Laszlo Bock, Head of People Operations at Google, explores the power and benefits of a Google’s mission statement in chapter two of his best-selling book, “Work Rules: Insights From Google That Will Transform How You Live And Leads”.
Google’s mission statement is simple and straightforward: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
How does this simple declaration inspire employees to find the deeper meaning in their work and create more value?
When your mission matters, it reframes how you think, prioritize and execute. Your work becomes a daily calling.
Here’s the thing. You don’t have to work at Google or even a Fortune 500 company to harness the benefits of a great mission statement.
You can make your own.
Crafting your own personal mission statement can put the full force of intrinsic motivation behind your goals.
We’ve all seen corporate mission, purpose, values and vision statements frankensteined together by well-meaning committees. Done poorly, they’re unintentionally hilarious blobs of corporate speak.
Bad mission statements try to say everything and be everything to everyone.
Instead, they say nothing at all to an audience of zero.
Conversely, Google’s mission provides a clear, concise touchstone for every employee.
A good personal mission statement does the same thing. It’s a benchmark you can point to each day to filter what truly matters.
“Does [fill-in-your-own-blank] honor your mission?” is an excellent way to rapidly test key decisions. If the answer is “no”, you’ve just saved a lot of wasted time.
A personal mission statement gives you long term focus and helps prevent you from spending your life on things that don’t matter.
Beyond long term focus, it also expands your personal and professional freedom.
Consider any athlete preparing for this summer’s Olympics in Rio. Each high-performance competitor is committed to a specific daily workout regimen.
What if a coach or trainer presents a new workout wrinkle or nutritional approach that may give the athlete an edge?
The smart competitor has freedom to tinker, adjust and improve his or her training protocol.
Because they have a personal mission statement guiding their choices, they can edit their routine for maximum results. Similarly, if a new approach honors your mission, you’re free to try it out and add it to your arsenal or leave it behind.
Thus, a personal mission statement gives you the freedom to do this:
Find out what works; do more of it. Pinpoint what doesn’t work; do less of it.
Over time, this simple construct will bless you with extreme clarity.
Finally, a personal mission statement helps you define success. No one else gets to define it for you. It’s yours alone to determine.
Bock describes Google’s mission as letting it “move forward by steering with a compass rather than a speedometer.”
That’s a nice way to put it.
Compass > Speedometer.
Face it. Graveyards are full of people who spent their whole life chasing unimportant stuff for all the wrong reasons. Maybe you’re on that road right now. Then again, maybe you’re not. (Hope not!)
Part of the fun of executive coaching is helping people pause from the tyranny of distraction and assess what they truly want to achieve. Uncovering these “aha” moments is incredibly edifying and energizing—not just for the client, but for myself as well.
So, spend a few quiet minutes alone to unpack how you’re investing your time and talent. Reflect on where you are and where you want to go.
Create your own personal mission statement. Commit to it in writing.
Then, ask yourself:
- Are you currently serving your mission right now in your work and life?
- If not, why?
- What changes can you make today to correct this?
- How will you measure whether you’re fulfilling your mission?
- Who will keep you accountable?
Personal Mission Statement Summary
A great personal mission statement gives your work meaning. There’s a moral element to it, not a profit element.
A great personal mission statement taps into the power of intrinsic motivation.
A great personal mission statement helps you act like a founder since every day you—and you alone— decide whether to honor it.
To help you kick-start your own personal mission statement:
For more on the power of intrinsic motivation:
For an excellent examination on living a meaningful life: