A search for writing a personal mission or the importance of having one, will bring up countless blog posts that explain why it can be beneficial to articulate a statement. The articles provide us with questions to ask ourselves that will help articulate a solid personal mission to apply in our every-day life. The authors tell us that a mission is critical in providing meaning to our lives, strengthening our personal brand, and creating clear goals and values. In reviewing many of the articles, I found that they tend to skip over the hard work that is necessary to arrive at a personal mission. Rather than adding on to the wealth of templates, I will provide an example of my personal journey of arriving at a mission statement and how I am living it.
Articulating my mission wasn’t a weekend activity but rather the culmination of years of self-reflection, education, and, in part, meditation. The journey began in my last year of my undergraduate degree. Having encountered professors and artists with strong personal convictions and goals, I knew that in order to be successful in my future path, having a guiding statement would be important to provide clarity for myself and others. While researching best practices for businesses as preparation to live as an artist-entrepreneur, I kept coming across the basic necessity to build a mission-driven company. Through analyzing successful superstars and artists I was reminded that they ran their activities like a business and brand, and so my journey began to articulate my mission. I have since learned that any person, no matter their industry or goals, benefits from articulating a personal mission. I began my journey with intense self-reflection and asking: What are my strengths and skills? My love for the arts and the skills and sensibilities I acquired through my education were clearly important starting points. The shift from growing up in a town in rural Germany to my undergraduate education in a multinational context clarified further: What values are important to me? This led me to reflect on my childhood, the cultural influences from growing up in former East Germany, and the values my parents instilled in me through my upbringing. These included thinking about one’s community, serving others, and boldly pursuing one’s dreams. The next question in my quest brought about a personal crisis that took months to resolve.
I had reached a point in which thinking about myself and reflecting on my skills and values led to no further results and I needed to ask: What does success mean for me? Inevitably, this resulted in looking to others and realizing how successful they were compared to myself. I fell into a hole and struggled with feeling like I am not doing enough and that as a person I might not be enough. Thankfully, I was surrounded by a supportive community and family that reminded me that I am positively affecting my immediate surroundings. If you find yourself struggling to see the positives, please reach out to your friends, family, a local organization, professional, or myself. You never have to be alone! At this point in my journey, I knew that sitting with myself had reached its limit and I needed to search for external input and stimulation. The Zuckerberg Institute’s #FirstClass and later their leadership retreat to Dharamsala were exactly the activities I needed to enter into conversations with other leaders, artists, and activists to realize that I was doing enough, and that everyone had a different path to articulating their mission. Witnessing the goals my peers and mentors were setting for themselves helped me realize that measuring myself against the goals of others was unproductive and it empowered me to find strength and confidence in saying proudly that my definition of success will be enough.
At the end of the leadership trip to Dharamsala, I articulated my first mission: “Open people to our shared humanity and stake in all sentient beings.” Driven by Buddhist ethics this was potentially a very big goal, but I knew that success for me meant to effect one person at a time and let the ripple effect take its course. This mission served me well for the past three years and I found new ways to stretch its meaning. In these last three years, my personal mission gave shape to my life and my activities. The statement informed the conversations I had with friends and the workshops and educational activities I pursued. During the pandemic – a period of turning inward and isolation – my job provided me with the necessary tools to bring people together in online events and gatherings around art. And as I reflected further on my life, the mission became an important barometer to measure whether my activities and lifestyle aligned with that fundamental purpose I articulated.
The decision to leave my full-time position and start my own company, .beyondcomms, meant that I needed to review my mission. I felt that the statement had grown stale and was too much in line with being tethered to an employer. This time, it was a much easier process to evaluate my mission and reflect on my past activities and future endeavors. As is the case with writing, beginning is often more difficult than editing. And editing I did, to arrive at my current mission:
“Build a more compassionate and courageous world through amplifying voices.”
This mission brings together my ambitions in business and the arts, as well as my personal values and convictions. Compassion means to be conscious of the suffering of others and striving to alleviate it. In order to alleviate suffering, empathy is necessary to imagine oneself in someone else’s position. Courage, as defined by researcher and storyteller Brené Brown, means to speak honestly about one’s good and bad experiences from one’s heart. This type of openness can create shared and enhance the possibilities of mutual understanding. I chose the verb ‘build’ consciously to remind myself that I am pursuing a process that takes a long time and might never be completed and in which one activity lays the foundation for another. Additionally, building successfully requires collaboration and working with others which, I believe, is crucial. Lastly, amplifying voices speaks to my training in vocal performance, being a singer, and a communications professional. This part of the mission entails both the amplifying of my voice, as well as that of others. Amplification doesn’t need to be big, and it doesn’t necessarily require a large vessel. Rather, amplification speaks to enhancing the (collective) voice of an individual, group, or company in a focused manner to reach their intended audience. This requires an understanding of details that can be expanded on, and a process of exploration informed by curiosity, courage, and vulnerability. As I move into the next chapter of my life, I know that this mission will not only guide my personal brand but also help me make crucial personal decisions. The statement is a foundation for my activities and will be a compass in navigating the challenges that lie ahead.
Have you articulated your personal mission yet? What is the statement you are currently using? If you are struggling with it, please feel free to reach out to me. I’d be happy to help you workshop different ideas. How are you living your mission? When have you encountered situations that challenged it? How did you overcome them? Let me know in the comments or through a DM.