What is a mission statement? What is its purpose and why is it so important?
According to Wikipedia, a mission statement is a statement of purpose for a company or organization, its reason for existing. A mission statement should guide the actions of the organization, spell out the overall goal, provide a path, and guide decision-making. It provides “the framework or context within which the company’s strategies are formulated.” It’s like a goal for what the company wants to do for the world. Basically a mission statement is a road map of how an organization is going to reach that goal.
Ok. You are probably wondering at this point where is this going. Well, I got to thinking, why do companies get mission statements and people don’t? If people make up an organization and those organizations have mission statements that guide their purpose, what guides the people who work there? How did those people choose that organization? Was it because that organization had a mission statement that spoke to those people? Most people don’t even know a company’s mission statement before they start working someplace. So, I ask again, what brought that person to choose that organization? Was it the need for employment? Was it the skill set that the person had that the company needed? Was it the need to earn a paycheck in order to feed the family? All of these reasons are valid, but whether we realize it or not they all speak to who we are and why we make the choices that we do.
People are more than just employees to an organization. People belong to many other organizations outside the work place; religious organizations, health clubs, running groups, book clubs, animal shelters, The Red Cross, etc. What draws people to join these organizations? Are they the same people at those organizations or groups that they are at work? If not, why? Are people just following the mission statements of every organization or group they belong to without knowing why?
The why is quite simple, people are drawn to organizations, regardless of the type of organization because it fits into their life some how. Most people do this subconsciously, without really knowing why, but the why is the most important part. The why is because it is part of our personal mission statement. Whether you realize if you have one or not, you do. Some people have a mission statement that is well thought out, others have one that is just in the beginning stages, and some people’s mission statement is constantly changing. People may not think of it as a mission statement, they may think of it as a song that they like or an inspirational quote. Next time you listen to one of your favorite songs, really listen to the words and ask yourself why you like this song. Is it the beat of the music or the words that touch soul?
One of the excercises I have done with teams in the past is to ask each participant what is their theme song, no other direction was provided. Just what is your theme song. Identifying your theme song will help you in identifying your mission statement. Ask yourself, what is your theme song?
Our mission statement as individuals must be unique. It will describe what we want our contribution to be not only for our work life but the world as a whole. It will announce your role within your society, what your purpose for existing is and how you are going to contribute in order to make this world a better place. Good news is you are half way there, you are active participants in life, building relationships, working on a project you believe in, and just being you, you make the world a better place.
Some of you may be thinking, why do I need a mission statement? Many people walk around this world feeling like they have no purpose or asking themselves, “is this really all there is?” The answer is you have purpose and there is so much more out there for you. If that statement is true, which it is, you may ask, what is out there for me? What more can I be? What is my purpose? Now comes the hard part, you have to tell us that. Thankfully no one can tell you what your purpose is, your reason for existing.
In the book “The Giver” by Lois Lowry, each child is given their “assignment” and purpose at the age of 12. Can you imagine living in a society where you knew at the age of 12 what you were to be to your society? To some that may sound great, having no pressure placed on yourself to define what you want to contribute, but to me, that sounds horrible. I love being 35 and still discovering my purpose in each one of the organizations that I inhabit. I love that the decision is mine and mine alone to make. Who am I at work? Who am I at home? Who am I to my friends? Who am I to my religious organization? All of these things have one very important thing in common, me.
Therefore, it is time that we flip our way of thinking and no longer look to organizations to define who we are with their mission statement, we need to create our own mission statement to define who we are to those organizations. No one else should be telling you your value, your contribution, your place in this world but you. No one knows you better and no one can commit you to something but you.
I ask of you in this upcoming week to give yourself some time and think about your mission statement. Seek inspiration or guidance from your favorite songs, favorite poetry, favorite books or inspirational quote.
One quote that someone shared with me recently that really touched me was “a bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because its trust is not on the branch but on its own wings.” Believe that you are worth the time and effort of creating your own mission statement. Stop wondering what is my purpose? Where do I fit in within the bigger picture? Tell yourself those things and then show the world.