How to write a personal mission statement that guides and motivates you

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How to write a personal mission statement that guides and motivates you
Revisiting your mission statement once a year can help you track how your goals evolve, edtech founder Eloise Skinner says.Olivia Fry
  • Eloise Skinner is the founder of edtech startup One Typical Day and The Purpose Workshop.
  • She says a personal mission statement can help founders stay focused and driven in the new year.

What comes to mind when you think of a mission statement?

Many of us might think of corporate websites or self-help books, or the kind of tagline you might put in your LinkedIn bio.

But a mission statement can actually be something much more personal, meaningful, and impactful.

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What is a mission statement?

In general, a mission statement is a formal summary of values and aims.

Often, it captures aims and values that already exist (Think of a corporate mission statement like Amazon's: "To be Earth's most customer centric company").

But a mission statement can also be personal and used to explore and establish your principles and ambitions. In this way, it can be a working, evolving tool to figure out where you want to focus your energy.

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Why are personal mission statements important for founders?

Personal growth aside, there are tangible business-related reasons that every founder should have a strong personal mission statement:

  • Pitching: As founders, we're constantly pitching our business, whether formally to potential investors or less formally to clients, potential hires, and the media. Pitching relies on passion, belief, and mission. Working out your core mission before you head into a pitching situation can be fundamental to presenting confidently.
  • Creating culture: Whether recruiting employees or seeking investors, you're introducing your company culture to new people. Is it a company with a strong vision or desire to make an impact? Do you stand behind certain values and principles? These are company questions, but it's the founder's job to express and uphold them.
  • Personal clarity: Finding purpose, meaning, and direction in your life and work tends to be a long process. A personal mission statement is a great foundation to rely on and use to inform difficult decisions.

How to write your personal mission statement

First, make a list of what you've valued most from your past, what's most important to you now, and what you want in the future. These three areas are a map of your desired past, present, and future and the foundation for building your mission statement.

Next, go through your three lists (past, present, and future) and pick out any commonalities or consistent themes. Think also about the elements that stand out to you as key priorities.

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Once you have the key aspects narrowed down, it's time to craft your language. Mission statements often work best with assertive, goal-oriented language. To start, use the phrase: "My mission is …"

Here's an example, using my own statement as the founder of a social-impact business:

"My mission is to create work that has lasting social impact and to lead a balanced life."

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This statement identifies two aspects: social impact and balance. One is externally-focused (doing work that makes a difference), and the other is internally-focused (leading a balanced life).

Another example:

"My mission is to use my natural abilities as a team leader to encourage positive change."

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This statement focuses on a founder's skills and intention to use them to make a positive impact on others. Although the mission statement itself might sound fairly high-level, you should feel free to add more details or use the statement alongside more specific goal-setting exercises.

Don't be surprised if your statement reveals values and priorities that aren't directly reflected in your everyday work as a founder or entrepreneur. In those cases, it's worth revisiting your company's mission to see where the gaps are showing up and ask how you can bring the company's direction more in line with your own.

Your personal mission statement will have the most impact if you regularly refine and revise it. Try revisiting the statement every few months (or even every year, if that works better for you) to incorporate changes and new priorities.

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Eloise Skinner is an entrepreneur, author, and teacher working in education and social impact. She's the founder of The Purpose Workshop, a social-impact consultancy, and One Typical Day, an edtech startup.

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