Defining Your Mission Statement: "The Why"

In her popular Ted Talk, Emily Esfahani Smith shared what she found to be the four building blocks of a meaningful life: purpose, belonging, storytelling, and transcendence. Step one is to unearth and consciously discover your purpose. You are not necessarily creating your purpose as much as you are remembering your true nature.


Tips for writing your own mission statement


1. Think about what you love.


Your passions, academic interests, and hobbies define the what, which will get you thinking about your motivations, the reasons why you do what you do.


  • What are your favorite subjects? Which sub-topics fascinate you?

  • What was your favorite subject as a child? What were your favorite things to do in the past? How does that compare with now?

  • What activities make you lose track of time? What sends you into a flow state?

  • What are you naturally good at? If you had to teach a class, what would you teach?

  • What were some challenges and hardships you have overcome or are currently trying to surmount? How does that play into your identity, the story you tell?

  • What causes do you believe strongly in, deeply align and connect with?


What do I love, and why?


For this exercise, I listed my passions as follows: nature, travel, writing, biomedicine, neuroscience, psychology, cosmology, philosophy, education, personal development, and environmental sustainability. I am at varying levels of knowledge in these topics, but they all are important to me. Subtopics I am fascinated by include consciousness, peak experiences, creativity, evolution, epigenetics, development, and plasticity–you’ll notice they all align with my major, cell biology and neuroscience, in some capacity.

For me, studying the brain is interesting on both a personal and academic level. It enables me to learn about the structure of a three pound squishy lump of 85 billion neurons that determine how we perceive the world and thus define our reality. It leads me to marvel at what we’re capable of. Seemingly, there are limitless discoveries to be made, and all of them can be credited to some combination of synapses,  of which there are around a quadrillion possible combinations. An elusive reality of waves, particles, and chemicals is translated by this amazing organ into music, sunsets, and sushi.

It is this innate understanding of the connectedness of everything and the desire for constant learning that defines my purpose and is the reason why I do what I do.


2. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do I love what I love?

  • What values do I stand for?

  • What makes my life really worth living?

  • How would I want people to describe me?

  • Who or what matters most?

  • How do I define success in my life?

  • What impact do I want to have on others?

  • What do I want to be known or remembered for? What will my legacy be?

  • What does my perfect week look like? If money were no object, what would you spend your days doing?


3. Figure out what's holding you back from living your purpose.


Figure out what you want, and then why you want it, and the how naturally falls into place. If you have a big enough purpose, or why, you will figure out a way to do it.


What does my perfect week look like?


If money were no object, I would spend my days doing:

  • Learning, researching, writing, and presenting

  • Personal and business development

  • Solving problems through deep thought and root cause analysis

  • Making space to be creative

  • Traveling and exploring nature

  • Conversations about neuroscience, health, psychology, universe, philosophy, sociology

  • Mentor/teach: make new connections and inspire positive change


What's my purpose?

  • Cultivate awareness for healing & connection

  • Learn, explore, and expand my perspective

  • Love

  • Create

  • Seek truth

  • Teach the art of science

  • Promote healing, protection, and a greener Earth

  • Integrate science and intuition to co-create a more beautiful and peaceful world


Key Takeaways


Your mission statement is subject to change as you have new experiences that shift your paradigm on life. Writing even a draft of a mission statement puts you on a path towards actualizing your dreams by clarifying and articulating exactly what kind of life you want to live, and gets you thinking about how to work towards it today. Seek to bridge the gap between who you are today and where you want to be, and I promise you will be amazed.


Last updated January 8th, 2020

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