How To Guide Your Path with Vision, Mission, and Values



“It doesn’t really matter how fast you’re going if you’re heading in the wrong direction.” — Stephen Covey

It’s a new year and a fresh start.  Now is a perfectly good time to establish what’s important for you or chart a new course.

To do so, we can use a strategic framework.

By figuring out our vision, values, and goals, we can figure out where we have conflict of interests or conflicts of values, we can figure out where to invest or de-invest our time, we can get a sense of whether we are on our path or not, and we can prioritize our time and energy in the things that matter the most to us.

Your Mission is Your Map

The most important thing is that when you have a map, it’s easier to deal with the set backs and to fight the good fights.

When you don’t even have a model, a map, or a path, then  it’s hard to make meaning and even harder to balance work and life, because you have no gauges – it’s like flying blind.

With your mission as your map, your vision as the destination, and your values as your guide, you instantly have a way to center yourself and lead your life from the inside out.

Strategic Framework for Getting on Path

Here is a simple approach:

  • Mission Statement – Your missions answers the question, “What’s the purpose?” or “What’s the job” or “Who are you?” or “What are you about?”  Ideally, you have a differentiator.
  • Vision statement – Now that you know the purpose, the vision answers, “Where do you want to go?”
  • Values – Values help you prioritize and shape your actions.  They answer the “Why.”  They are what you care about.  The more your work matches your values, the more enjoyment you will find.
  • Strategies – Strategies are your approach.  They guide your actions on your mission and toward your vision.
  • Goals – Goals answer the question, “What do you want to accomplish?”  A good away to make goals useful is to make them SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based.
  • Action Plans – Action plans are simply lists of actions with completion dates.
  • Tests for Success –  These are your measures and metrics.  Tests for success answer, “How will you know when you achieved it?” or “What does good look like?”

Example of Sketching Your Mission, Vision, and Values

Having a simple start is better than having nothing at all.  You can also version and improve it down the line, as you get more clarity, so you can start with a sketch.  Here is a quick start of a sketch using this blog as an example:

  • Mission – Making the most of what you’ve got — Advancing the art and science of personal excellence.
  • Vision – The world’s best source of principles, patterns, and practices for personal excellence.
  • Values – Actionable.  Relevant.  Pragmatic.  Effective.
  • Strategies – Draw from the books, people, and quotes.  Focus on proven practices.  Share principles and patterns.

You get the idea.  I would then test, tune, and prune the language.  For example, does it resonate?  Does it sing to my heart or is it still a bit off?  By having something on paper, I can reflect on it and tune it over time.  It’s an unfolding process.  The next steps would then be setting some specific goals and re-shaping the strategies based on the goals.  Then getting clarity on a vital few set of tests for success.

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  1. @JD: I have been a regular reder of ur blog be honest I have been trying to follow many of the patterns u decribes in ur blogs… they are awesome…but I am still to fully apply those in my life….This post was helpful…


  2. Would you ever start again from scratch or is it always a fine-tuning process that keeps adding and changing to what is already there?

    How often would one want to reflect and think about putting in course corrections? I’m just thinking that there should be some point to look around and think, “Hey, is this getting me where I want?” though I’m not sure what time frame makes the most sense here though I guess it may depend a bit on the goal and if it can be broken down into sprint-like chunks to do piece by piece. Thanks for posting these ideas and all the information you’ve shared over the years, it has been quite helpful.

  3. We all must have some type of mission statement. Our purpose is directly proportionate to our value system. If we deem our dreams to be high in our value system, then we are working to words it daily. If we don’t then, we wander like folks with no direction. Great post J.D.

  4. Hi JD,

    It is crucial that we know what our purpose is in life and where we are going. Otherwise, we would be living aimlessly. Setting specific goals after knowing our purpose is crucial. If we take serious action, then we can achieve our goals and what we desire. Thanks for sharing

  5. Works in business life, you’d think it would be second nature for our personal lives as well. Sometimes putting down that vision statement takes getting over where you’ve been sidetracked for the past year. I think that’s why so many of us avoid it…

  6. I’m going to utilize this with my wife. We have some goals that we’ve set together and I think this will help ensure that both of our input is meshed into our journey. I love the idea of this strategic framework. Seriously!

    On a side note – one thing I also utilized from you is a great point you made in your book, Agile Way. You noted to start acting, instead of worrying about exhausting efforts in the planning phase, because you can always go back and refine your work. You said “Action Inspires”. I’m going to give that a shot…I’ve always researched, planned, then executed..but I think there are a lot of times when I over research and over plan, and under execute.

    Thanks for the valuable knowledge J.D.

  7. I just book marked this because my goal for the next couple of weeks is to just flow. I realized that I was trying to push the river all the time lately, and on every level of my life. Having a brief vacation offered up the opportunity to just BE and see what comes – so far it feels like the perfect spot to be!

    Play on words intended 🙂

    Nice to be back on line with a working computer. Happy New Year JD

  8. I just finished up my review of 2010. It was so cool to look back on all the positives and how I’m going to improve for 2011. This review has helped me realize what I need to focus on because it really comes down to what we choose to spend time on each day.

  9. J. D. That’s a fantastic starting quote from Covey. I love the model you’ve given here of a simple sketch. I need simple approaches, so I can manage that! It really showed me how to quickly create a strategic framework. Thanks for this.

  10. JD: Great post and recommendation. It makes so much sense that we need clarity and direction because the road can be long and filled with challenges. I really like the advice you gave to find your own mission statement and understand your values. I think that is a really helpful pointer in the right direction. Thanks for sharing.

  11. @ Vijay — Take heart — you’ll crack the nut this year. My mantra is — No reader left behind.

    If you adopt one thing from Getting Results the Agile Way, adopt the Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection pattern:
    1. On Mondays, identify three results you want for the week.
    2. Each day, identify three outcomes you want for the day.
    3. Each Friday, identify three things going well and three things to improve.

    This is the simplest way to build momentum in your work and life.

    You get 52 weeks to practice, and that’s the beauty. Enjoy the journey and your results.

    @ JB — I like to do a reset at the start of the year. I want to treat it like a clean slate and a fresh start. No bags. No expectations. No limits. From this balcony view, I figure out who I want to be and what experiences I want to create.

    That said, during the year, I use a simpe framework that’s based on time:
    – Each day, I figure out three stories I want to make happen
    – Each week, I figure out three stories I want to make happen
    – Each month, I figure out three stories I want to make happen
    – Each year, I figure out three stories I want to make happen
    – Each Friday I reflect on results and carry the learning forward
    – Every three months, I do a more significant checkpoint

    My three stories for the year are more epic, while my three stories for the day are more micro. My three stories for the week, help me balance my three stories for the day.

    The secret to the year is asking yourself, if the year were over, what three big things would you want under your belt?

    You’re right — different goals get different time chunks.

    @ Jonathan — I like your correlation of our dreams with our value system. One metaphor I like regarding wandering with no direction is, goal people and river people. Goal is directed while river is go with the flow. I’m a fan of both — and I like the by-products of chasing dreams.

    @ Dia — Taking serious, focused, consistent action is an amazingly powerful recipe for results. The power of purpose is it empowers us to make mindful choices.

    @ Fred — Long ago, I heard the phrase, “Don’t be the plumber with the leaky pipe.” I think the same executive skills that can optimize business can help optimize personal life.

    @ Jk — Shared goals are a great way to inspire the journey.

    I think over-planning and under-executing is a common problem. I think part of it is a carry over. Cycles of change were longer and things could be more predictable. I think the other challenge was the lack of a simple approach to chunk up planning in a useful way. It seems so simple now, but by chunking up planning into day, week, month, quarters, years, and using stories and scenarios to drive results, it really does help shift the equation to “just enough planning” and better execution.

    @ Patricia — Flow is the way to go. I think that’s a key to creating an effective strategic framework. It shouldn’t feel forced, it should feel more like flow … like creating a painting that draws you in and inspires you to action.

    A river and goal approach is perfectly compatible — both going with the flow, and directing your path of fulfillment. Each year, I take a month off and do nothing but river. It helps me take a look from the balcony and get back to the basics.

    @ Karl — You stumbled on an insight that has an incredible ripple effect. It really does come down to what we choose to spend time on each day. One of my mentors, many moons ago, challenged me when I asked her what job to take — she said, “What do you want to spend more time doing each day?” In that one question, she cut right to the chase and forced me to figure out my priorities and values.

    @ Sandra — Covey really knows how to nail it. I met him a few years back and, not only does he have a way with words, he has powerful presence.

    I think that’s the key take away from this post — it’s OK to start with a sketch, and sketching is way better than nothing.

    @ Sibyl — Thank you. So true. It’s those long and winding roads that test us and that’s where the value of our strategic framework comes into play.

    I’m realizing now that I probably need to share more on how to figure out values. Our values are like a constellation of way points. The beauty is, wherever you go, you take your values with you, so you always have your way points.

    @ Alik — This sounds serious. I can see the smoke from the engines already. Let’s synch up soon — I have an approach for planning at Microsoft I know you will like, and it’s like nothing you’ve seen — it’s a black belt technique.

  12. Hi JD,

    I wish you a happy and successfull 2011.

    Your articles are great, but this one is a little bit blurry.

    Here is my key takeaway;

    Visions are ends.
    Goals are desired results and ends.
    Objectives are desired results and ends.

    Missions are means.
    Strategies are courses of action and means.
    Tactics are courses of action and means.
    Business/Personal rules are directives and means.
    Business/Personal policys are directives and means.
    Business/personal values are guidelines and means.

    Johan, the Dutch guy.

  13. Solid, pragmatic tips as usual, JD. Always important is to keep asking “Does it sing to my heart or is it still a bit off?” If we are not working with the heart-mind we will eventually find ourselves lost and turned around. Listening to our inner guidance system is essential for guiding us down our path.

  14. @ Johan — Thank you. Well put — I like your frame and clarity. I think it’s worth pointing out objectives help you chunk up goals, and strategies guide your tactics. Best wishes for 2011.

    @ Rob — Thank you. You’re right — the heart-mind connection is key and our inner-guidance system is like our yellow-brick road for life.

  15. This is so in tune with what’s been on my mind lately (must be that new year and all…), thank you for breaking it down for us and making this area so much easier to approach! I’ve been afraid to start because, well, I didn’t know where or how to – but you’ve made me realize it doesn’t have to be so difficult 🙂
    I wish you ALL the best in 2011, JD 🙂

  16. JD,

    Great post on the strategic framework! The strategic framework is a great tool for organizational planning as well both in identifying the current state of an organization and charting a path for the desired future. I like the way you applied the strategic framework to our own life planning, however. Many planning tools can be used in this manner. A personal SWOT analysis is another example.

    As you stated, we do have to start with our mission as this is where we are at now. It is our current state, our reason for being. I use the example of being in a mall and needing to determine our current location. We have to find “the you are here” spot on the map before we can locate the path to our desired destination. Otherwise, we will continue to be lost.

    As you mentioned, once we know where we live (our purpose), we then need to have a vision of where we want to go. Organizations need vision and so do individuals. I use the example from Alice in Wonderland to show the importance of vision. In the story, she asks the Cheshire Cat for directions. He then asks her where she wants to go and she replies that she does not know. The Cheshire Cat then responds that it really does not matter what path Alice takes then since she is not clear on where she wants to go. He tells her that any path will get her where she wants to go. I first heard this story years ago and it had a powerful impact on me.

    We do have to get our mission and vision right. Once we do this we can align our goals, action plans and strategies appropriately. A final point that comes to my mind is the insight you made about values. As you stated, our work is more enjoyable when it aligns with what we value. In reality, much organizational turnover is due to value conflicts. Managers who understand this fact have a powerful tool for motivating their employees–work to eliminate value conflicts where possible.

    Great post, JD, for the beginning of 2011!



  17. @ Robert — Thank you. I agree, many business tools can help us out in life, and SWOT is a great example.

    I like your mall map metaphor — it lights up the point.

    That Cheshire Cat example stuck with me for years, and it’s interesting how it connects back to what we want out of life or our business.

    Best Wishes for 2011!

  18. Hi JD .. I’ve been wanting to spend some time on this post & eventually got here – or be in a position to take things in .. glad I waited! Your power of threes – 3 stories today micro, 3 for the week a task finished perhaps, 3 for the month .. and the three for the year .. and I’ll have achieved a great deal.

    Got slightly whammied at the beginning of the year & now need to gather my wits and get on with things .. love the comments and your answers ..thanks so much – Hilary

  19. @ Hilary — Right on. The 3×3 system works.

    There’s a lot of science behind why it works, but the fact that it’s a system is the real key. When you aren’t getting the results you want, you can tune the system until you do. For example, you can still bite off three things, but you might change the priority or the scope of what you bite off.

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