“Someone who knows his desires and works with purpose to achieve them is a person whose feelings, thoughts, and actions are congruent with one another, and is therefore a person who has achieved inner harmony.” —Mihaly Csikszenthmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

  • Developing a personal mission statement is a discovery and learning process, not a problem to be solved. It takes a lot of time and thoughtful reflection to sort out what’s most important to us. Our purpose is intertwined with our vision and values. Defining it is part of that same process.

    Here are some personal questions to ask or ways to approach developing our personal purpose:


  • Who are the key people in all aspects (work, family, community, church, friends, etc.) of my life? If each one were giving a eulogy at my funeral about how I had affected their lives, what would I want them to say?
  • What does my “dream list” reveal about my inner desires and purpose? Is there some “music” in me that might be buried with me never to be played?
  • If I had only two more years to live, what are the most important things I would make sure I did?
  • What sort of work or activities really excites and energizes me? When do I feel the most vibrant and alive?
  • What special talents or strengths do I have?
  • What insight does my “blessings and brag list” offer to these questions?


  • Once we have defined our personal purpose, affirmations are a powerful way to “magnetize” it and focus on fulfilling our reason for being. I have also used inspiring quotations to illustrate and energize my affirmations.
  • How well is our personal purpose aligned with our team or organization’s? If it’s not close, we should look for ways to live out our purpose within our current work. We need to search within our own organization or team before going out and looking elsewhere. We might start by having a mission alignment discussion with our manager. We could begin a list of all the positive, energizing points about our work. Review it frequently. We might also keep a running list of all the mission alignment opportunities that exist in our job, team, or organization. It’s surprising at how many good things we start to notice when we look for them.
  • We can work with our family members to write a statement of family values and mission. This could involve having everyone describe their picture of the ideal family future. This can be used to develop common themes and a composite vision of what our family life together could be.
  • It’s easy to confuse goal setting with picturing our preferred future, clarifying our principles, and identifying our purpose. Our Focus and Context (vision, values, and purpose) is the road we’ve chosen, goals are the mileposts along the way. Setting and reaching stretch goals is a critical part of fulfilling our purpose and moving toward our vision. Goals are means not ends. Goals have a beginning and completion. Our Context and Focus is an unending, continuous process.
  • We need to ensure our purpose is ours, not a role others want us to play.
  • Purpose statements should not be written to inspire or impress anyone else. It’s designed only to inspire and impress us, personally. We can avoid that problem by not showing it to anyone else.
  • We need to keep working at clarifying and articulating our vision, values, and reason for being. This is an ongoing, continuous process. Just like milking the cows on the farm I was raised on — it never stays done.
  • Cultivate the habit of setting aside some quiet, contemplative time for inner reflection, meditation, and spiritual renewal. This is time to do our vision, values, and mission clarification work. It’s a time to discover and listen to your inner music.

Over the years, I’ve found that investing about 30 – 45 minutes per day (some days an early morning start or busy schedule prevents it) has paid huge dividends in energy and focus. It’s a tiny price to pay to ensure that the other 16 hours of your day don’t compound into a life of regrets. As the 19th century American author and poet, John Greenleaf Whittier, put it so well, “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’