05. Mission Possible–Make it your Mission to Realize Your Vision
By completing this module, you’ll have a Mission Statement to guide your decisions. Think of it as a reason for being. We’ll also walk you through creating a Vision Statement—a specific description of your ideal world and your place and activities in it. Your Mission is a big picture description of who you are and what you do, your Vision is a more specific, nitty-gritty depiction of how you exist in your ideal world. Outlining both of these will empower you to make decisions that will bring you closer to achieving your goals.
Have you ever written a Mission Statement? Most people haven’t unless they’re the manager of a company. Mission Statements are short descriptions of the purpose that leaders use to bring together people in an organization so that everyone agrees on what they are commonly working toward.
But Mission Statements shouldn’t just be limited to companies. You, too, need a Mission Statement to pull together your characteristics, skills, values, and strengths and define the direction in which you are headed in life. Laurie Beth Jones wrote one of our favorite books on this subject; it’s called The Path (Hyperion). She identifies a Mission Statement as a written “reason for being” and believes that writing one is a key to finding your path in life.
There are several definitions for mission in every dictionary. Here are two that apply to your personal branding work:
- a specific task that a person is sent to perform.
- an allotted or self-imposed duty or task; a calling; one’s mission in life.
Writing a mission statement is a self-reflective process that needs to come from the core of who you are. There are no right or wrong ways to do it; writing your Mission Statement is just a way to put your purpose or calling into words.
Ideally, a Mission Statement should encompass most aspects of your life, not just your work. In this way, your Mission Statement becomes a foundation piece of your personal brand.
Here are some samples:
- To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world (Nike)
- To make cool stuff (computer engineer)
- I bring order from chaos (quality control manager)
- To live a life of service to others (human resources manager)
- I educate and empower others to use their gifts in the world. (career counselor)
Once you’ve written a mission statement that describes your goal in life, it can become your filter in deciding whether opportunities are the right ones for you; you’ll be able to ask, “Does this support my mission?” After you have your mission, decisions become much clearer to make.
Writing your Mission Statement
To create a Mission Statement that is authentic to you, you must have a strong sense of self. Think about your needs, values, and interests. Maybe reference back to what you learned in the previous module (pinpointing your identifying characteristics). Solidify your values and interests and write those words on notes you can place on your mirror or your desk, wherever you’re likely to see them. Sometimes keywords to your Mission Statement just come to you while driving or in the shower, so make sure to write your ideas down when you get a flash of insight.
Here are some steps you can take to help you craft your Mission Statement:
- Think of nouns that describe you. Examples are teacher, learner, strategist, farmer—any word that applies to you.
- Add verbs that describe what you would like to do in the world. For example, maybe you like to educate, inspire, sell, or run.
- Add your picture of what a perfect world would look like.
Examples could be: “I picture a world in which all people are able to use their talents in meaningful work” or “I hope for a world in which no one is hungry” or “A place where everyone has enough money.”
- Combine these three elements to create your mission statement.
Go on a Vision Quest: Take Your Mission Out into the World
Now that you’ve got the big picture—your mission—it’s time to work on the nitty gritty, or your vision. Your vision is what your mission will look like after you have done it in the world. Having a vision means picturing what your mission looks like on a practical level.
A successful vision contains these elements:
- Written in the present tense as if you’ve already accomplished it.
- Creates a vivid picture by using strong, specific descriptors to make it feel possible to achieve.
- Likely bigger than what you can individually accomplish but includes the role you will take to contribute to the vision. Example of a large vision: to live in a world where everyone has enough food. Chances are, you can’t accomplish that goal on your own, but you can volunteer at the local food bank and give money to a world hunger organization.
- Clear, powerful, and engaging so that you want to accomplish it someday. A well-written vision statement helps you consciously create and move from where you currently are to what could be.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to outline your vision:
- When you imagine the best version of yourself, what kind of work are you doing? Think of the ways you want to take your talents into the world, not job titles.
- What is something you would want to do if you thought you could pull it off?
- If you could do exactly what you wanted to, what would that be?
Here are examples of Mission Statements and how they would expand into a vision:
Mission: “To bring order from chaos”
Vision: “I work for a biotech company, managing a department overseeing a cancer drug. We provide the highest level of quality control for the products that we produce. I know that I am contributing to a vital medicine that heals cancer patients and gives people more time on earth with their friends and family. I spend my weekends organizing food at the local food bank. I use my gifts of organizing to serve others.”
Mission: “I educate and empower others to use their gifts in the world.”
Vision: “To have a practice where I work on engaging projects with my organizational and private clients to bring out the human side of their careers. Through my work, my clients are able to use their talents in meaningful work.”
Write down your Mission Statement and then craft a Vision Statement below it. You can start in the space here, but you’ll probably want to create a document where you can try out a few until you’ve got the perfect ones. And as your life changes, your vision may change; keep the document on file so you can refine it.