2019 was a busy year for many of us. And as the year concludes, it calls for a time where we can pause and reflect on what we have learned and been taught, on our greatest joys and highest points, as well as on our deepest sorrows and lowest points of our year.

One of the things that I’ve been challenged to meditate on is where I am going in life. Have I been able to achieve the resolutions that I’ve set for myself this year? Have I used the time this year to the best of my ability? Or have I squandered much of my time doing things of little to no significance? Am I going in the right direction?

It’s so easy to continue being busy with our fully-booked schedules without ever contemplating whether the things we are being busy with actually bring results that matter. Being busy doesn’t always mean we are being productive. Are we actually accomplishing anything by completing our to-do lists? This, too, is one thing we should really ponder hard as we head into 2020, and one of the most effective instruments to focus on doing the right things is by creating your own personal mission statement!

1. Why write up a personal mission statement?

Mission statements are written up for the sole purpose of defining what your identity and purpose is, and to cast direction for where you want to go in the future. It is a spectacular tool to use for identifying what the most important things you should be doing are, and to also help you to say ‘no’ to things that are of secondary importance. Without a clearly defined mission, you will feel aimless and directionless, and you will squander all of your God-given time doing things that bring no lasting impact in the end.

However, it might feel like a bizarre idea for many of us to write up your own mission statement at first. Maybe because the only individuals we think would ever be bothered to use such a tool are aspiring senior managers working in multi-million dollar companies.

But that cannot be further from the truth. This management tool isn’t designed just for businesses; it is fundamentally designed for people. Therefore, you can (and should) also write up a mission statement for yourself, so that you can begin to make every step you take next year count!

2. How to write up a personal mission statement

You might find a plethora of ways on the Internet to draft your own personal mission statement, but I found Perman’s format to be most helpful. He lays out three main components for a good mission statement [1]:

a. Core purpose
b. Core principles
c. Core beliefs

We will briefly go through each of these three components.

A. Core Purpose

The core purpose section of your mission statement defines your reason for existence. It answers the big philosophical questions like: “Who am I?” and “What is my reason for living?” This digs at the purpose for every single thing that you do in your life. 

Many people mess up their core purpose and have set themselves up for early failure. Matt Perman in his book ‘What’s Best Next’ believes that most mission statements fail “because people are looking to themselves to figure out their purpose.” [2]
This is why it is important to remember that when you are drafting your personal statement, God has already revealed to you what your identity and purpose is by His Word.

We cannot know life’s meaning and purpose when we start with ourselves. The Psalmist points us instead to the real starting point: 

Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
   we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” (Ps. 100:3)

Life’s meaning and purpose starts with knowing who God is. He is our Creator and we must look up to Him to know our true identity and purpose. And we see that He has made us for Himself, in order that we give praise to His wonderful name, joyfully serve Him with gladness, and enjoy His presence in song (see Ps. 100:1-2). 

My favourite articulation of humanity’s ultimate purpose in life is encapsulated in Piper’s slight modification of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

To glorify God by enjoying Him forever.

Jesus states our purpose even more specifically when he exhorts us to “let [our] light shine before others, so that they may see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). We are called to live in such a way that we make God’s greatness and goodness known through our self-sacrificial service to other people.

There are many different and unique ways to phrase your purpose, so long as the essence of your core purpose remains intact in your mission statement. You might decide to cite more biblical passages or catechisms to supplement this section of your mission statement. Some biblical references you could add to your core purpose statement are Ps. 100:1-3; Matt. 5:16; Rom. 14:7-8; Eph. 2:10; 1 Cor. 10:31.

B. Core Principles

This is the section where you list out guiding principles that you will live by. It answers the question of: “In what particular ways should I live my life that reflects my identity and purpose?”

Another way to put it is that if our core purpose is to “let [our] light shine before others, so that they may see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven,” our core principles define “how we should let our light shine before others…”

If God calls me to glorify Him, how should I go about living my life in a way that reflects that calling? What sort of ways can I fulfill God’s command to serve others?

You will have greater flexibility in this section to define your core values, based on the roles and responsibilities you have to God, your immediate family and friends, your church and your vocation. Whatever these core principles are, they must be inextricably connected to your core purpose and they should be derived from Scripture.

When listing out your principles, you can put each of them under a certain category. Jonathan Edwards is a good example of this when he wrote his famous list of 70 specific principles for living. This is an exceptional model for those who are looking for more guidance in drafting out this section (though many would also find his long list of resolutions to be intimidating to uphold as well!) and you can download his resolutions via the link below:

Jonathan Edward’s Resolutions

I have personally listed only 7 simple principles that I want to always work on in my life and you can have a look at my updated personal mission statement to give you a bit of an idea down below: 

John’s Personal Mission Statement for 2020

C. Core Beliefs

This section forms the foundation for which our mission stands upon. Our identity and purpose and our ultimate destination should be informed by these core beliefs. 

The essence of our core beliefs should take its form in the gospel. The gospel teaches us that through faith alone by grace alone, God has redeemed us from our slavery to sin, upon the basis of Christ’s death and resurrection. Our core beliefs about the redemptive work of Christ renews our sense of identity and purpose and it substantiates the reason we abide by our core principles. To know the assurance that salvation is secured for us and that we will be with Jesus in the end, gives us the confidence we need to move forward through any adversity that life may bring to us.

In this section, I also found it helpful to extrapolate various implications of the gospel that apply to my specific contexts and that speak personally to me as I strive to live my life in a biblically productive manner to God. Questions to ask yourself might include:

– What are the deepest idols in my heart?

– How does the gospel bear on my heart in particular?

Whenever we look to something more than we look to Christ for our ultimate sense of joy, fulfilment, purpose and meaning, we are steering away from our true identity and we are forgetting what our true purpose is. Unaddressed idols in the heart are deterrents to true biblical productivity, and the gospel offers a solution that brings renewal to our hearts and minds, so that we would remember our mission and steer back on track in the right direction. This requires (1) an honest self-assessment of your own heart and (2) ample time reflecting on the Scriptures to understand how the application of the gospel to our heart’s idols will bring lasting behaviour change.

For an example of this, refer to my personal mission statement above.

3. Tips to get the best use out of your personal mission statement

One of the biggest mistakes people make when creating their mission statements is that once they have completed drafting it, they never look at it and review it again. 

This generally happens for two different reasons:

a. There is no existing routine in the person’s schedule, where the mission statement is regularly reviewed

b. The mission statement is written and set-up in a fashion that makes it difficult to review for various reasons (whether it is due to the gigantic size of the statement or its inaccessibility)

The solution to the first problem is simple: set up a routine so that you can review your personal statement regularly. To remedy the second problem, you can condense your statement to a more readable version (it can be quite tedious to review a 10-page document every time). If inaccessibility to the mission statement is more of an issue, type it up in a document or use a program where you are able to access it on your phone or computer.

This is the way to get the best use out of your personal mission statement! Incorporating these tools into your routine will help you to remember the direction that God has set for you and what His agenda is for you in the world. 


So then, what are we waiting for? What better way to prepare for the next year well by reestablishing our commitment to God and His purposes in a written creed and get on with the business in doing things that are of primary importance! Francis Chan puts it well when he says that, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” Let’s make our lives count for next year!

References

[1] – Matt Perman, What’s Best Next, pg 145
[2] – Ibid, pg 139

Further Reading

What’s Best Next – Matt Perman

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