Facing Change? This Is the First Thing You Should Do

It's time to craft your personal mission statement.

Welcome to One Thing Better. Each week, the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine (that's me) shares one way to level up — and build a career or company you love.

Sponsored by Ray J. Green, who helps you launch scalable service businesses.

Today’s one thing: Knowing what you do.

That one thing, better: Knowing who you are.

Something in your life has changed, or is about to change. Now you’re questioning yourself.

This change isn’t bad, per se. Maybe it’s good! A new job, a new city, a new path. But it’s also scary — because the change feels bigger than all that. It feels like a change to your identity.

Now you’re asking big questions like: Who am I anymore?

Today, I’ll help you answer that question.

This answer will give you new purpose. It’ll embolden you, and help you become more comfortable with change.

And to find it, I’ll share an exercise that I’ve done for thousands of people — and the most memorable, incredible answer that anyone’s ever given me. 

What do you do, really?

We all make a mistake: We tie our identities too closely to the roles we occupy or the tasks we perform.

What does that mean? Well, if someone came up to you at a party and asked, “What do you do?”, your answer would probably include your job, your title, or some task you do.

For a long time, I would have said: “I’m a magazine editor.”

There’s nothing wrong with this, in theory. But it sets us up for massive disruption later. 

Consider it: You are tying your identity to changeable things. Your job could disappear. Your tasks could be replaced. And when that happens, it won’t just be a change to your work — it’ll feel like an undercutting of your identity.

I made this mistake for years. When I thought of myself purely as a magazine editor, I was terrified of layoffs and dismissive of other careers. Why? Because I was a magazine editor — and with that as my identity, I couldn’t imagine what else I could be.

Eventually, I realized this mistake. It was making me miserable! So I decided I needed a more foundational identity — a way to understand myself, no matter what changes came my way.

I needed to understand what did not change in times of change

So I came up with an exercise, which really helped me. I think it’ll help you too.

Come up with a mission statement.

Right here, right now, I want you to come up with a mission statement for yourself.

The rules are simple:

  1. Your mission statement should be one short sentence.

  2. The first word of your mission statement is “I”.

  3. After that, each word should be carefully selected because it is not anchored to something that’s easily changeable.

Given these rules, I cannot say “I am a magazine editor.” That’s too easily changeable! Sure, I work at a magazine today — but what happens if I’m fired tomorrow?

That’s why I came up with this mission statement instead: “I tell stories in my own voice.”

Stories is the most important word in there. Nobody can take stories away from me. I tell stories in this newsletter, and when I consult, when I speak on stage, and in infinite other ways.

With this mission statement, I am telling myself: I have value, no matter what changes in my life. 

Now think of your mission statement. Imagine how many possibilities it creates for you. You’re no longer anchored to a specific career or role. Now you see your transferrable value. Change is no longer disruptive. Instead, every change becomes a new opportunity to do what you do best.

Here’s how powerful this idea is.

I came up with that exercise a few years ago, when writing my book. (I devote a whole chapter to it.) Readers liked it, so I wondered: Should I do this at my speaking gigs?

This made me nervous. I’m usually speaking in front of experienced professionals. Would they find this too basic? Too silly? But I tried the exercise out, and it became the most popular part of my talk.

Seasoned executives would approach me afterward, eager to tell me their mission statement. They’d say things like “I help teams achieve greatness” or “I solve the most complex problems.” The CEO of a baking mix company, which was going through some big changes, told me: “We bring joy to people with sweet baked goods.”

These answers create resiliency. Teams always need help achieving greatness. Complex problems will always exist. People will always want joy — and it’s fine if they lose interest in baking mixes, because they’ll never lose interest in “sweet baked goods.”

This is true for you too, in whatever way you create your mission statement. 

You have something that is always needed. You can always have value.

But the most memorable answer I heard came from a woman in Chicago — and when you hear it, you’ll change how you think about your entire career. 

The all-encompassing mission

“I just want to thank you,” a woman in Chicago said after I presented this exercise, “because you helped me embrace the next phase of my life.” 

Then she told me her story. She built a successful consulting firm, but recently put it on hold to raise her child full-time. 

This change gave her an existential crisis. She’d spent decades thinking of herself as a consultant. Her work was her identity. And she doesn’t relate to being a “stay-at-home mom” — even though that’s what she’s now doing.

“I keep asking myself, who am I?” she told me.

Then it hit her: “I help people become the best versions of themselves.”

This mission statement doesn’t just describe her work — it connects the two major pursuits of her life! It’s the work she did as a consultant, the work she’s doing today as a parent. She can continue this work for the rest of her life, in whatever form she wants.

“Now I understand what I do,” she told me, “and it’s made me feel so much better.”

This is what change really looks like. It’s not about losing everything you have, and it’s not about losing yourself. It’s about knowing what you always have, despite whatever changes around you.

Picture a galaxy. You are the sun. You are the bright, burning mass that warms everything in your orbit. But some old planets fly away, and new ones appear. Some inch closer; some further. And no matter what, you continue to burn, bright as ever, because your value to these planets is constant. Because you are always needed. Because you know what you really are.

That’s how to do one thing better.

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Presented by Ray J. Green

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Are you a coach, consultant, or selling an online service?

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I know first-hand how challenging this can be, especially if you are transitioning from a corporate role into entrepreneurship.

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P.S. Did you miss last week’s newsletter? It was about how to feel better when bad things happen. Read!

P.P.S. Learn from myself and others — this Thursday! The next OTB community call is this Thursday at 5 pm ET. This’ll be a fun one: I’ll be answering members’ questions, then we’ll break into groups to share what’s been working for us lately. Come to listen, to ask a question, or to help others solve problems! Sign up here — and once you do, you can get login info for the call here.

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