I have to admit, the term "mission statement" sounds reasonably dull. Like isn't that what companies do, at the front of those glossy brochures which nobody reads? But bear with me . . . this gets pretty cool.
On the last afternoon of the course, we were let loose for two hours with a blank sheet of paper to write our own personal mission statements. For the first half hour (or maybe hour) I employed my usual bag of distraction tricks. I really did need to chew on that pen for a while. And what was that I needed to do when I got home that evening? However after giving myself a stern talking to, I put pen to paper, forgot about the world around me, and words started to flow.
And the result was absolutely amazing. I came home on a cloud that day because for the first time I had described me as the person I honestly wanted to be. I still carry that page around today. My life has moved on but the things I talked about are still relevant today. Things like being jumping out of bed each day full of ideas and enthusiasm, making work an extension of who I am (not the other way around), being best mates with my wife and mentor to my girls.
A mission statement is really all about painting a picture of an ideal "future you". Describing things like where you will be, what you will be doing and how you will be feeling. Having a mission statement is something everyone should do before seeking changes to our lives. Because to plan your travel through life, it helps hugely to have your destination in mind.
So now I have tantalisingly tempted you with how wonderful and liberating a mission statement is, allow me to provide you with some simple tips to develop one of your own.
The object of this exercise is to identify those values that are absolutely fundamental in your life. I chose six. I arrived at that number by brainstorming a "long list" of values and separating those out between those that were "sort of" important to me, strongly important and those that I simply could not imagine living without.
Your core values are enduring. They may excite and uplift you. They will probably feel natural and you may well have felt them as a child (and still do). Beware transitory things that seem like values but often aren't. If there is urgency attached or if you need it to get somewhere else, it may not be one of your core values.
- If money or location were irrelevant, what would your ultimate dream job be?
- You have just won a competition for an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world. One month. You get to choose. Where would you go?
- If you could join the Board and direct efforts of one charitable organisation, which one would you choose?
- Who do you most admire?
- What did you do in the last year that you were incredibly proud of?
- What would you do if you knew nobody would judge you?
- You have won $10 million. What is the first thing you would do?
- What did you want to be when you were growing up?
- You get the chance to train as a teacher. What would you teach?
- You have a month at a cottage in the mountains. No telephone, no internet, no neighbours, no shops. What would you do?
- Your friends are asked to say what they like about you in a confidential survey - what do you think they would say
- What made you smile today?
Think about (and write down) the roles you have in life. Try to start with those that mean most to you. And, most importantly, don't forget to include the role you have to look after yourself!
My mission statement is based around my roles in life, which I then weave in the values that are important to me and some answers to those blood pumping questions.
So as an example, and taken word-for-word from that mission statement I wrote all those years ago: As a father I will give my daughters understanding and support, in order that they may grow up to become emotionally fulfilled young women. I will teach them that anything is possible in life. We will plan and do cool and original trips together every year. I will be their friend. Forever.
I could also have based my mission statement around my values. So for example: I will make it a priority always be honest in life. With those I love, with those I live with, with those I work with, with my boss and above all with my self . . .
Or I could have based it around answers to my blood pumping questions. So for example: Within the next five years I will start a business to bring some "good" into this world. I will stay true to my dreams of sustainability and the belief that everyone deserves to be happy in life. And that business will make me a better person, father and husband.
Making my mission statement was absolutely one of the best things I ever done in my life. I know it off by heart now, and it has helped me make some major decisions (as well as helping me respond to the more common-place stimuli in life). But above all, it has truly helped me live my life out of hope and faith . . . rather than out of fear.