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Why You Need a Personal Mission Statement if You’re Serious About Achieving Your Goals

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“Embrace the Human Spirit and Let it Fly” at first glance seems like a New Age quote from a poster hanging in a yoga studio somewhere. While it would certainly make for a trendy t-shirt slogan, it is the company mission statement from Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Atlantic.

One of the first things any entrepreneur with a big idea and lofty goals creates is their company’s mission statement. In many business curriculums, coming up with a mission statement is seen as an integral part of honing what the general purpose of a particular business is as well as figuring out the target customer. You would be hard pressed to find a single Fortune 500 company without a company mission statement, yet as individuals we are often plodding through life without a similar vision to guide our actions.

Developing a personal mission statement is an integral part of building the foundation for a successful life. In an increasingly connected world moving at breakneck speed, it can be disorienting to try and discern which opportunities will likely yield the highest payout towards your professional and personal success.

As deep work becomes more valued as a top skill, few of us can continue to multitask and expect to succeed. With a mission statement firmly in place, you view the world through a particular lens, using it as a barometer of what you should be focusing on and when it might be best to shift gears towards more fruitful projects or tasks.

If you have never crafted a mission statement, it can be daunting to try and come up with one, especially if you’re not used to introspection. Fortunately, there are some easy steps you can take which will reduce the stress of creating a mission statement and set you on a path towards achieving your goals.

1. Take notice of your values

A value-driven personal mission statement is going to generate the most benefit because it will be in harmony with your core beliefs and serve the mission aspect. Ask yourself how you would like to be remembered or what you hope friend’s family and colleagues would say about you if asked by a stranger.

Write down anything in a notebook or on a file which you feel defines who you are and is important. Take your time in this information gathering process as there isn’t a special prize for creating a mission statement in five minutes. A mission statement should strongly reflect your inner values and core beliefs, even if that takes days or weeks to come up with.

“To succeed in your mission, you must have single-minded devotion to your goal.” – A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

2. Solicit feedback from family and trusted friends

If you feel comfortable sharing with people who are close to you that you’re working on developing a personal mission statement, then they can be an invaluable resource. If you have a tendency to be self-critical, friends and family can provide a much needed source of inspiration as they know you best.

Friends and family can also remind you of situations where you felt particularly accomplished and proud because what is important to them is also likely to be important to you in crafting your mission statement.

3. Bring it all together in actual written form

While the mission statement is a personal motto, actually creating a final product and displaying it in a visible place is an integral part of the process. Crafting a personal mission statement and then shoving your creation in a file drawer or leaving it stranded in a file somewhere on your computer is not going to help you move closer to your goals.

Take a cue from the world’s most successful companies who proudly display their mission statements as soon as you enter their building or feature them prominently on their websites and other materials. My own mission statement hangs prominently in my desk at work and is the very first page of my personal journal.

“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Finally, keep in mind that a personal mission statement doesn’t have to be clever or a particular length to be effective. It is your own compass, written in your unique voice to help steer you toward the activities which are going to create the most meaning in your life and align you closer with your goals.

Whether short and sweet or a full page of affirmations, a personal mission statement puts you one step ahead along the greats such as Richard Branson’s and Mark Zuckerberg.

Do you have a mission statement for your life? Share it with us in the comments below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

Monica Lannom is a PHD candidate in Biology.  When she is not doing research or chasing after her dogs she writes about careers, productivity and balanced living on her website www.fullerlifemakeover.com. Follow her on Twitter @life_fuller.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Monica

    Oct 25, 2017 at 2:50 am

    Thanks so much Thom. Glad you liked it!

  2. Thom

    Oct 24, 2017 at 6:27 am

    Essential reading. Great work.

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Life

What Les Misérables Taught Me About Our Values

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Who am I? The ultimate question many of us try to answer. When I think of values, I think of Victor Hugo’s 1862 book, “Les’ Miserables”. In Hugo’s book, Jean Valjean, is used as a protagonist to highlight the power in redemptive love and compassion. Valjean goes into prison for stealing a loaf of bread, entering as a simple and decent man. His time in jail seems to have an unrepairable effect, where he emerges from the chain gang as a tough, bitter criminal who hates society for what it has done to him. (more…)

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7 Ways You Can Increase Your Concentration Right Away

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In today’s world, an overabundance of information and a large number of distractions is making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on performing the necessary tasks. In this article, I propose 7 simple methods that will train your ability to concentrate, while not taking you from your usual activities. (more…)

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5 Simple Hacks to Help You Develop the Habit That Will Transform Your Life

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It’s excruciating when we know what’s killing us but we can’t do anything about it because as you know, it is not easy to pull the brake on a high way. According to Napoleon Hill, “remember this always – the best (and one might say the only) way in which old habits may be removed is to form new habits to counteract and replace the undesirable ones”. (more…)

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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