12 Principles of Personal Leadership: Principle 1, Part 1 - Define Yourself with a Personal Mission Statement

What is a mission statement? This is a term borrowed from the business world. In this complex environment, any organization that wishes to survive must have a clear statement describing the purpose of the organization, types of activities provided to constituents and customers, and the unique value or services offered as a byproduct of the organization’s work.

Many people have goals but skip the important step of creating a personal mission statement for personal leadership development. Just as businesses create mission statements to stay focused and true to their beliefs, we should create our own mission statement and an unquenchable desire to remain grounded in it. This should be done prior to articulating your goals. To avoid doing so sets you up for disappointment because your goals should be aligned with your mission statement.

As Stephen Covey once said, “goals are invented to make your personal mission statement happen. “ Covey uses the analogy of a ladder leaning against a wall. The wall represents our personal mission. The ladder is the individual goals we have set to reach our mission. If the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall, it doesn’t matter how high you climb…you will never reach your destination.

To make sure your ladder is leaning against the right wall, you should create and write down your personal mission statement. Here are some questions you will want to ask yourself before putting pen to paper:

What do you value (moral compass)?

This is very helpful to consider, especially when you are going through difficult times that will test your ethical standards.

What do you stand for (belief system)?

This would include your deeply held principles, including your spirituality.

What is your primary mission in life?

Articulate and meditate on your own essential mission.

What responsibilities do you have?

Many fail because they feel they are “above” the normal expectations required of others, or they forget their personal responsibilities.

 Putting It All Together

 Now that you have a basic understanding of the importance of a personal mission statement, it is time to get started on yours. Remember, this is your unique creation—a written reminder of who you say you are and what you are about. It should reflect not only who you are now but who you hope to be.

 Your mission statement can be as long or short as you want it to be, although I recommend four to five paragraphs.  Be patient and work on your mission statement until it inspires you! Walk away and come back if you get stuck. Here are four basic parts to include in your document:

Your values and beliefs. What values guide you and where do they come from (spiritual, “golden rule,” or other sources)? This should be the opening paragraph of your personal mission statement. Dig deep and strongly state your ethical principles and moral code. This will likely be the most revealing part of your statement.

Your goals for your family. Include close relationships with parents, children, your spouse and/or extended family. This will help you attain a happy, balanced family life. To make it more fun and attainable, get input from your family members!

Your career goals. Determine why you work. Is it for personal fulfillment, enjoyment, or income to pursue other interests? Would you like to change your career path? If so, how do you plan to do this? Are there new skills you would like to acquire? What contributions would you like to be remembered for when you leave the workplace?

Your life goals. This includes the most enjoyable parts of life. Unfortunately, most people put these goals of until retirement or dismiss them altogether. How will you maintain a healthy mind and body? Would you like to further your education to accomplish a lifelong goal? Do you want to “give back” to others due to the blessings that have been granted to you? Without monetary constraints, what would you spend the rest of your life doing?

Your personal mission statement is an extension of you. Take pride and ownership of what you have written down and use it as a constant reminder of what you wish to get out of life and what you want to give to others.

 Upon completion of your mission statement, you will be ready to focus on developing appropriate personal goals.  In part two of our first principle, Developing the Right Visionary Goals, we will explore the makeup of visionary goals that are targeted and attainable.

 Don’t feel like reading? Learn more about this principle here: