Living Well

January 29, 2010

You have the Tools: Now Write a Mission Statement

“Live in such a way that when you die the preacher doesn’t have to lie.”  That statement on a student tee-shirt has always been humorous to me and captures what I believe about personal mission.  It is unfortunate that people spend a lifetime working on “something” thinking that “someday I will do what I am supposed to do in life.”  Problem is it becomes like St. Augustine observed, “By and by never comes.”  Often we wait, but for what?  What are we waiting for to live out that we cannot start to live at this moment?  I love the comment by Tony Campolo, “When we get to the end of life, we ought to be about all used up!”

If you are following my blog, you are at the point of trying to write a personal mission statement.  Take the legacies you want to leave behind, the values you believe identify you, and write a sentence that will help you set before you those areas of life that are important.  Whatever you write at this moment does not have to be polished because it is a first attempt at writing a mission statement.  Mission statements are not at first an exact science, but a fleshing out of your thoughts, dreams, and what you believe about yourself and your future.

After you write out your personal mission statement, test it by asking, “Can I really affect my world and the people in it by living out my mission?” If your answer is yes, then how will you do this?  If no, how must your mission read in order to keep you actively working toward its fulfillment?

Your personal mission statement will guide you and give you focus related to your preferred future and legacy.  The statement you write should be challenging to you and something that you are passionate about.  It does not need to be a statement exciting to others, but must extract your best abilities, passions, use of time, and daily actions.  When you read your mission, it should give you an ache to live well in what it commands from you every day.

Here is also a way to test your personal mission.  It comes from Laurie Beth Jones, international bestselling author of Jesus, CEO.  As a side, it is an honor to also have her as one who endorses my book, “Four Seasons of Leadership.”  Jones believes your mission statement should be a single sentence (in standard English this is about 7-10 words); simple enough for a 12-year old to understand and recite, and; you should personally be able to recite it from memory at “gun point.”   Jones received criticism for this last element, but she is right….sometimes we have to make split second decisions that require us to know exactly who we are and what we will stand or not stand for.  Life sometimes forces us into its corner where we have to decide that quickly.

I originally wrote my own personal mission statement in 1989.  It was a few sentences.  It did not fit Jones’ criteria above.  So I worked on it over time.  I honed it over a few years until it now reads, “inviting people to abundant life by choosing God’s best.”

Now it is funny, but I actually have people say to me occasionally, “What is your mission statement?”  Some know I teach leadership courses and this concept; some just hear about this activity I believe deeply in.  These are my “gun point” moments.  And so I recite it to them from memory.  It is my agreement for how I will live in this world, both today but also in the days ahead.

In the end, here is the real point of having a personal mission statement.  The purpose is in not having a written statement to impress people, but to use it for goal setting, making decisions, determining what really matters in life, and “living your life in such a way that when you die, the preacher will not have to lie” but only recount what you did during the years you had on this planet.

I am convinced that if you ponder your life, figure out a personal mission, and set it into writing you will live well daily and you will influence those around you both now and into the next generation.  In the end, having a personal mission will influence the quality of your relationships, career, community service, and how you make potentially critical decisions should they come your way.

There is freedom in knowing your life’s purpose and in living your personal mission.  The Apostle Paul writing in the First Century challenged “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Romans 12:1-2).  We can be transformed and live well—fully living what we were created to be IF we work out our personal mission.  It is a task worth agonizing over.  It is a choice that will lead to a life lived well.

Blessings, grace and peace.

David Neidert


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