world."
Amy Ziari, vice president of the Bateman Group
“To live life with integrity and empathy, and be a positive force in the lives of others.”
Katie Arnold, Talk Less, Say More
“To constantly be striving to be the best version of myself—in my job, with my health and fitness, with my relationships with family and friends, and with my emotional well-being.
The bottom line
These prompts will help to create your own personal mission statement, provide a guide to help you identify what is non-negotiable in terms of your happiness and devise a clear pathway to finding your purpose. It's not an immediate process, so don't panic if it takes weeks, months or even years to come up with a statement you're happy with. A personal mission statement is just that — personal, so take your time and do what's best for you.
Karen Schneider works for bareMinerals in Global Packaging + Creative Services and has worked in a variety of industries over the span of her career, including digital media, fashion & apparel, and wine & spirits. She is currently a contributor to The Muse and Career Contessa and has been featured on Business Insider and Harvard Business Review for her career advice. She's obsessed with learning, life, and career/self-improvement.