I like questions. I don’t mind tough questions especially if I am the one doing the asking. In the midst of preparing to deliver a program on creating impact, the question of personal mission kept popping up.
My promise was to deliver a simple process that people could grasp, participate and apply. Simple is always good—right? It is good but the truth is, simple does not mean easy.
And while wrestling with the truth that simple is not easy, I realized I am at my best when I am clear about my mission.
I don’t know anyone who casts aside the importance of clarity to achievement and success. Yet, when you do a little research you can’t help but conclude few of us enjoy a great degree of clarity.
The confusion starts with a startling fact from the National Science Foundation that suggests we process a minimum of 50,000 thousand thoughts a day. Our mind is never absent a thought! But here is where it gets interesting. All those thoughts we are having are not new ones. Far from it!
In fact, 95% to 98% of our thoughts are repeated every day. It is like we are living in a time loop, repeating the day over and over like the character Phil Connors (Bill Murray) in the movie Groundhog’s Day. And the worst part about the repetitive nature of our thoughts is that 80% of them are negative.
We are waged in a daily war that is taking place in the invisible, intangible realm of our minds.
So, based on these facts, if someone suggests that we live in a cynical, critical negative world, they’d be right. And to make matters worse, we have little or no control over most of the stuff that occupies our thinking.
Dig a little deeper and you will find that the routine nature of our thinking is not altogether bad. In fact, in the absence of routine and habitually thinking our brains would suffer overload if we had to actively think about everything that goes on in and around us each day.
Charles Duhigg in his best-selling book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business says that 40% of our actions we think are active decisions are actually habits. These habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in the decision-making.
Duhigg goes on to point out that these thought patterns get encoded into the structures of our brains. Structures that can lead us astray from what is truly important. This brings me back to the importance of formulating a personal mission statement.
Clarity drives out randomness, sharpens our thinking and directs our focus. Clarity from a personal mission statement interrupts the routine and repetitive nature of our thinking.
Why Craft a Personal Mission Statement?
I return every year to updating and refining my personal mission statement for three reasons.
- To win the battle for my thoughts. After digesting the research, I started taking an inventory of my thoughts throughout the day. Try it for yourself and I think you will find, as I did, your thoughts need to be interrupted if you don’t want to simply drift through the day.
- To increase my attention and concentrate my focus on what is truly important. There are only a few roles I really want to excel at. A personal mission statement is the most effective way to define and delineate that focus.
- I don’t want to leave any doubt in the minds of the people I love and lead that they are important and I am committed to their success and well-being.
A Simple Personal Mission Statement
Simple is good! My goal has always been to have a statement that easily and clearly communicates my focus and ambition. I use a personal mission statement as a tool to keep me from drifting into routine thought and to raise my sense of urgency.
My personal mission statement contains five “I am” statements for each of the five most important life roles.
An “I am” statement simply states the role, “I am ______________, followed by what it is and why it is important to me.
Example of an “I am” Statement
Beyond my roles as a Christian, Husband and Father one of my key roles is that of a coach, speaker and writer. My “I am” statement for this role is, “I am a coach, leader, writer, and speaker. I help ambitious people focus (their time, talent and resources) on maximizing their impact with the people they love, teams they lead and causes that stir their heart.”
Personal Mission Statements: Making the Complex Simple
The clarity of a personal mission statement makes responding to seemingly complex questions easier. When a request or opportunity presents itself the answer is simply, “Yes,” or “No,” based on where it fits in relation to my mission.
The mission is engaged and focused on accomplishment. I’d be lying if I said this was easy—it’s not. But it is simple and that makes it powerful. A regular review of my personal mission statement effectively challenges me to interrupt the drift of daily thought and focuses my attention on what truly matters most.