Mission Statements vs. Vision Statements: What's The Difference?

I’m going to ask you to slap on your visionary hat for a moment. If you are a business owner, or about to be, chances are you have a mission statement (if not, read this post). Think about that mission statement for a second. Now say it out loud.

Now think about what the world would look like once your mission is achieved. This is the foundation for what your vision statement should be. You see, your mission statement is your rallying cry - it drives you and all of your employees. It’s what makes you want to get out of bed in the morning. Your vision statement is the end of the rainbow. It grounds your audience and gives them more information about why the work you’re doing is important.  

While your mission and vision statements go hand in hand, they are two very different pieces of content. Both are crucial to the foundation of your organization and should be crafted before any other piece of content. But, truth be told, the difference between them can be a little confusing. To help you understand which is used when, think about these two famous speeches in history:

Mission statements are like JFK’s “Man on the Moon” speech. It has clearly defined goals, it creates a sense of urgency, and acts as a rallying cry for putting a man on the moon and returning him safely. It’s also very specific as to how and when this mission would be achieved. 

Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is very different. It represents more of a vision statement. In King’s speech, he paints a beautiful picture of what the world looks like when there is no racism, and everyone is tolerant of each other. This is the big pie in the sky - it’s visionary.  

See the difference? Your mission statement is measurable: actually putting your foot on the moon. Your vision statement is more aspirational: ridding the world of racism.

Aspects of a Good Vision Statement

Now that you know the difference, and how the two compliment each other, here is a quick checklist to ensure that your vision statement is effective.

  • It contains aspirational and/or sensory language.

  • It tugs on the heart strings of the reader.

  • It answers the question: Why are we doing this in the first place?

  • It describes what the world looks like once your mission is achieved.

  • It invokes a vivid mental picture of your goal.

  • It invokes an emotional connection.

  • It is free of jargon and buzzwords.

Here are some examples of effective vision statements that contain the aspects listed above.

Corporate Vision Statements

"Connecting beauty, environment and well-being." -Aveda

"We envision a world where every person, in every organization, can clearly articulate their ideas in both written and verbal form." -BrandVox

"Our vision serves as the framework for our Roadmap and guides every aspect of our business by describing what we need to accomplish in order to continue achieving sustainable, quality growth." -Coca Cola

"To be the most valuable and respected science company in the world." -Dow Chemical

"To be the trusted, leading media and marketing solutions company at the forefront of a new era in human engagement." -Gannett

"To be the Number One destination carrier in the world." -Hawaiian Airlines

"To be the best food company, growing a better world." -Heinz

"To fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality." -Hilton Worldwide

"To be the most successful and respected car company in America." -Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.

"We want to satisfy all our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially." -Wells Fargo

Non-Profit Vision Statements

"A world without Alzheimer's." -Alzheimer's Association

"Our vision is of a world in which every person – regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity – enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and other internationally recognized human rights standards." -Amnesty International

"An ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers can trust each other." -Better Business Bureau

"We envision a world where all people - even in the most remote areas of the globe - hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others." -Kiva

"The Lupus Foundation of America envisions a world without lupus. The organization will advance the science and medicine of lupus to find a cure and improve the quality of life for all people affected by lupus." -Lupus Foundation of America

"We will lead the fight against extinction." -San Diego Zoo

"Shaping the future by preserving our heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing our resources with the world." -Smithsonian

"Our vision is to be the world leader in advancing the treatment and prevention of catastrophic diseases in children." -St. Jude Children's Hospital Research

"Protecting nature, for people today and future generations." -The Nature Conservancy

"To foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation's history." -Wounded Warrior Project

Let’s go back to that visionary hat I asked you to put on earlier. Are you still wearing it? Say your mission statement again and then answer the question: “What does the world look like once my mission is achieved?” Now take the examples above and write your vision statement (or tweak the one you already have).

I’d love to hear what you came up with! Leave a comment and tell us what your world looks like once your mission is accomplished.