The beginning of a new year is a good time to reevaluate our priorities. Setting New Year’s resolutions is one way to define our goals, but it can be helpful to do some deeper thinking about what’s important to us and what we want our lives to look like.
When I was in my mid-twenties, trying to find myself and feeling some existential angst, I decided to write a personal mission statement. I thought about what I really valued and about the qualities exhibited by the people with whom I most enjoyed spending time. I considered how I wanted to be perceived and what I could bring to the people with whom I interacted. I crafted a brief manifesto of sorts, about ten sentences long, which is longer than a traditional organizational mission statement. What I wrote could probably be better described as a combination mission, vision, and values statement. I won’t include the whole thing here, but it began by stating that “I value compassion, fairness, and forgiveness,” and it ended with the following sentence: “I want to better the lives of the people around me by comforting them in times of need, lifting their spirits, and inspiring them to do the things they are meant to do.”
In the following months and years, I revisited the statement from time to time. I made some tweaks to it, but I found that my overarching values and goals largely remained constant. Rereading the statement periodically has served as a good reminder of my core principles and has shaped my everyday behavior. It has also helped me to make decisions that align with my values. Writing a personal mission statement is an exercise that could benefit anyone, but I particularly recommend it to those who feel like they are being pulled along by the current of life and wish to live less reactively and more deliberately.
If you’re not sure where to begin, ask yourself how you want to be remembered when you die. What would you like people to say about you at your funeral? You can also think about people you’d like to emulate and what characteristics they exhibit. Reflect on moments when you’ve felt content and fulfilled. What were you doing that made you feel that way?
A search for “personal mission statement” yields a number of links where you can read the statements of various CEOs and other famous people. You can even find an online Mission Statement Builder (I haven’t tested it, but it sounds pretty cool). Most of the statements I read online were much shorter than mine — often only a sentence or two. Some were explicitly career-focused, while others were more broadly applicable. Here’s one I came across that resonated with me (unfortunately, it was unattributed):
“I value authenticity and joyfulness because seeing these traits in another makes me feel comfortable around them and know that I can trust them. I want to be one who others trust and feel comfortable with, so I will show my authentic, joyful self more often. To live each day with joyfulness and authenticity will allow me to be myself at the same time I attract others who long to be their true selves.”
Have you written a personal mission statement? If you feel comfortable doing so, please post it in the comments.
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