Mission Statements Fuel Peak Performance

In my years of experience as a career and leadership development consultant there are two books that I have referred to hundreds of individuals I have coached that speak brilliantly to the topic of this article. The first is, Peak Performance: Mental Training Techniques of the World’s Greatest Athletes by Charles Garfield Ph.D.  A world class weight lifter, Garfield provides solid research and first-hand experience with peak performing athletes. The second is the world-wide best seller by Stephen Covey titled, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.

Both best-selling authors write about the importance of having a mission statement in order to be a highly successful peak performer. Dr. Garfield writes, “With few exceptions, peak performers are highly motivated by a deep and personal sense of mission, which is distinctly different from the highly specific and measurable goals each person may set…Mission is a passionate belief in a personal philosophy that establishes the basis for setting goals.”

Stephen Covey in his chapter on his second of seven habits – Begin with the End in Mind –  writes the following, “The most effective way I know to begin with the end in mind is to develop a personal mission statement or philosophy or creed.  It focuses on what you want to be (character) and to do (contributions and achievements) and on the values or principles upon which being and doing are based… But fundamentally your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values.”

What follows are five steps outlining how to create a mission statement.  There are three free power point presentations and planning guides on the Workshops page of this website – Career Exploration & Job Search: For Any Job in Any Sector – How to Make the Most of Your 2nd Fifty Years – How to Work, Live and Lead for the Common Good – that expand on how to create and implement one’s mission.

Step One:  Give serious thought to what you want to be; those values and principles that you need to have as a central part of how you show up every day. Look back over any values exercises that you might have taken during your life.  Look at the key decisions you have made and determine the values that were central to those decisions.  I wrote a previous LinkedIn article titled Looking at Career Options? What’s Your Anchor? That article described Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors Inventory, an instrument that measures how your values relate to your career choices.  The planning guide for the Career Exploration & Job Search: For Any Job in Any Sector program mentioned above includes an exercise that helps you identify your Career Anchors.

Step Two: Identify what you want to do that allows you to live the foundational values and principles that you identified in Step One.  Once you have a sense of the values and principles that would define a positive direction for you, give thought to what you would want to be doing that would demonstrate those values.  What follows is a powerful question from the book by Bernstein & Trauth titled Retirement Your Way.  Although this book is about retirement this question has relevance for any adult.  “Think back to those environments or situations in which you felt most creative, when you felt completely satisfied doing what you were doing and time just flew by.  List as many as you can remember; be expansive…Once you have written down all the answers to that question, look at what you have written and pick the most satisfying and write a short story about what it felt like to be in that positive situation.  When you are finished writing ask yourself what does what you have written tell you about your interests, style, needs, skills, values, and/or situations in which you would flourish.”  Keep this document and build on it as you move forward.

Step Three: Write an initial draft of a mission statement.  Based on what you have learned through this self-evaluation, or what you already know about yourself, write a draft of a mission statement, what Charles Garfield described above as “a passionate belief in a personal philosophy that establishes the basis for setting goals.”

Step Four: Identify where you want to do what you have identified as how you want to be.  Or as Covey stated above, “the solid expression of your vision and values.”  An outstanding resource to use during this phase of reality testing the draft of your mission statement is the website www.job-hunt.com. It provides dozens of resources for identifying what you want to do and where you want to do it. Identifying where you would most effectively live your mission statement helps to provide clarity about the accuracy of your mission statement draft.

Step Five: Once you have gone through these four steps, sit down and write a next draft of your mission statement.  Using this as a guide as you explore career options and places you might work gives you a solid advantage over those who do not have a sense of mission as a guide to career choice and job search actions.  The creation of a mission statement does not usually happen overnight which is why I have suggested starting with a draft, then reality testing it by researching where you would want to make your mission statement happen.  Stephen Covey underscored this reality in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “A mission statement is not something you write overnight.  It takes deep introspection and often many rewrites.”

Whatever you choose to do or move toward, having a mission statement that you expand on and revise as you grow can provide focus, as Stephen Covey said above, “on what you want to be (character) and to do (contributions and achievements)” in this crazy world in which we live.