Personal mission statement, take one

For a variety of reasons, I’ve been feeling a bit disconnected lately. Life knocked me off my centre, and I lost my balance. Previously, I had been living in a mostly conscious state, so it’s been uncomfortable and disquieting to find myself reacting, rather than acting.

I’m wise enough at this point to know that what is up will soon be down (and vice versa), so I didn’t panic, knowing I’d eventually come back to centre. I’m relieved that I’m starting to glimpse my equilibrium point, but am frustrated at the pace of change.

In an effort to speed things up, I finally took my own advice and started writing. ‘Lo and behold, it worked (it always does for me). What came from that writing exercise is a personal mission statement designed to guide me through this next stage of life.

The concept of a personal mission statement is as corny as it comes. I didn’t set out to write such a thing. Rather I was trying to understand the thing that was bugging me (uncertainty, instability, insecurity, yadda yadda). In the midst of a couple of pages of stream of consciousness flow, I wrote a simple little paragraph that held an amazing amount of truth. Reviewing it, I realized it is a personal mission statement; it’s a map to what I need to do in order to fulfill my mission (more precisely, my mission at this moment). Here’s what I wrote:

For this next stage of my life, I want to:

  • Design web-based things that have a positive social impact.
  • Have autonomy over the shape of my day.
  • Work with a team of conscious adventurers.
  • Be present with my family.
  • Be able to meet my financial obligations.

Identifying these five points has gotten me a lot closer to my own center. With them, I have context with which I can make career choices. I have a place from which I can reframe my own brand. And I have a road-map of sorts that leads to peace.

21 thoughts on “Personal mission statement, take one”

  1. There is something very refreshing about the openness of your writing and Tweets that I always enjoy.

    Somehow, coming from you, a personal mission statement doesn’t sound corny. I think we all do the same sort of exercise at times but perhaps don’t name it as such.

    I’ve been keeping a journal since I was 9, sometimes writing daily, sometimes writing monthly, and I find that taking the time to just write in an unrestricted way can help bring things to the surface.

    I find that there is something in the act of writing things down or even just revealing them to yourself or someone else, that sets something in motion to move things in that direction.

    I hope the things you are setting out to do come to life and you feel more peaceful soon.

  2. Thanks Am! I’ve struggled with the decision to be open about this stuff, but chose ultimately to be as honest as I can comfortably be.

    My experiences are ultimately human experiences; there is a commonality to the underlying motivation and sensation that transcends the details of my own personal story. I *very* strongly believe that if we were all a bit more publicly honest about our intentions, we’d be less disconnected from each other.

  3. I’m happy to see you going through this exercise. I did something similar, albeit privately, when I first entered the Centre for Social Innovation as a tenant. One part of the application process asked for “your organization’s social mission”. As a free-agent consultant, this wasn’t clear cut or straightforward.

    I think you’ve got a strong beginning with what appears to be a statement of personal values and goals. But I would push you to go further. I would encourage you to go beyond a “personal” mission statement to a “social” mission statement that is infused with your personal values and that helps you achieve your personal goals while being clear on how you create things of value.

    Up for it? I think it’s time for me to dust off mine, so I’ll join you in this exercise if you are.

  4. Funny you should mention this Mark. I had a discussion last night that ran along similar lines. “What,” I was asked “do I mean by positive social impact?” My answer went something like “I don’t know specifically. Let me work on that and get back to you.”

    So the timing of your offer is superb. Let’s do this. And let’s do it in the public light of our communities.

  5. I’ve been trying to figure out the social mission statement for my gallery, would love to share/join you guys in this exercise.

  6. Don’t be evil. Try to leave things in as-good condition or better when you leave. Check spelling AND proof-read before posting. Only complain about things that you can change if you plan on changing them. Get paid. Only make things you’re proud of. EOF.

  7. Would love to do this exercise with you – lots of pieces to pull together lately. I can definitely relate to what Peter is going through!

  8. I think a personal mission statement is a great idea. Humans are a goal-oriented species and maybe a personal mission statement can provide some structure to each day.

    Mark Rabo and I have been talking about something similar, about having distinguishing core values.

    My core values are there to weigh everything I do and everyone I meet to make sure it fits. I have four values that are essential to me: creativity, empathy, playfulness, and persistence.

    Reading your post I think it’ll be important to add a mission statement, or philosophy, to this as well. I am going to take some time to think about it. Thanks for getting the gears moving, Peter!

  9. Never work on things with half a heart.

    Write your own construct of what a life should be.

    Acknowledge where you struggle – surround yourself with success.

    Blur the lines between facets of my life (work and play should not exist separately).

    Leave as many remnants of you as possible.

  10. I like these thoughts a lot. I have done the opposite, had to learn to trust my instincts more, and so have purposely left a lot unstated and unwritten. I didn’t want to narrow down what I would be willing to do by inadvertently excluding it in something written down. But I am starting to feel I might be able to do this.

    For me part of my social ethic is to be generous toward others, support the generation(s) coming after me, and be mindful of what older generations can teach me. For many years I was angry at the generations before me (and still have some bitterness which I am trying to dissolve), always vowed to be more positive towards those coming after me. But in some ways that has perhaps closed me to learning from those who have gone before. One of my very first blog posts 5 years ago talked quite openly about this:

    It may be time for me to revisit the thoughts in another one of my blog posts, “I want to be David Grohl when I grow up”:


  11. Peter, your timing is perfect. I’m heading off tomorrow for an overnight “personal retreat” where I will be working on similar issues. I did this back in 2003 and it led to my most rewarding period of work ever. Don’t be surprised if I’m back in the wee hours of Sunday morning with another comment.

    And we’ll definitely need to get that beer in the next few weeks. Fellow travellers need company!

  12. I love this blog post, and all of the follow up comments. I think it’s a wonderful precedent you have set here Peter by putting it out there for others to read, take something from, and give something back by commenting here.

    I identify the most with needing to have autonomy over the shape of my day. There was a time in life when I was not really in control of my direction. I was drifting, and often times following the wrong paths because I thought that money was the be all and end all. Now, after having grown up a bit, and experiencing some extremely humbling life moments, I place the highest priority on being able to control my days for me, nobody else.

    That’s not to say I am not doing things for other people on a continual basis, but I do make sure to take the time that I need to do things for ME, and my own mental health. I choose to maintain this kind of freedom & choice, than to make an outrageous wage. Perhaps not a decision everyone can make, but for me, there is no other choice.

    Please count me in, I would like nothing more than to be involved in shaping a social mission statement we all can live & succeed by.

  13. So glad to see how many others responded – clearly you have hit on a topic close to people’s hearts.

    My biggest challenge is figuring out how to live a life that not only has meaning for myself but also lessens the suffering of others. I’ve been fortunate to have had a lot of material comforts and I find at this point in my life I am thinking more about the bigger picture than just personal recognition.

    Is it enough to do it on an individual basis or must it scale to be truly impactful?

  14. @amrita, this is a brilliant question:

    Is it enough to do it on an individual basis or must it scale to be truly impactful?

    I think the *process* needs to scale. I think as a global society we’d be better off if we all went through a similar process.

  15. Hi there,
    I liked your post. I haven’t worked a 9-5 day for 10 years and have complete freedom except that my choices are limited by poverty. So I’ve learned from poverty, I’ve become different, I’ve taken my cues more and more from myself. I can appreciate that the equilibrium you seek is elusive. If you are in the mainstream of society, making a living, you’re not gonna get there, ever. You have to go the other side and find your back.
    good luck,

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