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Purpose, mission, vision: What drives what?

July 30, 2022 - 13 min read

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What is a purpose?

What is a mission?

What is a vision?

Why are they important?

4 differences between purpose, mission, and vision

4 similarities

What about the statements?

6 examples of statements

How can a purpose, mission, and vision help you accomplish your goals?

Moving forward

If you’re familiar with any life planning or goal setting, you’ve probably heard the terms purpose, vision, and mission. But if I asked you what the difference was between all three, could you answer? 

It’s okay if you can’t. We’re here to teach you.

Even though we use those terms frequently, there’s a difference between a purpose vs. mission vs. vision.

Understanding these subtle yet impactful differences all helps us identify our life’s purpose and set goals that align with who we are.

What is a purpose?

A purpose is a reason. It answers “Why” you’re doing what you’re doing. Finding your purpose in life isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen quickly. To achieve your purpose, you’ll experience ups and downs. It takes a lot of sustained effort but trusts us — it’s worth it. 

Your purpose should align with your core values. It could be fighting against climate change or being a business leader who cares about local communities. A company’s purpose has a background story founded on its values and works to install those values into its company culture and employees. There has to be a reason and meaning behind whatever the purpose.

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What is a mission?

A mission explains how you will achieve your purpose and ultimate goals. You may know your purpose, but how will you fulfill it? Your mission helps you create a plan and outline the steps you need to accomplish your goals. It shows whether you’re making progress or not or if you need to change your strategy.

Having a mission lets you describe the journey that you want to take. Sit down to think about how you’ll approach your goals and if they’ll fulfill your purpose.

What is a vision?

You might be wondering — how is a mission different from a vision? Before your mission and purpose come your vision. A vision is something you’d like to see happen or where you’d like to be. It should describe what you hope to achieve (or your purpose) with the help of your mission.

Why are they important?

These elements all work together, and you can’t have the other without one. Even though they’re separate terms, they all work toward achieving your final goal. They’ll keep you motivated and focused.  

At the beginning of your journey, you could ask yourself questions that involve why, how, and what you want to achieve. In other words, those are all connected to your purpose, mission, and vision. 

Understanding these three components keeps us organized throughout the entire process. They start us out by letting us dream, and they want us to dream big with our vision.

Then, they make sure we’re organized. We need a plan, and we need to feel confident executing that plan. Ultimately, we arrive at our purpose and live more meaningful lives.

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4 differences between purpose, mission, and vision

Each of these terms has its own elements. Here are four differences to help yourself differentiate between purpose, mission, and vision:

  1. Missions highlight what a person or company’s daily work is, whereas their purpose is why they’re doing it
  2. Visions don’t always have as much detail, while a mission is a detailed roadmap
  3. Purpose discuss overall values, while missions usually include more specific numbers, data, and research
  4. Missions are different from a vision because they require more sustained effort

businessman-on-video-call-with-colleagues-purpose-vs-mission-vision

4 similarities

It’s much easier to spot the similarities between purpose, mission, and vision because they all work toward the same goal. They’re all tools to help you succeed.

Here are four similarities to consider:

  1. They all require solid communication and organization skills
  2. They can be a source of empowerment for you and your team
  3. They’re driven by people who want to make a difference and experience change
  4. Each term is achievable if people put enough effort into them

We can all understand about purpose, mission, and vision that they demand us to be organized. BetterUp can help you be strategic with setting goals to align with your purpose, mission, and vision.

What about the statements?

All of these terms are confusing. Something that will anchor you while you’re organizing your journey is your “statements.” 

Each of these terms — purpose, mission, and vision — can have a unique statement that defines your goals. They’ll work together, but each represents something unique. 

The goal is to articulate exactly what you intend on doing with each of these elements, however, you feel is best. Your vision statement might be shorter than your purpose statement if you can say it with fewer words. 

Your vision statement will include what you’re hoping to achieve. Your purpose statement will include your motivations for this. And your mission statement will include the actions you’ll take to get there. 

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To write your statements, you need to be in tune with your senses and self. Take a moment to connect with your intentions. These statements become confusing if they aren’t descriptive and won’t be helpful if you don’t believe in them. Plus, if your steps aren’t realistic to what you can do, you risk letting yourself down or leading yourself astray. 

These will help with your strategic planning and help you with decision-making in the future. You can make sure that everything you’re working toward aligns with your or your company’s vision.

6 examples of statements

As you write your statements, you might feel like everything sounds the same. If you find that your vision statement sounds too much like your purpose statement, feel free to make some edits. You can also adjust these later if you learn something new about yourself or your abilities. 

Find a comfortable, peaceful spot to draft all three of your statements. To give you some inspiration, here are some examples of statements. One is for someone trying to open up a flower shop, and the other for an art museum.

For the flower shop:

Purpose statement: I want to bring inspiration, color, and fresh smells to every space.

Vision statement: I will provide flower arrangements of all kinds to the community for people to enjoy.

Mission statement: I want my floral shop to provide local flowers to the local community by supporting farmers and sourcing locally.

Here, the difference between mission statement and vision is execution. The purpose connects what the person wants to accomplish to how they will achieve it.

florist-standing-in-her-shop-purpose-vs-mission-vision

For the art museum:

Purpose statement: I want to encourage everyone to appreciate art and unleash their inner artists.

Vision statement: I will connect visitors with art made by local artists to show off my community’s talent.

Mission statement: My art museum will offer free admission for all to come to enjoy the unique talents of local artists and learn the meaning behind each art piece through immersive experiences.

In this example, the main difference between a mission statement and purpose is that the mission is much more actionable. This is a particularly effective mission statement because it combines your own mission with a potential organization’s purpose — an art gallery with free admission.

How can a purpose, mission, and vision help you accomplish your goals?

To accomplish your goals, you need to have a clear idea of what they are, how you’ll reach them, and why you want to reach them. Your vision, mission, and purpose accomplish that. 

Give a round of applause to the vision that you started with. It’s what has given you the inspiration to start this journey in the first place. Maybe you saw a problem that needed to be fixed, or you’re finally pursuing a dream you’ve had since a child. Hard, sustained work comes from inspirational visualization.

You started with a purpose, but now it’s gone time. Your vision will keep you focused. You’ve planned and articulated your moves, and although they seem like they’ll take forever, they’ll benefit you in the future. You can set objectives that are measurable and work to achieve them.

Your ultimate purpose is your motivator. It’s what guides you throughout the process and encourages you to keep going when things get tough. But it’s not unheard of to love the work you do and still admire it once you achieve your goal.

Moving forward

Knowing what you want to do is only the first step. Once you’ve identified the key elements of your purpose vs. mission. vs. vision, you’re well on your way.

If you get stuck, it’s always okay to ask for help. At BetterUp, we can provide the guidance you need to stay organized and focused on what you’re working toward achieving.

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Published July 30, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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