The Difference Between Personal Mission And Vision Statements—And Why You Need Both

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry
Updated November 15, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Mission and vision statements are usually associated with businesses, corporations, and the global workforce. Companies typically craft these statements when they’re founded in order to guide the organization and its people toward their goals. They’re big-picture intentions for what they plan to achieve and how they want to do business. You may be surprised to find out, however, that coming up with a mission and vision statement can also be helpful for individuals. Knowing where you are headed, and how you want to get there, can ensure you have attainable goals and a clear purpose, and can even lead to a better everyday life. Let’s take a closer look at the difference between vision and mission statements, and discuss how these statements can help you reach your goals.

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Do You Need Help Developing A Vision Or Mission Statement?

Mission Vs. Vision

Mission and vision are often confused, but their purposes and content are actually quite different.

You can think of the vision statement as the overall, long-term objective, while the mission statement drives how that objective will be achieved. So for example, a company’s vision may be to become the best business in its industry, while that same company’s mission may be to achieve its vision while also leading the world’s transition to sustainable energy practices.

To put it another way, a vision statement focuses on what you want to do and a mission statement focuses on how you’ll do it—the “what/why” versus the “how.” That’s why the vision has to be outlined first: because you can’t plan a trip until you’ve chosen the destination.

When a business uses these statements, they often do so to establish company direction and create economic opportunity for their employees, customers, and stakeholders. We can illustrate this with another example: say you have an e-commerce business. Your vision may be to be known by customers and the world’s professionals as a leader in the e-commerce industry. Your mission would then be the way you want to get there, which would require understanding your company’s core values. Do they want to be a customer-centric company, or focus more on the needs of stakeholders? All of this could be defined by a proper mission statement. 

One of the best mission statement examples comes from the Walt Disney Company. Their mission is “to entertain, inform, and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds, and innovative technologies that make ours the world’s premier entertainment company.” Another example would be Google’s mission statement, which is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally available and useful.” Both of these statements provide a clear idea of each company’s essence and intentions, as well as how they plan to achieve their objectives. 

How Individuals Can Use Mission And Vision Statements

While vision and mission statements are most often used to describe what a company aims to do, individuals or families may also develop their statements to direct their actions and activities. They can help orient one’s life and guide one’s decisions to be in line with their longer-term goals and core values.

How To Write Your Own Vision Statement

Your vision statement can relate to what you want to achieve in general, or it can be specifically career-oriented or relate to your everyday life. Either way, it’s all about your goals and where you want to be in the future. While it’s generally important for goals to be realistic, one of the great things about the human spirit is the ability to dream big. You shouldn’t be afraid to shoot for the stars when working on your vision. Your vision will relate to what you want to achieve in the coming years or even decades, not something you want to get done by next week, so there is no need to rush.  

Vision statements are usually short—just a sentence or two. To form yours, ask yourself what you want most out of life or your career. Some questions that could lead your own vision statement examples might include:

  • What does success and economic opportunity look like to you? 
  • What do you want life to look like for you? 
  • If you have opinions you believe can have an impact on the world, how will you spread ideas to others?
  • Where are you, what have you achieved, and who is around you when you picture your dream future?

In other words, what’s important to you—so important that you’re ready to orient your entire future in that direction? It might be something specific, like getting a certain degree and moving to a certain place. Or, it might be more general, like prioritizing your health, time spent with family, adventure, social impact, etc. Only you know what’s important enough to make the cut.

As you write, it can be helpful to use personal, present-tense statements such as “I am” or “I have” because it’s easier to project yourself into your future success this way. Make sure to only talk about what you can and will do since you’re only in charge of your own actions and decisions. Craft a vision statement that excites and inspires you. If it doesn’t, it’s probably not the right one. One study found that well-planned vision statements that are characterized by “conciseness, clarity, abstractness, stability, future orientation, challenge, and desirability or ability to inspire” are associated with higher performance outcomes. So if you want to build a future you love and are proud of, a vision statement can help.

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How To Write Your Own Mission Statement

Once you’ve got your vision statement down, you can move on to your mission statement. Remember, a mission statement defines what your approach to reaching your vision-statement goal(s) will be. You can refer back to it over time to help guide you along the way. 

To craft your mission statement, ask yourself questions like: “How will I get there?” “What’s my approach?” “What will be my guiding principle as I make decisions?” Like your vision statement, your personal mission should only be a sentence or two. That means you’ll have to distill your approach to life down into just a few words. 

Let’s look at a quick example. A personal vision statement could be, “I want to devote my life to creating and distributing art that moves people and engenders more love and understanding in the world.” The corresponding mission statement for this vision could be, “I will let myself be led by curiosity and compassion with an aim to amplify positivity and do no harm”. 

Getting Help Envisioning Your Future

In order to write personal vision and mission statements, it helps to know yourself so you can be in touch with what you want out of life. If you’re having trouble identifying these things, it might help to get the guidance of a mental health professional. Their job is to provide a safe, nonjudgmental space where you can get to know yourself better and explore your hopes and dreams for your own life. A therapist can also help you gain self-confidence so you can pursue your goals more assuredly, or work through past trauma that may be holding you back.

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Do You Need Help Developing A Vision Or Mission Statement?

You can seek mental health support in person or online. If you prefer the virtual format you can get matched with a licensed therapist through an online therapy platform like BetterHelp. You’ll simply fill out a quick questionnaire about your needs and preferences, and you’ll have the opportunity to connect with a therapist who matches them. You can speak with them via whatever format provides you the utmost convenience, including by phone, video call, and/or online chat. Since research suggests that online therapy offers similar benefits to traditional, in-person sessions, many people find it to be a more comfortable option. Read on for reviews of BetterHelp counselors from clients in similar situations. 

Counselor Reviews

“In the short span of 9 months, Shonnie has become like one of my best friends. At first, I was skeptical of doing therapy since I’m very “psychologically healthy”. A few challenges in my personal life lead me to try therapy for a month. Now I consider it an important part of my growth as a businessman and leader within my community. Thank you, Shonnie, for being so helpful during the recent difficulties; I am very lucky to have found you!”

“Tyson did a really good job and I can finally say that I don’t need therapy right now since I am in much better shape. He was my counselor for about 5 or 6 months for depression, best therapist I’ve had. He helped me accomplish many of my career and personal goals, and I am much happier than I was now. When you align with your values with career, family, or anything else in your life, your life becomes much better. He also left me with a few techniques I can work on so I can continue to work on observing and overcoming my negative thoughts and behaviors. I would highly recommend. Thank you, Tyson!”

Takeaway

Companies use vision and mission statements to guide them toward their goals, and individuals can use them for the same purpose. You can use the tips in this article to get started on writing these statements for your own life—including seeking the support of a therapist if desired.

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