How To

Kuder recently announced its new mission statement, which got us thinking about a trend we’ve noticed lately. It’s not just companies and institutions of higher learning or nonprofits that are sharing their mission statements – individuals of all ages, and job-seekers in particular, are sharing their mission statements in social media and on their resumes. In the first of a series on personal mission statements, Nien Sui, a member of Kuder’s technology team, shares some tips on how to go about writing one. 


What is a personal mission statement?

To many, the biggest question in life is: “What’s my purpose in life?” This question may invoke spiritual and philosophical aspects in your lifelong purpose, or could be something relevant to your current stage in life. For example, when students are applying for college, the often mandatory “personal statement” prompts them to think about their personal mission in life.

Similarly, one may ponder their mission upon graduation, during a career transition, and other life-changing events such as marriage, children, and retirement. A personal mission statement is just one way of expressing your purpose in your current stage in life.

As a self-improvement junkie, I've come across exercises that asked me to write my personal mission statement, like in Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. However, I recently faced a few life-changing experiences, from having a child to caring for ailing parents, which prompted me to rethink my values and write an updated personal mission statement.

There are many resources out there for how to write a personal mission statement. This New York Times article offers interesting insights, for example.


Where do you begin?

I followed three simple steps: first, I reviewed the results of my Kuder Career Interests Assessment®. Next, I thought through my short-term priorities and goals. Finally, I took a long shower to think about all of the above, and voila!

The first draft of your mission statement can be: 1) high-level and broad; or 2) specific, where you try to make it applicable to multiple years and different aspects of your life. Here are some examples:

  • For a high-level, broad mission statement, you may start with something simple and broad, such as “to be happy,” then narrow it down with actionable steps: How, why, and working on what or with whom?
  • For a very specific mission statement, let’s say you're at a stage of life where you’re applying for college and thinking about your major and career option – you can generalize your mission statement to be related to utilizing your talents and serving through your field of study.

How do you go about drafting a personal mission statement?

My specific short-term goals include serving my parents and having time for my wife and child.

  • My personal mission statement, draft 1: To pay back and serve the generation who helped me and to pay forward and inspire the next generation. This modified mission statement is generic enough to cover all those for whom I'm responsible or feel the need to reciprocate love and support: family, teachers, and friends. Next, I need to include the “How” in my mission statement.
  • My personal mission statement, draft 2: To pay back and serve the generation who helped me through my presence and actions; and to pay forward and inspire the next generation by being a role model and through coaching.

How do you fine-tune your personal mission statement?

My next fine-tuning of my mission statement may include scaling up the impact of my mission. Scaling up is an optional step. If you like to keep your mission's impact within yourself, say, if your mission is to be a healthy person, you don't really need to scale up your mission. However, if your mission is to live and share a healthy lifestyle, then you may think about how to maximize your sharing and scaling your impact.

So, if you decide to scale up your mission statement's impact, you may talk about it, write about it, or create art around it. Since I'm experienced in growing fan pages on Facebook to reach half a million Likes, my way of scaling up the impact will be by using readily available social media and technologies.

In my example, I'll expand on my teaching through public speaking, writing, and then posting those contents on social media sites.

These methods of scaling through social media and online presence have become popular. I love the story of  the private tutor who started teaching his relatives some math lessons, and later scaled his impact to teach students from around the world. Check it out at www.khanacademy.org.


Should you make your personal mission statement public or keep it private?

You can simply post your mission statement online and attract like-minded people as accountability partners and supporters. Many people are including a personal mission statement on their LinkedIn profiles.

On the other hand, if you're overwhelmed by the idea of putting your personal mission statement out there on social media, you can also start small. Part of my mission statement is about paying back to those who helped me, for example my teachers. If I don't want to scale up that part of my mission, I can start small by sending a thank you note. You can start small but a clear mission.

In the end, your mission statement is nothing more than focusing your mind to act purposefully; and that action can start with small steps.