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​What's Your Mission Statement?

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​I'm curious to know how many people reading this blog post have a personal mission statement.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was having some struggles at work. He had been traveling extensively, was working incredibly long hours, and had some general frustrations with his management team. As we chatted, I got the sense that my friend was at a crossroads of sorts about what steps to take next. During our conversation, I asked several measured questions to understand the underlying source of his frustration.

At one point, I asked my friend if he had a personal mission statement. For anyone who isn't familiar with one, a personal mission statement is similar to a company mission statement, but on a personal level. The goal of a personal mission statement is to identify and document the goals and motivations that are important to you. It essentially serves as a guiding force for how you will live your life, while also functioning as a tool for making future decisions. The great thing about a personal mission statement is that it is personal, which means it can be customized to you and that there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

I was fortunate about 15 years ago to work for a manager who emphasized the importance of a personal mission statement within our internal audit team. Under her leadership, I spent a good bit of time thinking about and documenting what was important to me, as well as sharing that with key family members.

Over time, I have gone back to the concepts that I included in my personal mission statement as I had big decisions to make in my career such as whether I should stay in an industry internal audit role or jump to a professional services firm providing internal audit services. Being able to leverage my mission statement helped me cut through some of the noise that I was experiencing and think objectively about the situation at hand to make the decision that best aligned with my personal goals and where I wanted to be long-term.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, during the day to day, it can be easy to view your career more in terms of a sprint, focusing so much on point-in-time issues that you lose sight of the big picture. In reality, I think it is better to view your career as more of a marathon, recognizing that minor timing changes (getting the raise next month versus last) may not have as great an impact over the long haul.

A personal mission statement is very useful in keeping big-picture personal goals front and center, really allowing this marathon outlook to be maintained. I also believe a personal mission statement can provide a foundation by which to measure your progress. Both day to day and over a long-term basis, it provides the mechanism by which to evaluate if you are approaching both your career and your personal life within the context of what you had envisioned.

As many organizations have annual evaluation, promotion, and raise cycles, it isn't unusual this time of year to find people who, from a career perspective, may be questioning if they are in the right role based on whether those conversations and decisions went the way they wanted. Whether you are in internal audit, or any other profession, this is where a personal mission statement can prove quite useful, serving as that compass for where you are and where you are headed.

That said, for anyone who doesn't have a personal mission statement, I encourage you to give it some thought and take a first pass at drafting one, seeking input from family, friends, and others. For those of you who do have one, revisit it and see if it still makes sense for you, and if so, if the decisions that you are making align with the goals that you initially set for yourself.

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