Just Say Yes: How Your Personal Mission Statement Will Simplify Business Decisions

May 21, 2014

11:00 am

[Tweet this article.“Determine that the thing can and shall be done and together we shall find the way.” – Abraham Lincoln

[This is the second article of a three part series. Read the first article: Just Say No here.]

Every business has a mission statement. It’s intended to serve as the purpose that guides the direction of decisions, efforts and results. The problem is most employees don’t know it and most leaders don’t fully value it.

Created and communicated effectively, mission statements guide every employee to complete every task on every project with clarity and purpose. At Rising Above our mission statement is to empower individuals and organizations to take back their life, ignite their possibility and change their world.

Equally as important as an organizational mission, though, is a mission for each individual that makes up the organization. This is what truly drives the efforts of each individual, not just at work, but in all things. I call this an “ignition statement” and it should empower individuals to answer these questions:

  • Why will I thrive in life?
  • Why will I invest fully in this [“this” refers to each and every activity you have during the day]?
  • Why will I strive to make a difference today?
  • Why will I seek to live out the mission of our business?

My ignition statement is: because God demands it, my family deserves it and the world is starved for it.

An intentionally developed ignition statement will free you to dance out of bed in the morning and stay energized to make a difference throughout the day. It liberates you to not just endure the tasks and challenges of each day, but to thrive through them and enjoy a deeper sense of meaning because of them.

Fully embracing your purpose also frees you to lead from your gut. [Tweet this.]

Getting clear and specific on your purpose, passion and mission in life empowers you so that when it matters most: you can answer on point, without hesitation and go all-in. Living your ignition statement allows you to more easily say “no” and not spread yourself too thinly. [Read more about this in my article Just Say No.]

Let me give you an example.

As a young speaker I dreamt of building a business where I could live my mission and make a living. This dream became a reality, but it took a lot of work, faith, passion and help from tough decisions made in line with my ignition statement.

One of the greatest decisions I made was to hire my first employee to help me grow the business. Deanna Lester shared my passion to inspire and a desire to share my message with the world. She was perfect for the job. She had experience in sales, marketing and successfully running an office. The salary she required, though, was equivalent to the total revenue I’d made the year before!

We parted ways not certain of next steps.

She sent me a thank you letter for the opportunity to meet. The letter ended with this quote from Abraham Lincoln: “Let us determine that the thing can and should be done and together we shall find the way.”

I read that quote. And then again. And again.

Our mission was clear and we were determined that it should be done. I knew my ignition statement and it aligned with this conclusion, too. I called Deanna, offered her the job, and have been grateful each day for the past six years!

We’ve grown Rising Above from speaking to just a few groups in my hometown to presenting to more than 1,000 organizations around the world. Year over year growth, even during a recession, we attribute to clarity around not only what our organization’s mission is, but each of our individual ignition statements that ensure it is lived each day.

In your business and in life, determine what things can and should be done. Then, with clarity from your personal ignition statement, you will find the way.

A resource I enjoyed on this topic is the Defending Your Yes interview on with author Jay Papasan. My final article in this series – which will coach you through writing your ignition statement – will come out later this month. To make sure you don’t miss it, sign up for my newsletter at

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Expected to die, John O’Leary now teaches others how to truly live. John was burned on 100% of his body in a house fire at age nine. He was given less than one percent chance to survive. The next five months spent in intensive care transformed his life. Instead of ending tragically, the fire gave him the greatest gift: embracing the truth that regardless of our challenges and circumstances, we choose how to navigate adversity, determine our vision for what’s possible and realize the profound impact our lives have on others. Today, 28 years later, John has shared this truth as an internationally-acclaimed speaker, writer and expert on leadership and life with more than 1,000 organizations. Some of John’s clients include: Southwest Airlines, LEGO, Wells Fargo and Young Presidents’ Organization. John is the president of Rising Above, a leadership lifestyle organization designed to encourage you to take back your life, ignite your possibility and change your world. Rising Above offers personal and professional development resources and a community of like-minded individuals. Join the Rising Above community and receive daily inspiration at