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Creating a Personal Mission Statement : Getting Started

Often, the urge (or need) to organize strikes in the face of a life change, whether a positive one (such as a marriage or the birth of a child) or a challenging one (such as a death or divorce). Other times, the desire to get stuff in order springs from a sense that things are out of balance, out of control, or generally not as they should be.

Whatever the reason, organizing often serves as a good way to make sure we get back on track, can live as we'd like to, and get rid of the frustrations that keep us from focusing on what's most important. As such, the time between feeling the initial urge to organize and actually getting down to it is a great time to consider creating a personal mission statement. Here's why such a thing is worth the effort, and some ideas on how to get started on one.

Defining "mission"
The word mission can mean a number of different things: a purpose, a drive, a quest, a goal. A mission statement is usually a document created by a company, group, or community to describe its goals, its priorities, and its values.

Your personal mission might be anything from what you hope to accomplish on a given day to what you feel your larger purpose in life is. Your personal mission statement, then, should support your missions large and small by defining what's important to you, what sort of life you'd like to live, and how you intend to go about fulfilling your priorities.

Why create a mission statement?
Though most of us try to live according to our values and priorities, it's all too easy to get caught up in the flow of everyday life and drift (or perhaps even paddle) away from what we know is most important. For example, how many of us would name health as a priority, only to find that we're so busy that nutritious eating and regular exercise often go out the window? A mission statement can help us refocus on what matters and find ways to keep the important things in life front and center.

Personal mission statements can also help make times of transition easier to deal with. The arrival of a child, for example, means priorities are likely to shift, as does the departure of a child for college or a life outside of the house. Taking the time to reconsider what's important as life changes can ease transitions, and might make them feel a bit less chaotic.

Missions and organizing
Many times, clients call me because they feel like the disorganization around them doesn't support or reflect the way they want to live. They might find that they're spending hours each weekend trying to deal with clutter when what they'd really like to be doing is taking the kids to the park, enjoying a movie, or doing volunteer work.

Crafting a personal mission statement can help identify the things in life that need to change (or stay the same, with a few improvements) in order for us to feel truly happy, fulfilled, and in control. The desire to make some organization-related changes--whether that means redoing a filing system or decluttering a whole house--often springs up when our goals and priorities become clear.

Creating your statement
Here's the great thing about your personal mission statement: it can be as simple or as involved as you'd like it to be. After all, it's yours. Your mission statement might take the form of an anything-and-everything, stream-of-consciousness list of the people, ideas, and things that are important to you and that you'd like to devote your time to; on the other hand, it might be a carefully written, detail-filled statement of your beliefs and priorities, complete with specific tasks to help you live in accordance with them.

Whatever form you choose, make sure your statement accurately reflects your personality, what's important to you, and how you'd like to shape your own life. Don't feel the need to aim for unrealistic ideals or to list priorities you think you should have.

You can write your statement on a computer, in crayon, on an ancient typewriter, in fountain pen--whatever you're most comfortable with. Revise, add to, and change it as much as you'd like. Just make sure it feels unquestionably you and has enough information to serve as a guide.

Want a helping hand? Try Franklin Covey's free Mission Statement Builder (see the link to the right), an interactive online tool that lets you choose between several different methods of creating your own mission statement.

Next week, once you've had the chance to get started, we'll look at some quick and easy ways of putting your mission statement into practice. I'll also share with you the statement I created as a guide for my life. (Want to share yours, too? E-mail me and let me know.)

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