To achieve your goal, make a mission statement for your life


Allison rimm is an award-winning strategic planning and management consultant, coach and educator. She is the former senior vice president of strategic planning and information management at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is the author of The Joy of Strategy: A Business Plan for Life (Bibliomotion; September 2013), from which this article has been adapted.

The joy of a life well lived – our job well done, our beloved loved ones, our potential realized. Isn’t that what we’re all looking for? Achieving this most fundamental and often elusive goal is no accident. It requires a strategy. To create a meaningful plan, you need a structured approach that walks you step by step through the process of defining what is most important to you and what you need to do to get it. The most successful businesses in the world do it naturally, and there is no business more essential than the business of your life.

I’ll be your guide through my eight-step strategic planning program. In each section, you will perform exercises to accomplish all the necessary steps. You will find tools you can put together to meet your specific needs and assemble your own custom toolbox. You will do an organized strategic soul-searching starting with Step One – Mission: Find Your Goal.

Mission: Find your goal

Every great strategic plan begins with a statement of an entity’s purpose that expresses why it exists, what its members value and what these people intend to accomplish. Your mission is nothing less than your goal here on earth, and you will begin your personal plan by explaining it. I know it sounds high, like we’re trying to find the meaning of life. But the answer to the question “What am I here to do?” Is not as far away as you might think. What do you like to do? What are you good at There you will find your mission – it is as accessible and deep as that.

I like author Matthew Kelly’s definition of what we’re looking for: “Mission is where your talents and passions collide with the needs of individuals and the world.” (see note below)

Proud accomplishment

Start by thinking of an accomplishment that you are proud of, something that has been successful because of the unique blend of talents you provided. It could be anything. Maybe you’ve pulled off a marketing stunt, made a stellar presentation, or defused a volatile family situation. Maybe you realized that some of the kids in your child’s school didn’t have coats, and you organized a clothing drive. Or, it could be that you had a killer salsa dance party that people are still talking about years later. Take your notebook and start writing. What did you do that made you smile just to remember the experience? It should be heartwarming to know that there are no wrong answers here.

Whatever the specifics of the accomplishment you have chosen, you are looking for a feeling of success and ease, the feeling that you were the right person for the task because it appealed to your passions and your talents to make you naturally drawn to achievement. These are the characteristics of your call.

Talent inventory

Often times, what you’re good at correlates strongly with what you enjoy doing. One of the reasons I’m so passionate about creating a personal strategic plan is because I want to make sure my life is filled with the things I love the most. To do this, you need to know what these things are. Sad as it may sound, many of us just haven’t given much thought to what lights us inside. Here in your virtual Walden Woods you have the perfect opportunity to pay close attention to what you love most.

If you have a hard time explaining what you do really well, it can be helpful to think about how others see you. Who knows you best? What do they think are your greatest strengths?

A wonderful benefit of creating a mission based on your talents and passions is that you are likely to create one that harnesses your strengths and comes naturally to you. When it does, success comes with relative ease.

Name your passions

What excites you the most? You can associate freely and write down whatever comes to mind in your notebook. If you’re stuck, here are some provocative questions to get you started.

  • What are the leading experiences that I have had in my life?
  • What is my favorite kind of vacation?
  • What to do when I procrastinate?

Fundamental values

A building block of your mission encompasses your core values. These are the principles that are dear to you and that will guide your path towards the accomplishment of your mission. What is most important to you? You need to think about it because what you enjoy will light your way, guide your driving, and determine what you leave behind. Guiding principles are an excellent filter when setting priorities.

Write your mission statement

You can use the following examples as templates for writing your mission statement, but avoid the temptation to make a few changes to someone else’s statement and stop it:

  • “Strive to achieve consistent growth and education in my professional career, in conjunction with a harmonious family life.”
  • “Operate from a balanced mental, physical and spiritual center while sharing my creative talents in my professional and personal life. “
  • “Achieve personal and professional success by using my knowledge and skills whenever and wherever possible. I will also strive to help others and give back to the community in any way I know how. “

Final thoughts

Take one last look at your mission statement (of course, you can go back and revise it whenever you want) and put some final flourishes on it if you’re that emotional. Record your mission statement. You may even wish to make an attractive impression of your mission and hang it where you can see it everyday to remind yourself of what matters most to you. You can also consider writing another mission statement for any aspect of your life that seems to require its own. Essentially, use your mission statements to remind yourself of what brings you joy and what matters most.

Footnote: Matthew Kelly, Perfectly Yourself – 9 Lessons for Enduring Happiness (New York: Ballantine, 2006), 180.

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