Setting Up Your Internal GPS: Why You Should Write a Personal Mission Statement
Updated: Mar 28, 2021
Imagine this: you're wandering in a new city and you're looking for location "X". So you pull out your smartphone, search for "X", and fortunately, your built-in GPS will guide you to your destination. What if you didn’t have a GPS or a map? You might ask people around you, take a cab (and pay $$), or keep wandering around until you find your destination by luck. A GPS will always give you the most direct route of reaching “X”. Without a GPS, any other way of reaching “X” is less effective or more costly. And if you’re relying on luck, you may never reach “X”.
What if location "X" represents your goals? How do you get there? What internal GPS do you have that will guide your behaviour and help you to reach your goals?
That is the purpose of a personal mission statement (PMS), a powerful tool that you can use to achieve your goals. Your PMS represents your internal GPS that is meant to guide you to your destination. Sometimes, we may get distracted by another location, “Y”, instead of your intended destination, “X”. Your PMS is meant to serve as a reminder to stay on track in order to meet your goals, just like a GPS “re-routes” and sets you back on the right track.
Today, we will teach you: (1) how to write your PMS and (2) how to use it.
Writing Your PMS
A PMS is a 1-2 sentence (maximum) personal motto that defines you as a person and your purpose. There is no right or wrong way to write a PMS, but we present to you some guidelines for writing an effective one.
A good PMS should include elements of the following:
Your competencies, skills, core strengths (what you like to do and what you’re good at)
Your personality traits and values (how you operate and what you want to create)
Your goals, dreams and passions (why you want to excel)
To write your own PMS, follow these 5 steps, then have a look at the templates and examples we have provided below.
Step 1. Identify the value you want to create.
How do you want to contribute to the world? What’s important to you? Pick a dream big enough to power your inner fusion reactor for life.
Check the list of values at the bottom of this step and develop your own shortlist of values that you believe identify who you are and what your priorities are. Narrow your list to five values, then identify the one that is most important to you.
2. Choose who you want to create it for.
Who will you help? Yourself? Everyone? Children? Women? People who’ve lost hope? Pick recipients of your talents to sharpen your focus.
3. Point out the core skills you’ll use to create it.
What’s your superpower? Mine is explaining complex things clearly. Yours might be teaching, compassion, creating, or design.
4. Identify your goals
Spend some time thinking about your priorities in life and any other goals you have for yourself. This could include the short-term (a few months) and the long-term (5, 10, 20 years from now). Then, use the S.M.A.R.T goal framework to write your goals down. Check out our other blog about writing SMART goals for students for tips.
5. Cut the specifics. Save details for your goals list.
Want to run a restaurant? Go to the moon? Make a million dollars? Save specifics like that for your personal goals.
OK! Based on these five steps, you should have a better understanding of yourself and can begin writing your personal mission statement!
Have a look at these templates for inspiration:
“To use [your core strengths and skills] to [create a certain value] for [someone, a group, or something you care about] with [details].”
"To [what you want to achieve, do or become] so that [reasons why it is important]. I will do this by [specific behaviors or actions you can use to get there]."
"I value [choose 1-3 values important to you] because [reasons why these values are important to you]. Accordingly, I will [what you can do to live by these values]."
"To live each day with [choose one to three values or principles] so that [what living by these values will give you]. I will do this by [specific behaviors you will use to live by these values]."
"To appreciate and enjoy [things you want to appreciate and enjoy more] by [what you can do to appreciate/enjoy these things]."
"To treasure above all else [most important things to you] by [what you can do to live your priorities]."
Examples of PMSs from well-known figures and corporations:
"To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be." — Oprah Winfrey
"To have fun in [my] journey through life and learn from [my] mistakes." — Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group
"To use my gifts of intelligence, charisma, and serial optimism to cultivate the self-worth and net-worth of women around the world." — Amanda Steinberg, founder of DailyWorth
"To inspire hope, and contribute to health and well-being by providing the best care to every patient through integrated clinical practice, education and research." — Mayo Clinic
"Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope." — Habitat for Humanity
Using your PMS
Once you write your PMS, start using it! They key is to make sure you see it often. So frame it and put a copy in your office, have it on your phone, or have a sticky note on your laptop desktop, as I do. You want to surround yourself with your own positive attitude.
Not only should you live according to your PMS, but it’s also important that others know about it as well. You want people to know you’re going to live up to what you wrote, so spread the news! Accountability from those closest to you will help you stick by your PMS.
Your PMS is your internal GPS that will help you to direct your behaviour and take specific actions for achieving your personal goals. It represents a fundamental aspect of your purpose and provides clarity on how to direct your life. Investing a little time writing your PMS paves the way for greater focus, motivation, and ultimately, success.
How to write a personal mission statement:
Review personal mission statement examples for inspiration.
Identify the value you’ll create and who (yourself/others) you’ll create it for.
Center your mission around your core strengths.
Keep your statement short and focused.
Don’t expect to get it perfect from the start. Write whatever comes to your mind in 10 minutes and move on. You can (and should) re-visit your PMS later to draft a better one.
Now, it's your turn!
If you’d like further instruction on how to write your personal mission statement, get in touch with us, or check out our Elevate Program. We provide additional instruction and resources, including live one-to-one guidance with an academic expert.
Below is a list of values that you can use for inspiration: