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7 Mission Statement Lessons I Wish I Knew 20 Years Ago

Stop everything you are doing and work on your mission statement!

Last week, I shared about using your skills, your traits and your vision to create your personal mission statement. I also created mine “live” and obtained a mission statement that blew my mind, and which is now driving a lot of what I am doing. In fact, within four days of that exercise, I had developed a curriculum for late-forties, early-fifties PMEs to start their own business (and of course the mission statement will feature very strongly there!), designed the marketing brochure, gave it pride of place in our website (it has its own webpage at!pme-prestige/dns12) and created the operational plan to get this going. This may well be flying in the face of government plans to help this very same group of people, but I have one thing going for me that they don’t – I am of the same age group as my target, and in the same position, achieving the very things they are hoping to achieve. So that is what a personal mission statement does for people!

But I digress; this article is not for me to report my progress. Instead, I learnt seven crucial lessons in creating my personal mission statement which I wish I had known 20 years ago! They are not rocket science, and to many, they are obvious. But sometimes we miss even the most obvious things in life. I hope that by sharing these obvious lessons learnt, you can extract all that the mission statement can offer much sooner than I had!

1. It should have been done earlier

I suppose it goes without saying that I should have done this much earlier! Seeing the impact it has on my thinking, and the meaning it has given to my busyness (as well as my business), it is such a BIG waste to have waited until now to do this! This despite the fact that I tell others that they need to have focus and a goal – a mission in life – to be effective. It is akin to an obese doctor telling his patient to lose weight to bring down his blood pressure and cholesterol levels. I suppose I thought I was immune to this need, since I was teaching it. I suspect that it also has a lot to do with my education and intellect (read as “ego”). After all, this is such a simple activity, something that I don’t really need to spend so much time on to get; and if it’s that simple, it’s probably not for me. WRONG! Everyone needs to do this, without exception; and the sooner the better! If you are reading this, and you don’t have your personal mission statement, STOP READING NOW AND WORK ON YOUR MISSION STATEMENT IMMEDIATELY! You can thank me later.

2. It should be updated constantly

So you have done your mission statement, well done! But that is only just the beginning because you need to constantly update it. Just as your behavioural traits and personal circumstances can change over time, so too your mission statement; and you will therefore have to refocus. Or perhaps you have already achieved what you had set out to do when you created your last mission statement and now need to look for new vistas? Because things change rapidly, we need to look at our mission periodically and update it. Review it quarterly to see how things are proceeding and what changes you need to put into it, before agreeing that there is no change and the mission remains intact. And if it needs changing, then do it quickly and start down a new road ASAP!

3. It should be done in all honesty

Looking at the three aspects of my life – skills, traits and vision – and then creating my mission statement requires me to be truthful to myself. After all, if we are dishonest with ourself, and we use the wrong inputs for our mission statement, we will end up somewhere really far from where we should be! Since you don’t need to share this with anyone you are not comfortable with (but you do have to share it, and we will talk about that shortly), you don’t have to hide from the truth. If you have something you are not proud of but which impacts your mission greatly, acknowledge it and then do something about it. Instead of running away from the truth, you need to face up to it, learn from it, and put in actions to overcome it. This will make your mission statement more robust, more real, and more exciting. You will also be giving yourself an opportunity to do things better, and that is very invigorating. Your mission statement must liberate you from the tyrannies of the past, and for that to happen, you need to work on it in all honesty.

4. It should have accompanying goals

A mission statement without concomitant goals will be as hollow as a book cover without the story. You need to populate your mission statement with goals that will help you move towards accomplishing your mission. We will not be going into the constituents of goal setting in this article, but we will do that very soon. Suffice it to say for now that the clearer you are about your mission, the clearer you are about how you are going to get there, the clearer you are about the resources you will need to pour into it, the higher your chances of success. And that is what all of us are working towards, aren’t we – a successful mission?

5. It should be in writing

This is again where I fell short previously. It was bad enough that I thought I knew what my mission was and didn’t feel the need to articulate it clearly, it was worse that it was not written down! This means that working out your mission statement mentally will not do. If it is not written down, it will not be committed to. Also, when we are working with thoughts, it pays to write it down, as I had done in the previous article. You don’t need to do it the way I did, but there is a need to write down all the points so that you can see the flow of ideas; how one relates to another, and how you ultimately arrive at your mission. Since one idea leads to another that leads to another, clearly seeing how our thoughts evolved helps us get the clarity that we need in developing our mission statement. It is also great for mission review. If we cannot remember how we got to the mission (not that it would ever happen), we can still go back to the genesis of our thinking and see what changed. Hence writing it all down is a great way to remind ourselves of what we are focusing on every day!

6. It should be proclaimed

Once you are done writing your mission statement, don’t keep it under wraps. Share it with as many people as you can. Some of you might not want to make it public, and that is fine. However, you will need to at least make it known to your family members and closest friends so that they can help you achieve your mission. Also, they can help to hold you accountable to it. After all, if no one except you knows what you are shooting for, you can always give yourself an easy time, and accept the excuses you give yourself for not achieving your mission. It would be so much easier to cop out if nobody knew what you were focused on. This is counterproductive. If you are serious about your mission, then tell it to as many people as you can get your hands on and ask them to hold you accountable to the actions you take to get there. And here is where your goals come in handy; they are the measures that you set for yourself to achieve your mission.

7. Plan your daily activities with your mission in mind

Finally, do you plan your day? Another thing that I wish I had discovered 20 years ago is that as a business owner, I need to plan my time to focus on strategic issues. If I didn’t have such a plan, I would find myself reacting to all kinds of fires, and attending all kinds of meeting, and doing all kinds of stuff – stuff that don’t really need to be done! Meetings are one such stuff. They should be eschewed with vehemence! If work cannot be done without meetings, then the work is not well structured. And how should they be structured? Again back to our mission statement. If you know your mission, and that of your company’s, if you have worked out the goals from there, then your actions can be planned with them in mind. When you have your mission statement in front of you, you will be able to assess the level of importance of an email, a request, an invitation. You will stop doing things for the sake of doing them, and to start doing things that make an impact on your future, on your mission. You therefore need to plan your day so that you focus on the important matters, ignoring those that are unimportant, even if they were urgent. This means again that you need to know what activities are important and what are not, going back again to your mission statement! (PS: I use Google Keep for this. I Keep my mission statement and goals upfront, and plan each day with it. Try it for yourself. It’s free from Google!)

These seven lessons are not rocket science, and it is a wonder why I have taken 20 years to discover them! It must be because I was stupid, or I was arrogant. Probably both! But I am happy to note that 20 years is still not too late, and that I can apply myself with the same vigour that I had done for my business 20 years ago. There is no regretting because I cannot turn back time. What I can do from now onwards is more important than what I have done thus far. I therefore share this with you in the hopes that for those who may be similarly held back by its simplicity, to give this a shot. It does not take too much time off your busy schedule, but the outcome may take away that busyness and give your use of your time a laser-sharp focus. So do not fall for the complacency of its simplicity and conclude that you don’t need one; you do! And if you don’t have one right now, then I urge you not to waste your time. There are only a few things in life that are obligatory – and this is one of them. Stop everything you are doing, and work on your mission statement!

Like I said, you can thank me later.

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