Chip MacGregor

August 14, 2013

How can I create a purpose statement?


Someone wrote and asked, “Chip, can you help me create a purpose statement for me as a writer? I think I need to clarify my purpose statement. I’m a literary novelist… can you assist me in moving forward?”

If you’re thinking about creating a mission statement or a life purpose statement, here are some questions to think through:

1. If I could sum up the purpose of my life in one word, what word would I choose?

2. What if I were to sum it up in three words?

3. How would I want my epitaph to read? If I were to live to be 100, what would I want people to say about me at my 100th birthday party? [And kudos to Bobb Biehl for these questions. Bobb is the president of Masterplanning Group International, and was thinking and writing on these topics long before anyone else in the business. You can find him at –and yes, he spells it “Bobb.”]

You may also find it helpful to ask yourself some questions like these:

4. Over the course of my life, what do I want to do?

5. What do I really want to be? How do I want to describe myself?

6. Who are the people or groups I most want to help?

7. What sort of things would I like to accomplish in my writing over the next three to ten years?

8. As you look back over your writing career, what are the themes that are evident? Who have you written to? What have you written about? What are the timeless questions you continue to speak to?

As you look at your answers, you’ll start to see some themes. Once you have a feel for those, consider creating one non-technical sentence that can be sort of umbrella statement for your work life. Don’t think of this as art, even though you’re a writer – think of it as a crappy, temporary statement that is probably awful but will do until you can spend the time to craft a full-blown, fabulous one. [Hint: Crappy is better than none.] Then you can tell yourself that, one day, you’ll go back and spend hours, and craft a great purpose statement.

Last thing: You are not your business. In other words, a life mission statement is probably going to be broader than your professional or job mission statement. So, if you want, go back over your answers and apply them just to writing and editing. Now you’re on track to creating a business plan—which is something most freelance writers will find helpful.

I used to do this for a living, remember. Feel free to email me with questions. Happy to help.


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  • Peter DeHaan says:

    Every time I come up with a purpose statement, I find that after about ten years it’s completely obsolete. (As is my most recent one.) So I’ve given this some thought over the past couple of days. Right now I’m leaning towards: “Pointing to God, one word at a time.” (It’s also my shortest one purpose statement ever.)

    • chipmacgregor says:

      That’s true, Peter… but isn’t that a good thing? Life isn’t static — we move on, change, grow. Our general purpose is still in the same direction, but what we decide to do at 50 is no doubt much more mature than what we thought at 25.

  • Robin Patchen says:

    I’ve never written a purpose statement, but I can see the value. One of these days, I’m going to do this.

  • JeanneTakenaka says:

    I have thought some about this topic, but I haven’t figured out where to begin in creating a mission statement or putting words to my purpose. Thanks for sharing questions and the reminder that even a crappy statement that I can hone and make fabulous is better than nothing at all. I’m going to think more on this and take the questions you’ve offered here. Thanks!!

  • Lynn Morrissey says:

    Chip, I love reading about purpose and having resources to read. Thanks for the reference on Bobb with two b’s. The most helpful, insightful guidance I’ve ever read on writing a purpose statement is by Christian author Kevin MacCarthy, who wrote The On-Purpose Person, a quick, but profound “read” on this topic. I have also attended his excellent online classes. One of Kevin’s most incisive concepts is to distinguish between purpose and mission. They’re related, but different, and it’s critical to understand this. One will have a number of missions throughout his lifteime, but all will emanate from the same over-arching purpose. Kevin advocates writing a two-word purpose statement. This enables you to remember it at gunpoint (I always used to forget mine, because it was too long and unwieldy). A short statement also cuts through the fog with razor-sharp precision. Sometimes the mish-mash of longer statements just indicates you don’t really know what your purpose is because you can’t hone in on it. My purpose is “encouraging transparency.” What’s yours?
    Thanks for a great, thought-provoking post. I think it will engender an excellent dialogue.

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