The Wetfoot Blog

Monday, March 4, 2013

Creating a Personal Mission Statement

I made a mistake. In my previous post I discussed the importance of aligning expectations in order to have a successful trip. Expectations of parents, participants and the organization all guide what you will be doing on your wilderness adventures. And when it came to your own expectations, I mentioned they must align with who you are and what your personal mission was. Well, I apologize for the lack of guidance. Let’s discuss what a personal mission statement is and how to form your own in order to guide you in life.  

If you have worked at nearly any non-profit organization you have been made aware of their mission statement. Mission statements such as Camp Manito-wish’s, “To enrich the character and leadership development...” and the American Red Cross’s, “... prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies...” can be used to ensure what they are doing is in parallel with their ideals. Clearly there will arise many facets of an organization working towards various goals, however, each facet should fall under the mission umbrella. If this is not the case, the project, idea, or intention should be changed or dropped, or perhaps a new mission statement should be written.

Take a minute to read mission statements of Fortune 500 companies. Many reflect on being the best, making a profit, or helping people. Most of the mission statements are short and to the point, others are not so much. Ensure to check out the mission of Avon Products, Inc. and H&R Block Inc. These statements are long and I would guess that the employees wouldn’t be able to memorize them. Although I don’t think a requirement of a mission statement is its ability to be memorized, I do believe that its basis should be easily rolled off the tongue in order to guide discussions about the purpose of a company.

These are of course mission statements for companies and organizations. We are interested in our own mission statements, in defining what makes us tick. What gets us out of bed in the morning and what compels us to go to work. Not to get paid, not get fired, or pay the bills, those are results. What inspires you and why you do what you do should be clear. Do you seek accomplishment, discovery, respect, or involvement? And what do you believe about yourself? What is your foundation? Does integrity, excellence, charity, trust, fitness or family guide you? These two very important aspects—action words and core values respectively—will be critical in determining your mission statement.

We will begin by choosing some action words and some core values that defines each of us. Keep in mind that you are never locked on your mission as they are meant to change with time as your priorities change. Please follow the link to find a long list of action words. Make a smaller list of words from these that you identify with by either printing this out and circling words or simply writing them down. Feel free to add to this list if you feel there are words missing. Narrow that list down to six or seven words that really speak to you and then arrange them by importance. Next, do the same with this list of core values, adding words as you see fit. Again, narrow your list down to five values and then prioritize them in order of importance to you.

Now that you have your list you will need to form it to some sort of structure that fits you. There is no correct answer and I have limited advice because this is so personal. I would, however, recommend starting your mission to at least get some ideas onto paper, with, “I will (2-3 verbs) by (1-2 core values).” You can wordsmith your mission over and over until it sounds nice and speaks to who you are. I am in the process of doing this myself and currently my mission statement is as follows: “I will challenge myself to find accomplishment in everything I do through commitment, trust and respect. “ You should be able to remember your own mission statement and I would suggest keeping it very simple.

Once you have your mission statement you can use it to guide you in a job search, career path or social commitments. You have the tool you need to identify whether the road you are on fits your mission. You will have to choose to continue or alter your path in life if it does not fit. 

Ryan Wagner is the Wilderness Program Director at Camp Manito-wish YMCA. If you would like to write for the Wetfoot, please contact

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