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The Mission Statement That Changed The World

This week we ask Dr. Covey:

Q: Who is one of your personal heroes?

A: Mahatma Gandhi. Let me read you his personal mission statement:

“Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day:
* I shall not fear anyone on Earth.
* I shall fear only God.
* I shall not bear ill will toward anyone.
* I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.
* I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.”

- Mahatma Gandhi

I listened to Gandhi’s grandson talk about his life. Her name was Arun Gandhi and this is some of what she said.“Ironically, if it hadn’t been for racism and prejudice, we may not have had a Gandhi. See, it was the challenge, the public need for the public victory that developed the private victory. He may have been just another successful lawyer who had made a lot of money. But, because of prejudice in South Africa, he was subjected to humiliation within a week of his arrival. He was thrown off a train because of the color of his skin. And it humiliated him so much that he sat on the platform of the station all night, wondering what he could do to gain justice. His first response was one of anger.  

He was so angry that he wanted eye for eye justice. He wanted to respond violently to the people that humiliated him. But he stopped himself, and said ‘that’s not right.’ It was not going to bring him justice. It might make him feel good for the moment, but it wasn’t going to get him any justice.

From that point onward, he developed the philosophy of non-violence and practiced it in his life, as well as in his search for justice in South Africa. He ended up staying in that country for 22 years. And then he went and led the movement of India. And that movement ended up with an independent country, something that no one would have ever envisioned.”

And just think on this, he held no formal authority. No position. Most people think that leadership is a position. It isn’t. Leadership is influence. The key to influence is what we’re talking about. You can have influence without position. So don’t be so dependent upon position or formal authority, but use your moral authority, what you know is right. Gandhi changed over three hundred million people using this. Today there are one billion people in India.

I love going to India. It’s a tremendous place. And he achieved many significant goals, but he didn’t achieve all of his goals. But eventually, it became an independent country with its own constitution and they could deal with their own problems, instead of having some steward oversee what they were doing and making judgments and setting up rules and regulations.

He’s one of my favorite heroes.

But you know what he did? He learned synergy within himself. He learned to create a third alternative: non-violent action. He was not going to run away, and he wasn’t going to fight. That’s what animals do. They fight and they flight. That’s what people often do, they fight or they flight, they run away. He worked it within himself until he won the private victory and learned the philosophy of his life. Non-violent action; a third alternative.

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31 Responses to “The Mission Statement That Changed The World”

  1. Christian Wilson Says:

    I wish every leader of every country in the world could adopt Mahatma Gandhi’s personal mission statement. Imagine how that could transform the world! It would save us so much time, money, uncertainty and suffering.

    My daughter prepared a National History Day oral presentation about Gandhi’s Salt March a few years ago which gave my family the opportunity to learn what a great leader he was.

  2. steve aliment Says:

    It’s a good mission statement. One thing really troubles me…

    Why must one fear God? What kind of a God is it that must be feared? I don’t get it.

  3. A character Says:

    Steve, that’s the first thing that came to my mind, as well. Perhaps Gandhi’s Hindu deities are to be feared? Maybe he wasn’t referring to the one monotheistic Judeo-Christian God?

  4. Peter Murray Says:


    I think what Ghandi meant by fearing God is:
    - to acknowledge that there is a spiritual dimension
    - to be humble and understand there is a higher power than oneself

    Ghandi studied world religions and dedicated his life to the wider purpose of discovering truth. He summarized his beliefs by saying “God is Truth”, later changing this statement to “Truth is God”.

    The GandhiServe Foundation, the Mahatma Gandhi Research and Media Service has a wealth of information on Ghandi including, a transcript of Ghandi’s Spiritual Message (On God).

  5. Pamela Morgan Says:

    What the world needs now is Gandhi

  6. Victor Parrott Says:

    I think the concept of fearing God is a mechanism to make people be kind to each other. If we all dealt with each other in a respectful manner, why would we need to fear God? Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. This is a problem for those who don’t love themselves.

    On the other side of the coin are the people who do everything they want to do. People like this tend to distort reality and think of themselves as Gods on earth.

    The statement that I find most challenging is, “I shall put up with all suffering.” I don’t believe my reason for being here is to endure all suffering for the sake of truth. He was a better man than I.

  7. Snowboard Central Says:

    I’m fairly certain Ghandi’s “fearing God” idea was the notion of being humbled by the divine, rather than a fear of retribution

  8. Ashu Says:

    Steve what Gandhi really meant by “fear” is that believe in the ultimate truth, that there is a higher authority which will serve justice. You might commit a crime and get away with it but ultimately “god” will see to it that you pay for what you did. Something more efficiently said as “what goes around comes around”. So in my belief Gandhi meant fear the fact that you will have to pay for your deeds in this life only.

  9. Juan Pablo Ramírez Alegría Says:

    I think that those goals of Gandhi were the best that I have read in my life, I never think that Gandhi wanted revenge against his enemies, but He did not fight with them, he fought with the real enemy “the lack of peace.”
    Gandhi is one of the best examples for all governments in world, even for those who act in a correct way. I think: “Well if Gandhi did it, why not US?” In this moment US have a recession state because of the proximal elections and the most important thing that would happen to that country is to change his position, turn the war over.
    So for all of this, I think that we can act as Gandhi did, and we can change our little part of world, well we can start with that, and then it can be adopted for other places, then other states, then other countries and at the end as a common kind of behavior.

  10. T Says:

    Are you sure you heard his granddaughter and not his grandson? Arun is a male name.


  11. Ragle Says:

    He will be remembered forever throughout the annals of history just to show what can be done with enough determination and whatever myth may be created in centuries to come because what he comes to represent is what is important and will hopefully be never forgotten.

  12. Marcel Says:

    What a healthy and creative way of dealing with confrontation. A soft tongue can surely break hard bones…

  13. Arindom Ray Says:

    I think by saying “I shall fear only God”, Gandhi-ji (we in India, respectfully call him Gandhi-ji, ‘ji’ means it’s an honor), meant that we are responsible to our deeds and we should be ready to answer for our misdeeds.

    So the fear of to be paying back for our wrong deeds (to humanity, to nature etc.) should be there among us, which in turn will prevent us from doing the wrong things. If we maintain this principle then we will end up being a better person.

    Thanks for this blog post. It reminded me a lot of things and again showed me the path that I should follow.

  14. Joe Says:

    I’m still working out “Fear only God” concept. Victor, so fearing God makes you kind to others? I don’t fear God and don’t believe in God. If I did believe in God, then I would embrace him not fear him. I find it interesting how people equate morals with religion. Atheists/Agnostics have morals and act morally not out of fear. Unfortunately, many religious people are hypocrits, they don’t practice what they preach and like to judge others. At this stage in my life looking at the current state of the world and its history you can easily argue religion has done more harm than good.

  15. T Says:


    You are still referring to Gandhi’s grandson as ‘her’


  16. Gonzo Says:

    The idea of “god-fearing” as an epithet of virtue has lost currency in our times (which I think for the most part is good thing because religious fear so often becomes a tool of worldly oppression) but I look at it as having the same attitude of a person who works with wild animals, like elephants: if you don’t have a certain amount of fear of an entity so powerful, then you don’t really understand or respect it. God, being infinitely more powerful than an elephant, should be regarded with a proportionately larger share of awe.

    Of course, if you don’t believe in any god, none of this applies.

  17. frank Says:

    There is an archaic definition of ‘fear’ as a verb which means to regard God with reverence and awe which makes sense here.

    In effect he is saying he will only have awe and respect for spiritual things; laws and all other man-made things he’ll treat as they deserve.

  18. Joe Says:

    Gonzo and Frank-

    Thanks for the comments. I appreciate , respect, and agree with what you said.

    I’m always looking for, seeking some sense of God. A respect of something more powerful I can grasp, but religions hijacking and abusing the sense of God to control and oppress is what I struggle with.

  19. Ben in colorado Says:

    “I shall fear only God” meant exactly that. The god everyone here is talking about. Gandhi believed in a higher truth, but not in the supernatural divine being. Even eastern religions like Hindu and Buddhism are very much NOT like the God Judeo-Christians rely on - in fact Buddhism does worship any gods and the Hindus use gods and goddesses as manifestations of their stories and morals on living life - as we can see Gandhi doing. Some say Gandhi was an atheist, some an agnostic. Because, even as a Hindu man, religion and gods are not the same definition nor context as western civilization adheres.. He feared the god of men - the one that commits all the atrocities he fought against. And rightly so. Gandhi meant what he said - there is no interpretation required here. Fearing God is the only way you can realize the cruelty that occurs in his name - I don’t even like using that pronoun in the description. He said “God is Truth”, and “Truth is God”, but he meant it as a personification of an idea. He wasn’t telling us that a divine leader exists and that the only answer, in truth, is God. Be careful how easily you read the term God, and how the speaker uses the context towards what they think exists, or what is a good idea in a story.

  20. Leighann Says:

    This is a wonderful time to send this message back out into the Internet ether. Thank you. The power of Gandhi’s message is still strong and relevant, and much needed today.
    I think this is the only way the Israelis and Palestinians are ever going to find peace. They need to adopt the Gandhi principle of life, otherwise it will never end until everyone is destroyed. Could you imagine if Hamas and Hezbollah considered it for just a moment.

  21. Haider Says:

    Ghandi may have helped India’s Independence, but it was Jinnah who was the real force behind the whole thing, who had a position and great leadership.
    He worked with the system instead of against it like Ghandi.

  22. hahsi Says:

    We all need to have an object in life - today, tomorrow and always. Just as Gandhi would like us to have.

  23. Chris H Says:

    I shall not defile this sublime topic by being mad at Haider’s ridiculous comments…
    I shall not defile this sublime topic by being mad at Haider’s ridiculous comments…
    I shall not defile this sublime topic by being mad at Haider’s ridiculous comments…

  24. Paddy Says:

    I just respect Gandhi, not for his ideals or anything else… of course they do matter. But I respect his courage to think different.

    How many people in the last 2000 years has fought
    - war with peace?
    - racism and injustice with non co-operation?


  25. Alcyon Says:

    Gandhi has been my inspiration for many years. Not many people recognize that he was a great fighter and a leader - he was never afraid to fight injustice - whether it was committed by the white man or by fellow Indians in the name of their caste tradition. Only his method of fighting was different. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie ‘Gandhi’, made, ironically, by a British man. My understanding is that today Indians only pay lip service to the memory and ideals of Gandhi - the Indian elite is so far removed from Gandhi’s ideals, that some even think it’s fashionable to ridicule or even blame Gandhi and his followers for many of India’s problems. Reading the comments here, I think the argument about ‘fearing God’ is unnecessary - I have no problem in imagining what Gandhi meant by ‘God’ and I would never confuse that with a vengeful God. Great story, by the way! Also try Googling “Gandhi’s talisman” .

  26. Jonathan from Says:

    Gandhi is one of the most influential teachers I’ve ever had. His saying and philosophy has changed my life.

    Thank you for sharing this article Stephen.

  27. LG Scarlet Says:

    Upon looking up Gandhi in Wikipedia I discovered he actually lived just down the road I’m living at now!

    A very inspirational character and i’m pleased to say I lived in his ‘hood !

  28. Rohit Says:

    Well, Just like everyone.. even Gandhi ji has success and failure in his mission. Indian Independence was a huge success, but the price that was paid in form of pakistan is still hurting. Gandhi ji was need of that time..however his teachings are still relevant in modern world and can help us to create equality, and respect to all.

  29. Nikhil Gupta Says:

    What fascinates me most about Gandhiji is his own transformation. As mentiones in his autobiography ( My experiments with truth ), he was the most experimental child by nature. He did experiment with almost everything like non vegetarian food, smoking ,wine, religion in his life. He evaluted everything with his own yardsticks and parameters and then came to decide what is right and what is wrong. In england, he even tried to learn aristocratic manners , dance etc and later realized wasting his time. No many people know that Gandhiji was the worst orater in begining. He couldnt open his mouth the first time he got an opportunity to speak in front of few people. But he fought with all his personal weaknesses and then stood up for something bigger than anything else i.e. injustice.

  30. D. Shah Says:

    Mahatma Gandhi was a great man, indeed. He was human; he taught, therefore, the virtue of action, not words. People, to-day, claim him a hypocrite and so on; however, to them, I say, he never wanted that. It is, if anything, a fact of dismayance that Mankind loves to destroy that which he builds. He was not perfect; but We want people to be either perfect or not - in other words, they are either good or evil. In reality, a few are good and evil; the rest of us are somewhere in the middle. As I have mentioned previously, we build them up; and then, we think we know more, we try to destroy their image; an image for which they never asked.

    I recently wrote an small paper concerning Ghandi and his name; it can, nevertheless, be employed to analyse many, if not all, “Great” men in History.

    It is the dismaying fact of the human condition that humans want their heroes to be perfect; for those who they remember are either Good or Evil - the medium, in which majority of Mankind lies, however, is non-existent in the studies which are at present denoted as History. Some profess that he wanted publicity and all; some profess he was a racist; and some profess he was ineffective.
    All parts of life can teach, if only we opened our eyes to them. A father had two sons: the eldest being extremely poor and the youngest being extremely rich. The father was a failure; he was a drunkard. Someone wondered howsoever is it possible for a horrible father to have two children who have two extremely different condition. So he asks the eldest responding, ” I did whatsoever my father did; and therefore, I have thus ruined my life.” The youngest was asked and answered, “I did not do anything that my father did; therefore, I am happy and successful.” The lesson here is that words of subjectivism ought not be employed. Good and Bad are limited to the eye of the beholder. We can learne from anything and everything, if we wanted. But it is much easy to blame others and condemn them.

    Many people who have been claimed to have done great things have been found to have been not that great. Great again is a word not to be employed for its lack of objectivity. Lincoln: Honest Abe. Washington: “I cannot tell a lie.” Who made these? Did they say; and if they did, their actions, most assuredly, suggest otherwise. People placed them there; the winners write the history books. The more we discover others, the more we find they are humans. There are a few who are “good” or “bad”; most of us, however, fall in between.

    We fail to see because we, to-day, have become a sequacious species. To follow is our action; to think is unheard of. They were humans, not demi-Gods. They were like us. Until we share their level of responsibilities, empathy is non-existent. Modestly, I am trying to describe light to blind men, with all due respect.

    Man loves destroying that which he has built.
    They did not ask to be praised.
    We did; now we think we are better, so we shall destroy the esteem they never asked for; they merely went with the wave.

    Learn from them, my friends; To criticise is the Fools amusement.
    If only the ignorant knew they were; but then, they would not be, would they?

    Email me about your thoughts:

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