Congratulations! You’ve discovered you’re an entrepreneur on a mission. But when someone asks you to explain what your mission is, it no longer seems as clear as it did when the light bulb first went on in your head. One’s mission can be a slippery thing, morphing from one shape to another depending on the circumstance, and often seeming to defy words.

But if you can’t define your mission clearly, you stand the risk of others defining it for you. Ideally, your entrepreneurial mission should help you determine what you want to accomplish. So when your mission remains foggy, your actions aren’t always on target.

A clear mission helps you make decisions about what you do and don’t want to do much more quickly. It acts like a lighthouse beacon, guiding you to find the navigable channel and avoid the rocks. This leads to higher productivity, better satisfaction, less frustration, and ultimately, making more of an impact.

A powerful entrepreneurial mission typically has three components:

  1. Who you want to serve.
  2. What you want for them as a result.
  3. The wider impact or higher purpose of your actions.

Here are examples of clear missions from some of my coaching clients:

  • Help people with life-threatening illnesses get the medical care they deserve, transforming a broken health care system into one that works.
  • Guide teenagers to develop their leadership skills so they can build stronger communities.
  • Advise corporate executives on how to make their companies more socially responsible, increasing corporate social contribution worldwide.

And here are some examples, also from my coaching clients, of entrepreneurial missions that needed improvement:

  • Advise small communities on how to keep their downtowns vital. (Who exactly is being served here? If you’re not sure, you may not know who will hire you.)
  • Train high-school students and teachers about sexual harrassment. (What do you want for them as a result? When you can’t express this, it’s hard to sell it to anyone.)
  • Sell energy conservation devices to conscious consumers online. (What’s your purpose for doing this? Do you just want to make passive income or are you trying to make a social impact? When you aren’t clear on this, it’s hard to make strategic decisions or attract partners and supporters.)

When your mission is clearly defined, it shines its light on everything you do. It allows you to set worthwhile goals, design effective plans, evaluate new opportunities, and determine what’s the most important thing to accomplish today.

Here are some coaching questions to ask yourself to get a clearer picture of your mission:

  • Who do you truly want to serve? Whose goals and problems do you care about? Who do you enjoy reading about, hearing from, or spending time with? When you feel your blood boiling, whose situation has made you angry? Who do you feel deeply connected to, even when you don’t know them?
  • What result do you want to produce for those people? What do they need, want, and value? What unique contribution can you make to their situation? How can your gifts best be put to work?
  • What is the wider impact or higher purpose of this work? Why do you want to do it? Why does it need to be done? How will the world be a better place if more of this work is in it? What legacy do you want to create for your life?

I hope you’ve found these suggestions valuable. Watch for Part #2 of this series: “What’s Your Business Model?”

C.J. Hayden, MCC, CPCC, is the author of the bestseller Get Clients Now! A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professionals, Consultants, and Coaches, Since 1992, she's been helping entrepreneurs survive and thrive. C.J. is the author of five other business how-to-books, and has taught marketing at Mills College and John F. Kennedy University. Find out how you can work with C.J. as your business coach or strategic advisor or attend one of her upcoming programs.

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