Beginning With the End in Mind – What’s Your “Big Picture”?

According to Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits for Highly Effective People, habit two tells us to “Begin with the end in mind”. Part of this is developing a personal mission statement that speaks to your character – the values, ideals, and morals that inform your life decisions. A well-developed personal mission statement can serve as a foundation for making major, life-changing decisions, as well as inform the daily decisions with which we are constantly confronted.

While you may have long-term goals, and perhaps even the short-term action items to track your progress toward them, sometimes it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture. As your personal mission evolves, it is often important to revisit these goals to ensure the two are still in sync.

Setting goals can be challenging, but articulating a clear vision for your life can be incredibly difficult – and alright, sometimes it feels a little hokey. Covey definitely isn’t kidding when he says that it doesn’t happen over night. There are a few strategies that have personally helped me develop a mission statement that reflects who I want to be:

1. Imagine it’s your 80th birthday, and you’re telling your grandkids about your life. Do your actions reflect the values you want them to embrace?

2. If you had unlimited time and resources, and knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do?

3. Start a collection of notes, quotes, and ideas you may want to use as resource material in writing your personal mission statement.

In deference to this third suggestion, I have included a couple of my favorite personal mission statements I have stumbled upon – long or short, concrete or abstract, they serve as a framework for evaluating everything from those life-changing decisions, to those daily choices we make without pause.

Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day:

I shall not fear anyone on Earth.

I shall fear only God.

I shall not bear ill will toward anyone.

I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.

I shall conquer untruth by truth.

And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.


I want to be the kind of person my dog already thinks I am.


For more mentoring resources, check out these blogs and discussions: “GovLoop Mentors” Posts

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Hannah Ornell

This may help people in finding their life mission:

In October of 2011, Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times David Brooks posted an invitation for readers over 70 to send him “Life Reports.” He asked for brief reflections on their lives, the choices they had made, the regrets they carry with them and advice for future generations. The responses are available online here. They are insightful and moving, and I would strongly encourage you to go through a few and get a glimpse of what these respondents felt they wanted to share with the world.

Tracey Harriot

Wow, Hannah – thanks for posting that link. I just took a minute to read through a few stories and found them fascinating! I will be sure to go back when I have more time to read them all.

Eric Benson

Thanks for posting this, Lindsey! I always love to see people moving toward their Purpose. Much of my work is in the service of those in the process of doing this, and I definitely believe that discovering, embracing, and living one’s Purpose is a process. Your point number three above reminded me that when discovering my Purpose, I found that it was sprinkled throughout my life, in tiny ways, here and there, there was a pattern or theme that when explore more deeply led me to my life’s work. May each of you enjoy the journey of self-discovery, find your Purpose, and be the Happy-Being you were always meant to be 🙂