“Happy talk, keep talking happy talk,
Talk about things you’d like to do,
You gotta have a dream.
If you don’t have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?”
(Lyrics from the Broadway musical “South Pacific,” by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein)
“If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?”
In “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “First Things First,” Covey talks about mission statements and calls them a method of “connecting with your own unique purpose and the profound satisfaction that comes from fulfilling it.”
I first started a personal mission statement 15 years ago. A personal mission statement is a combination of setting out your life goals and stating and clarifying the fundamental principles that guide and inspire those goals. Writing a personal mission statement created an opportunity for me to connect to my core values.
I sincerely believe that you can’t hit a target you haven’t identified. “If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?” My personal mission statement is a way of setting out the targets for my life, of setting forth the dreams I wish to have come true.
While the beginning of a new year is a wonderful time to pause and reflect, I also use my birthday as another time to evaluate the past year and to ponder the future and what I wish to create in the coming year. I frequently go back to my original mission statement, the first one I wrote in 1993. While it was not my first set of goals, it was the most comprehensive statement of values and principles I’d ever made. It was (and is) highly aspirational in nature, reflecting very much the Nathan I wish to be, the Nathan I hope I am becoming. My mission statement has evolved over the years (even the Constitution gets amended from time to time), often reflecting and emphasizing specific issues and areas I’m working on. But a common thread of consistent search for growth, improvement, and service always remains.
Like many things in life, the value and impact of a personal mission statement is directly related to the amount of time, effort, and emotional commitment you put into it. No free lunch, not in the long run anyway. If the idea is of interest to you, I recommend Covey’s “First Things First” to you. It will take you deep into the subject and leave you inspired. I suggest you read it slowly, a chapter at a time, mulling over the thoughts and ideas, applying them, and allowing them to take root.
Below is the original version of my 1993 Personal Mission Statement: