Anyone who’s worked for an organization is undoubtedly familiar with the concept of a “mission statement.” It is typically a 1-2 sentence declaration of the organization’s principles and values. This statement conveys what the organization deems most important in how it operates and conducts business.
So, what is a personal mission statement if not the same idea that’s been transposed to the individual level?
Covey likens the personal mission statement to having your own “constitution” – a core set of principles and beliefs that taken together are meant to inform and guide your every decision and action.
It sounds like a fairly simple idea. If you know what you deem important, you should be able to always act in a way that aligns with those beliefs.
The reality, however, can be a bit more complicated. Each of us, argues Covey, is influenced by a variety of factors, the most fundamental of which are scripts passed down from others. When we are not firmly rooted in a center based on a set of key principles, we run the risk of always changing in response to circumstances or other people's whims.
By design or by default? – is the question that Covey wants you to ponder. Are you a function of your own proactive creation, or do you reactively live a life that’s been scripted by other people – be it your family, friends, colleagues, or others.
Thinking of this dilemma, an old Russian anecdote comes to mind.
A Lion is walking through the forest with a notebook in his paws. “Hey you, fox, come here”, says Lion. “That's good, tomorrow breakfast will be fox” (writes it down). “Tomorrow at dawn you come to my lair, I'll eat you for breakfast. Any questions? No questions? Now go. Hey you, wolf, come here. That's good, tomorrow lunch will be wolf (writes it down). Tomorrow at noon you'll come to my lair, I'll eat you for lunch. Any questions? No questions? Now go. Hey you, hare, come here. That's good, tomorrow dinner will be hare (writes it down). Tomorrow at dusk you'll come to my lair, I'll eat you for dinner. Any questions?” “And what if I do not come?” replies Hare. “Well, let's strike the hare out.”
By design or default?
Are you the creator of your own universe or do you let others write your script? Covey argues that you can start to design your own script or “re-script” the one that was handed to you, when you combine your unique human abilities -- imagination, conscience and self-awareness.
In Covey’s words, “Through imagination, we can visualize the uncreated worlds of potential that lie within us. Through conscience, we can come in contact with universal laws or principles with our own singular talents and avenues of contribution, and with the personal guidelines within which we can most effectively develop them. Combined with self-awareness, these two endowments empower us to write our own script.”
Those three are the cornerstones for developing your own personal mission statement.
Are you ready to write yours today?