I’ve been a leader in the banking industry for many years and throughout these years I have spoken with many people about why they work for us, what do they like to do, what are their natural strengths, where do they want to grow, and do they know what their personal beliefs and values are. After experiencing many shocked and puzzled faces, sadly I’m no longer surprised when they cannot answer these questions. Many people move through the motions of life, some following what has been the path of least resistance, others following what their parents designed for them. I’ve seen these individuals question why they are unhappy, bored, lethargic, and feel stuck in a job that doesn’t challenge them or worse yet, a job they hate.
Early on in my career I read Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s book “The 7 habits of Highly Effective People.” It has been one of the most influential books I’ve ever read. The book taught me to be proactive with my life (Habit 1), which is to develop a proactive stance with taking personal responsibility for my life. Yet it is Covey’s Habit 2, begin with the end in mind, that I’d like to review in this post. Habit 2 will help you to understand what your personal values and beliefs are and to establish a personal vision/mission statement, which is known today as a purpose statement.
You may be questioning the importance of creating your own personal purpose statement. As Dr. Covey states: “Writing or reviewing a mission statement (purpose statement) changes you because it forces you to think through your priorities deeply, carefully, and to align your behavior with your beliefs.” By aligning your actions and behaviors with your beliefs you can ensure the decisions you make in your relationships and your career are authentic to who you are as a person as well as where you’d like to continue to stretch and grow.
Habit 2 starts out with envisioning attending your own funeral. What would your spouse, children, family, friends, co-workers, and the community say about you? What key high lights regarding your contributions and achievements would you like them to speak about? What impact did your life have on theirs? It was a humbling experience to go through and one I highly recommend. Habit 2 has many lessons; starting with the macabre steps will help to get you motivated to make some deep and meaningful changes in your life.
Before you can develop a purpose statement, you’ll need to review your personal values. This can be done by choosing words from a list of values that define who you are and what you stand for. As you review the list, circle all of the values that resonate with you. After you’ve reviewed the list write the values you’ve circled on a separate document. Then limit the values list down to your top ten, then top five, now top three. Finally, choose the number one value that you absolutely cannot live your life without. Spend no more than 10 – 15 minutes on the review of the values list – do not over think! You will use this list to help you develop your purpose statement.
As Covey states a purpose statement consists of three parts:
- What do I want to do?
- Who do I want to help?
- What is the result or value I will create?
To get the creative juices flowing, list out action words that you connect with. For example: educate, empower, encourage, improve, guide, inspire, motivate, nurture, promote, travel, spread, share, teach, write, etc…. Take this list along with your number one personal value and write a short sentence that can be easily memorized. This step will take more time and can feel awkward and uncomfortable at first. You may want to search for purpose statement ideas to help get you moving in the right direction but use caution. This is your statement, not someone else’s! As an example, here’s my purpose statement:
To inspire and empower people to live more fulfilled lives.
My top five values are:
Integrity, compassion, service, communication, and personal mastery.
Writing your purpose statement is actually the easy part. The hard part is now daily ensuring you are taking the steps to live your purpose statement. Put your statement and top five values where you can read them often. This practice will ensure that you use these words and statement as a filter with the decisions and actions you make. The statement can also keep you energized and motivated to living the life you want.
Purpose statements will change overtime. Review your statement yearly and make any modifications to it that will enhance it to bring even more meaning.
To get ideas from others who have already developed their own purpose statement, I invite them to share what their top five values and purpose statement is by posting a comment to this post.