“When you discover your mission, you will feel its demand. It will fill you with enthusiasm and a burning desire to get to work on it.” W. Clement Stone – Bestselling author and founder of Combined Insurance Co.
At one time or another, we ask ourselves, “Why am I here?” Or, “What is my purpose in this world?” Many struggle daily to answer these questions. Others never really try to answer them, believing they are impossible to define. We’ve heard some people say, “They’re just rhetorical questions, right? Nobody really has a unique purpose in life, do they?”
Seriously, the fact is everyone has a purpose, and you know it! You may not know WHAT it is, but you know it to your soul that there is a reason why you are here. Sadly, too few people in our society are encouraged – or taught how – to find and define their personal mission so they can live it with confidence every day! You know people in your own life (friends, family and associates), and those you see in the media (Oprah, Bill Gates, Mother Theresa) who live with purpose in their lives. They are the ones who create extraordinary value in the world. They have a clear understanding of what they bring to this world, who they serve, and the value they provide. Many know their purpose and act on it daily, but certainly not most!
Rhetorical questions? No. These questions are, in fact, the most important, real and challenging questions you will face while defining your place in the world. To live a life of purpose, focus, and intent, each and every day IS your true challenge.
Take some time now to think about these very real questions:
- If you could do anything you want for work, would you do what you are doing now? If not, what type of work would you do? Would you work indoors or outside? Would you write? Lecture? Think? Fix things? Build things? Invent things? Remember when you were a kid and you were asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” How did you answer that question then? Does it seem silly to you now, or does it still resonate within you in some way? You still have a lot more growing to do, so what would you do now if you could do anything? ALLOW yourself to answer this question now, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
- If you could bring value to this world, what value would you bring? Would you help educate the young, the old? Would you help feed the world? Would you bring joy to people’s lives? Aid those who suffer? Help those in need?
- If you could serve any group of people such as children, the elderly, adults, women, men, those suffering medically, those who are seeking answers, etc., who would you most like to serve? Who would most value what you bring to the world?
These are the very questions that constitute the basis of a personal mission statement.
A personal mission statement defines three things for the world to see:
- What you do. This is the work you do that will take you where you want to go in your personal vision. It is the work that will give you satisfaction, meaning, and purpose in your life, one happy and content day at a time.
- Your unique value proposition. This is the unique value you provide to the world. This is the result that people or organizations (which are simply larger groups of people) get from you or your efforts. It could be joy, wealth, information, knowledge, skills, a better life, etc.
- Who you serve. These are your customers. These are the people or organizations that most value your unique value proposition. This could be anyone (as everyone needs food) or it could be very specific (such as – children with leukemia).
Creating a personal mission statement is designed to provide you with clarity of focus and purpose in your vocation and align you to your passions and strengths. It tells everyone you come in contact with how you can be of service and value to them – or not. And it allows you to know, very quickly, whether you can be of service and value to those you encounter.
A personal mission statement also helps you focus on providing value to the world so the world may then give back to you, in abundance. Many people go through life thinking things like, “If only they paid me more, I would do more (work harder, be more productive, etc.).” Or they might say, “If they give me that promotion, then I will show them what I can really do.” Or perhaps they say, “Why would anyone pay me to do what I love to do?” But the world and the universal laws of attraction in which the world exists does not work that way. You must FIRST provide the world with value and then it will give back to you in valuable abundance.
A personal mission statement is about giving up on outcome, which you cannot control, and focusing on freely giving of your talents and gifts to create real value, which you can control. You might be thinking, “I’m certainly not going to work for free,” and that is not what we are saying here. If you can clearly communicate the value of what you do to everyone you meet, the world, and the people and companies in it, will see that value and pay you more than adequately!
A personal mission statement also takes the focus off “making money” and focuses more appropriately on the value you provide. Money is a tool, it is not an objective. People may be highly motivated when they lack money, but according to most major studies in the area of motivation (notably Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, Frederick Herzberg’s “Two-Factor” Theory, and the work of Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman of the Gallup Organization), money rarely is a long-term motivator for continued achievement in any work environment. Money buys us the things we need or want and making money alone is rarely personally fulfilling. It is what you DO to earn the money or what we do with it that can be personally fulfilling.
It does not matter where you are in your life, nor does it matter how capable you are at the moment of delivering on your mission statement. That can occur in the future. The personal mission statement simply helps you create focus regarding the training, education, and career development necessary in order to “become” that someone who can deliver on the mission.
How do you find your authentic self and your true purpose? How do you discover your calling, your value, and who you will serve so you can create your personal mission statement? Likely, deep down inside you have a feel for your true purpose, right now. You may have had a desire to do something since you were young or have always enjoyed certain types of jobs over others. For most people, that little voice inside has been telling you for years, perhaps all your life, but life and self-doubt have somehow gotten in the way of exploring that dream.
Quite frankly, most of us have never been shown how to sort through all those thoughts and get down to the essence. We have never been given a way to categorize and prioritize and separate our whimsical desires and those things that are in true alignment with who we are – our authentic self. We have never understood how to separate our true strengths from our wishes or understand why we enjoy certain work or activities over others, and how knowing that is the foundation to our future success.
Understanding Your Authentic Self
No matter our chosen profession, and regardless of our upbringing, we all have a natural way of being and we know our “way of being” (in terms of personality, talents, capabilities, ways of communicating, and ways of being motivated), are all different from those around us. We know from experience when we are in alignment with our natural way of being – and when we are not. We perform better, feel better, we have more success, and we get outstanding results.
For the purposes of developing your personal mission statement, and thus the focus of your Unique Value Proposition, there are three aspects of who you are that you must understand, each unique to you:
- Your talents. These are your natural capabilities that can be honed with skills and practice to true mastery and made into your unique strengths.
- Your style of learning: This is the dominant way you process and communicate information.
- Your motivation style: This is the natural or intrinsic way in which you are motivated or compelled to action.
Together, these personal aspects provide you with a unique set of tools that can be packaged and sold to perspective “buyers.” Prospective buyers could be employers who need those skills, or you can apply them to your own business and then directly to your customers. Or you can share them with your family while you raise your children. Our unique combination of these three aspects of ourselves makes us all a very unique value. Thus, your personal mission statement focuses your efforts each and every day.
You can learn to do most anything, but personal fulfillment and excellence only comes when you are aligned with your authentic self, your inherent talents, and your unique learning style and motivations. Can you be happy without that? Of course! Happiness is a choice, after all. But we are talking about true personal fulfillment and the ability to consistently perform at an extraordinarily high professional level. That only comes when you are really doing what you were meant to do. And what you were meant to do is most likely found when you are in alignment with your authentic self.
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 A.H. Maslow, A Theory of Human Motivation, Psychological Review 50(4) (1943):370-96.
 Herzberg, F., Mausner, B. & Snyderman, B.B. 1959, The Motivation to Work. John Wiley. New York.
 Marcus Buckingham, First, Break All The Rules, 1999, Gallup Press