What is the difference between Purpose, Vision, Mission, and your WHY?

Blog Zilvold Coaching & Training
7 min read

Summary:
Nowadays, every company has a purpose. Maybe you have one of your own. This blog discusses the difference between a mission, vision, your WHY, and your purpose. Ultimately, they are connected and help you for more direction and fulfillment of your work and life.

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“What is the difference between a purpose, mission, vision, and your WHY?” People often ask me this question. There are many opinions about this. Some think there is only a purpose, and others only talk about vision or mission. Then some don’t believe in a Why.
In this blog, I will explain how I view the difference and how they are important to give substance to your life and experience more satisfaction with your work, job, or company.

Purpose

Purpose, another word for “meaning of life”. I often hear that this word is too commercialized. Every well-respected company has a purpose. A simple search on the internet using the search term “our purpose is” gives the following results:

“… our expertise is essential for a safe and livable world.”

“…We help solve important problems.”

“To unleash human energy through technology for an inclusive and sustainable future.”

They all sound very impressive, and they set the direction of the company. But, they focus merely on what a company does and how they stand out from the crowd.

A while ago, I heard a lecturer at the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. He said that everyone in this world has the same purpose in life, which is to help. I share his view and add one more word: We are here to help and serve.

How is that for me? I wonder how I can make life a little easier for others. That’s how I help and serve.

Vision

But how do you distinguish yourself when the purpose is the same for everyone? You can express this in your vision. The vision of a company or person is the ideal world in which they live.
Examples based on the above purpose definitions could be: “A livable world, an inclusive or sustainable world.” For me, it is a world in which people are willing to live in love.

WHY

The WHY of an organization or an individual focuses on its contribution and its impact on the world. Simon Sinek introduced the WHY with his golden circle. You can read more about how to find your WHY in this article.
The third purpose definition mentioned above resembles a WHY statement. The company wants to unleash human energy through technology [contribution] for a sustainable and inclusive world [impact].
It is unclear to me how they want to unleash human energy. The feeling and emotion are missing. You can find examples of WHY statements here. They are usually short, powerful, and evoke a feeling or emotion.

Mission

In a mission statement, you as a company or individual indicate what you will do to realize your vision. Perhaps this most closely resembles Simon Sinek’s “WHAT” of the Golden Circle. It is similar to the contribution in a WHY statement, but it is more specific. Examples are “special research,” “services,” and “use of technology.” In my case, it is “helping others to discover and express a spark of joy.”

Intrinsic motivations & values

Next, many organizations also describe their intrinsic motivations or their values. I always enjoy reading about the values ​​of a company or a person. Then I wonder how these values ​​are applied? How do you interact with others? What do you say? What are you doing to demonstrate that value? I wrote an article about finding your values. It is about treating others the way you would like to be treated.

If you (as an organization) know your drives, values ​​, or core qualities, it is a lot easier to formulate your vision, WHY, or mission.

The right words

The challenge is to find the right words. We all have a hard time with that. Just look at the purpose statements of different companies. The purpose, mission, or vision is described very extensively. Then it is not clear to me either. It must be short, and it must radiate a positive and action-oriented feeling to your (future) manager, employees, and customers. You often feel why you are doing something. The challenge is to write it down.

You don’t have to come up with a purpose, vision, WHY, or mission. It is already within you or in the organization where you now work.

Make a connection

My purpose, vision, and WHY, and mission have become clearer through reflection, coaching, training, and talking to many people. They are all linked together in an all-encompassing life purpose or meaning in life. It is comparable to the Japanese Ikigai. The Maori from New Zealand use the word Kaupapa. A kaupapa is a set of values, principles, and ideas which act as a base or foundation for action.

It’s nice to have a vision, a mission, a WHY, or a purpose. It all comes down to what action you will take as a company or individual which is in line with your purpose, WHY, vision, or mission?

It starts with being aware of your purpose, your meaning in life. Then your vision, your WHY, and your mission will follow. They are the reason why I do something. It gives me confidence, it motivates me, and it gives life energy. In this way, I also experience more satisfaction in the things I do and want to do.

I always make sure that I share something about my purpose, vision, why, or mission with others. What I say depends on whom I am talking to and the purpose of the conversation. Like any feeling, it should appear natural. Then you make a real connection.

What can you do?

The first step is to assess your talents and strengths. Read this article about finding your strengths.

A second step is to follow a WHY discovery session for individuals or organizations. You can read here how such a session looks like.

Contact me today for a free talk with me about how I can help you find (back) and live that spark of enthusiasm.

What do you think is the difference between purpose, vision, mission, and your WHY? Is there a difference? Let me know in the comment field below. The other readers of this article and I are looking forward to reading from you!

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Have you seen an error in this article? Let me know! I am grateful!

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