Do you have a vision for how you’d like to make an impact on your school, community, or—on a grander scale—your country or the world? Have you ever said something along the lines of “My mission in life is to teach others” or “I’ve made it my mission to help students understand, and perhaps even come to love, the topic I teach”?

Just as you may have a personal mission in life, as well as a vision for how you’d like to make an impact on the world around you, many organizations also outline their vision and mission in a manner that speaks to their values and purpose. If you would like to hone your own mission statement tailored to the work you do, or you’re hoping to encourage students to develop a vision and mission that will set them on a course for personal and professional success and fulfillment, then you might gain some insights by looking at this practice.

In their book ManagementRanjay Gulati, Anthony J. May, and Nitin Nohria discuss how businesses and other organizations come to establish their vision and mission statement. The authors describe an organization’s vision as “a concept or picture of what a firm wants to achieve and how it plans to accomplish that” (93). By writing down your vision, you gain clarity around your aspirations. If you discuss your vision with others, they can see the direction in which you hope to move, and they may even be motivated to support or join you in your efforts.

Meanwhile, your mission describes who you are and what you do, and a mission statement encapsulates that mission in a format that you can share with other people and refer to regularly. Simply put, a mission statement is “A statement that defines a firm’s reason for existence” (Gulati et al., 93). In businesses and other organizations, the mission statement helps managers and other employees make decisions that align with its core values, beliefs, strengths, and competencies. In a similar manner, a personal mission statement can also help you decide what activities, projects, and efforts warrant more of your time, energy, money, and attention.

Once you’ve decided to write your personal mission statement, you’ll want to know how to do so with maximum effectiveness. Consider some of the points that Gulati, May, and Nohria note are effective practices for business’ mission statements, adapted in a manner that you and your students can use when writing a personal statement:

  • Invest time in writing your mission statement. Shape it until you’re satisfied that it communicates your sense of purpose clearly, honestly, and cogently.
  • State your mission in specific and concrete terms. If your statement is too vague, it will not help you stay focused on the activities that matter the most to you.
  • Use words and phrases that will inspire and motivate you. If you’re motivated by what you’ve written, you’re much more likely to stay committed to it. (Gulati et al, 93-94)

Once you’ve written your mission statement, be sure to use it! Keep it in a place that’s easy to reference so that you can review it on a regular basis.

Reference: Gulati, Ranjay, Mayo, Anthony J., and Nohria, Nitin. 2014. Management. Mason, OH: South-Western, Cengage Learning.


Have you written a personal mission statement? Do you encourage your students to do so? Share your experiences and ideas in the comments below.