Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mission, Vision & Values: A Stronger Foundation for Your Personal Strategic Plan

Choosing personal strategic planning life goalsMy core planning process is designed for readers who want a quick, practical approach to personal strategic planning; that process starts with your dreams. My thesis was that in 2 - 4 hours you could draft a plan that could change your life. This post is for readers who want to build an even stronger foundation for their plans, and for those developing family strategic plans.

Building a Stronger Foundation for Your Personal/Family Strategic Plan

In the core personal strategic planning (PSP) series of posts, I suggested that your Vision is the ultimate answer to "Why?" For example, you plan to begin tracking your expenditures (strategy). Why? So that you can save at least 10% of your salary (goal). Why? So that you can realize your dream/vision of retiring with at least $1,000,000!

Strategic plans for organizations typically add still another level by also including mission and values statements. Developing mission and values statements, in addition to your vision, can provide
an even stronger foundation for your plan as well.

Mission Statement

The mission statement answers the question "why do you exist?" What is your purpose in life? As with goals & strategies, you can approach the answer to these questions top-down and bottom-up; and, as before, I suggest you do both. The top-down approach is to answer the questions directly. The bottom-up approach is to review your dreams and ask "Why?" For example, Why do you want to retire with at least $1,000,000? Why do you want to be a group project manager? Why are those things important to you?

Personal missions often include some form of "to achieve happiness/ fulfillment/ peace," or "to reach my full potential," or "to serve God" -- though usually phrased more personally and elaborately. Whatever yours is, it is your most fundamental answer to "Why?"

Mission Statements Help Prioritize and Resolve Conflicts

Having a mission statement helps you to resolve conflicts when dreams lead you to conflicting conclusions or actions -- such as when your career goals and family goals are in conflict. Similarly, your mission statement can help you prioritize when dreams are competing for time and effort. Another typical role of the mission statement, especially for groups, is to define the scope of operations -- what do we do? What is included within our mission, and what is not?

If answering the "why do we exist" question adds clarity and depth to your thinking about your personal strategic plan, by all means include a mission statement. If not, you can omit it from your initial plan; I encourage you to include one in subsequent plans. In my opinion, the more important the "spiritual" (but not necessarily religious) aspects of your life are, the more useful you will find it to include a mission statement in your initial plan.


The Vision statement answers the question "Who do you want to be?" These are the "dreams" and aspirations discussed in more detail in Discovering Your Vision. In the context of the current post, I think of the mission as the enduring, long-term, all-encompassing, ultimate objective. Your dreams represent snapshots of important aspects of your life 5-10 years along the way, assuming you are on track to accomplishing your mission.


Values, "what you believe," can also help you choose between alternative goals and strategies, sometimes by providing constraints or boundaries. That is, Values are sometimes the answer to "why not?" For example, even if your dream is to get into law school, you may decide that cheating on exams is not an acceptable way to get there.

Values can be a useful addition to your plan, especially if the plan is for more than one person. Different values can easily lead to different goal/strategy choices unless the group comes to some common agreement regarding important values. If you are developing a strategic plan just for yourself, it is less critical that you make your values explicit. However, if you are developing a strategic plan for your family, you might, for example, find it helpful to make it clear to all involved if cheating and lying are not acceptable ways to achieve even important goals.

A Useful Device: The Power of Adjectives

One way to help yourself is to develop a list of adjectives and short phrases that describe the person you intend to be. Suppose that for your 100th birthday, someone was writing a book about you, or your local newspaper was doing an in-depth article celebrating your life. When your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. are interviewed, what would you like for them to say about you? That you are generous? successful? tough? fair? a good husband & father? a great golfer? Which items on your list are most important to you?

This list can be a powerful tool for writing both your mission and your values statements. In fact, you could argue that your mission ("should you choose to accept it") is to live a life that makes you deserving of all those nice adjectives....

Note: after completing your mission, vision & values, continue with the next step -- Identifying SWOTS.


Related Materials:

Regrets of the Dying, a blog post by Bronnie Ware. Five poignant lessons she learned during her years of work in palliative care that transformed her life. Insight into the things that matter most in life.

Posts In The Core Personal Strategic Planning Series:

A Personal Strategic Plan Example: An overview of the planning process.
Discovering Your Vision -- the FIRST STEP in the planning process.
Identifying SWOTS (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats): the central core of the process.
Creating Your Personal Strategic Plan: using SWOTs to develop your goals & strategies and write your plan.

Additional Personal Strategic Planning Materials

Creating a Mini-Personal Strategic Plan: taking about 1/2 hour to create a plan for just one important area of your life.
Do You Need a Personal 5-Year Strategic Plan? Situations where strategic plans are especially valuable.
For a nice schematic that illustrates the relationship between all of my personal strategic planning posts, see Personal Strategic Planning Schematic

Copyright © 2011. Last modified 12/12/2012

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