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How to Combat Personal Mission Drift

Everyone has a mission, a why, a reason to tick. Fortunately at a pretty young age, I recognized my mission, and my mother nurtured it into its maturity. Once I honed in on my mission in life, I haven’t looked back since. It serves as a compass for my actions, relationships, and for how I approach new opportunities. So now, working in my purpose as a volunteer manager and a program director for an AmeriCorps state program, I get to ignite people to serve on a daily basis and reveal to them the power of volunteering. I’ve even been able to witness those rare but transformative times where a volunteer experience reveals one’s mission and passion. Those are the best.

 It is also my responsibility, from an organizational lens, to build a volunteer force that strategically ties into the organization’s overall objective and mission, essentially creating a program that embodies that “mission in action.”

Based on the fact that I align mission on a daily basis, I have now adopted some best practices. I have strategically developed a gauge for when to pursue certain personal interactions, relationships, and projects.  My mission, defined for me as “purpose in action” serves as a living breathing measurement for my personal happiness and wellbeing, but I have definitely run into those times where I am faced with an opportunity where I may have to say no to something new. If not, I run the risk of mission drift.

Mission drift in my personal opinion, is defined as a sharp or gradual disconnection to one’s intended goal, a goal deeply rooted in purpose. Mission drift can come in a variety of forms, and for professionals it can come in the form of a new opportunity, a new collaborative venture, or new position. When one of these things comes across your doorstep, it’s important to have had a rubric developed that will serve as your safety net to test mission drift. Over the years, I have been more comfortable with passing something over, or just saying no. Here’s how I do it:

I think of my mission as an actual living entity, with its own personality, its own quirks, and its own flavor and style, manifested out of myself to help me and guide my way.

No I’m not joking, this is serious. Hear me out.

 So if mission is a form, that holds your hand through life, it’s important to consult it when faced with a new opportunity, and it’s important that you know your mission the back of your hand, because, essentially it’s the closest thing you will ever have to you. It’s a part of you! This is how you can get acquainted with your mission, and know when to make that boss move or not:

1)      Do I trust my mission? Have you built a deep relationship with your mission to the point where you know it inside and out?  Do you trust it enough to lead you?  Ask yourself these questions. The answer of YES is a must in order to truly battle mission drift. You can’t fully put your all behind something you don’t fully trust and believe in. Embrace your mission, and let it serve as a guide for your ultimate impact.

2)      Does my mission advocate for me? Have you ever been in a position where someone asks you your why, or how come you do something a certain way and you automatically spout out your reason, and are confident in that? Let me give you an example. I get this question all the time: “Why are you working to help refugees when there are homeless veterans in your own backyard?” I politely respond, “Do you go to Burger King and ask them why they aren’t selling high fashion designer clothes?” No, because that’s not their intended purpose, or their foundational goal. I doubt Burger King wouldn’t even be able to sell clothes the right way, but it doesn’t matter because they don’t want to!  The same goes for all of us. My response is actually my mission going to bat for me and advocating for my purpose. I can confidently stay put right in that niche because I know that’s where I belong, and your mission will make that clear for you. No need to be apologetic. You can always fall back on your mission to give you direction and support.

3)      How does my mission act in different environments?  My mission is happy when I connect a volunteer to a new position. My mission is nervous but fulfilled when I am up on a stage and have to present knowledge around engagement. My mission is completely pissed off when I am trying to justify her (mine is a her) and fit her in a box that’s too small. She is angry and punches me in my gut when I push her to the side and try to figure out my own way. How does your mission respond to certain opportunities, professional relationships, and sectors?  It will let you know, you just have to listen, and when you do, you will feel so much more comfortable steeping into unknown spaces.

Be in alliance with your mission, for it is rooted in your purpose. Get to know your mission and how it operates, so that you both don’t drift apart from each other, because essentially, it’s you drifting apart from yourself. Feel when mission drift is coming, challenge it head on.


Breauna Dorelus is the Chief Cause Consultant at Connecting the Cause, where she is dedicated to building effective volunteer programs for nonprofits through transformative volunteering strategies. As a service-driven millennial, she is dedicated to igniting others to serve through the power of volunteerism, and passionate about connecting people to their purpose.