Thursday, March 4, 2010

Do You Have a Mission Statement?

Many years ago, I worked in public relations for the JCPenney Company. James Cash Penney, the founder of the now giant retailer, based his business philosophy on one simple notion: "do unto others as you would have others do unto you" --The Golden Rule. In fact, his first store was called The Golden Rule.

This philosophy permeated every aspect of how Mr. Penney ran his business. He asked for a "fair remuneration and not all the profits the traffic will bear." He was the first to call employees "associates", and he treated them like family. During the stock market crash in the 1920's, he lost his personal fortune and took a loan against his life insurance in order to pay the associates' salaries.

When I arrived at JCPenney in 1984, it was the fourth largest retailer in the nation with stores in every state. The retail business was pretty cutthroat, but The Golden Rule remained the company philosophy almost ninety years after the store was founded.

One of my favorite quotes from Mr. Penney is this: "Give me a stock clerk with a goal, and I'll give you a man who will make history. Give me a man with no goals, and I'll give you a stock clerk." Mr. Penney understood the value of having a mission, a goal around which everything in your life centers.

So are you are stock clerk with a goal or just a stock clerk? Are you a man or a woman with a mission? It's just my humble opinion, but I think it's as vital for individuals to have a mission and a vision for themselves as it is for any business. Writing a mission statement for yourself forces clarity and helps you define purpose. Putting it on paper makes it real. A mission statement is like your own personal constitution. It is the basis for making major life-directing decisions as well as making daily choices that impact us and those around us.

So here are my thoughts on writing a personal mission statement:

1. Think of a person in history or in your life whom you admire. What are the qualities of that person that you would like to emulate. List those qualities.

2. Define the type of person you want to become, not just what you want to have or do.

3. Define your life roles (career, family, community, etc.), and write down how you would like to be described in each of those roles.

4. Write down a goal or purpose for the four fundamental elements of who you are: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

5. List the talents and skills you possess that are most important to you.

6. Using the information you outlined above, begin crafting your mission statement. Keep it simple, clear and brief -- no more than 3-5 sentences long.

7. Create a mission statement that will guide you in your day to day actions and decisions, as well as your long term goals.

8. Keep your words positive and affirmative. Focus on what you want rather than what you don't want.

9. Review the mission statement regularly and revise and update it as you continue to ponder your values and goals. It may take you weeks to refine your final statement.

10. Keep your mission statement within view so that you can read it regularly. Use it as your personal framework for your life. Every time you make an important decision, let your mission statement be your guide.


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