We’ve all heard of company mission statements, but have you ever considered writing a personal mission statement?

If you want to increase your ability to be present, perform at a high level, and build a strong sense of purpose, writing a personal mission statement is an essential first step in your journey.

Why write a personal mission statement?

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

–  Friedrich Nietzsche

A personal mission statement is your unique, individual why.

It’s your north star that guides the many decisions and challenges that life will put in front of you. When we feel like throwing in the towel, the fact that we’ve committed to a mission will stare back at us, reminding us to dust ourselves off and get back on the horse.

A personal mission statement can also serve as a guide for the kinds of goals that we set for ourselves, and how we go about achieving those goals. It is the blueprint for what we set out to achieve, and how we achieve it.

As Stephen Covey, author of the classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People put it:

A personal mission statement becomes the DNA for every other decision we make.”

Want to reap the benefits of a strong personal mission statement? Here is my 4-step process for choosing and working with your own!

1. Discover, and choose your core values

Our values are shaped by our upbringing, culture, and unique experiences that we’ve had in our lives. Some of these values are in service of our core selves, and who we truly are. Others have been adopted unconsciously and aren’t of service to us at all!

Choosing your core values is a process of sorting wheat from chaff and deciding what is truly important to your being. Do you really care about keeping up with the Joneses? Or have you inherited this value from a society that worries too much about appearances?

Clarifying your values is an act of making what really matters crystal clear and letting go of everything else.

2. Choose the direction you want to head in

Now that you know what is truly important to you, what do you want to do with your life? Our time on this planet is fleeting, and we only have a limited time to make the changes we want to see.

This step isn’t about goal setting. There will be plenty of time for that later! Think of it much more like setting a direction to head toward, and not a destination. Like deciding that you want to head north, instead of east. You’ll never arrive at a place called “North”, no matter how far north you travel.

The idea is to pick something you can continually move toward, instead of a goal to achieve, or a destination to arrive at.

3. Distill your values and direction into a personal mission statement

Your personal mission statement doesn’t need to be long. In fact, the shorter the better. It needs to be easy to remember so that whenever a challenge or a difficult decision arises, you can easily remind yourself of why you’re here, and how best to act.

Take the former CEO and president of Campbell Soup Company, Denise Morrison’s personal mission statement:

“To serve as a leader, live a balanced life, and apply ethical principles to make a significant difference.”

It’s simple, easy to remember, and describes a lifelong commitment to her values, and the direction she wants to head toward.

4. Regularly review your personal mission statement

So, you’ve clarified your core values, decided what direction you want to head in, and committed to a personal mission statement. Problem solved? Not even close!

It isn’t enough to write your personal mission statement, you’ll need to regularly check in with yourself to see if you’re living it.

If your mission statement is to:

Live a long and healthy life, and inspire others to do the same

And you spent a week eating fast food and skipping the gym, it’s safe to say that you haven’t been adhering to your mission statement. Slip-ups are fine. They happen to us all, and they’re nothing to be ashamed of. Simply acknowledge the slip-up, and step back on the path!