How to Write a Personal Manifesto (in 3 Easy Steps!)

My EXPERT HACK to personal development: write a manifesto. Define your value, set your targets, be who you want to be.
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Writing your personal manifesto is a POWERFUL exercise.

The process of writing my manifesto was one of the most integral turning points in my journey of personal development. It allowed me to define my system of values, a necessary step in anyone’s personal growth. Without a clear understanding of your own values, you cannot be the person you want to be.

Writing a manifesto is something I believe EVERYBODY should, at the very least, dabble and experiment with. There is a true catharsis in the process.

Now, while the word manifesto may conjure images of far-fetched political beliefs and verbose repertoires of speech delivered by angry men, pontificating at the podiums, and wildly banging their fists of fury, that really is not what a manifesto is all about.

The core principle of writing a personal manifesto is actually really simple, and it’s something everyone needs to try once.

Take a look with me at the typical definition of ‘manifesto’:

(n) a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer

Merriam-Webster
Edited image of Will having fun writing a personal manifesto vs. some old genteman hating it
It doesn’t have to be so bloody complex!

Imagine, for a second, that YOU are the angry man pontificating at the podium. YOU are the political candidate delivering the speech. And YOU are the public hearing it.

All you’re doing is declaring – be it poetically or plainly – exactly WHO you are, WHAT you stand for, and HOW you move amongst the world. Except, even more than publicly to the world, you are publicly declaring it to yourself.

You can’t grow into the person you want to become unless you define that person first. For that journey, it’s so incredibly necessary to establish what your core values are, what personal beliefs define you, and what targets in life you are aiming at.

That is the topic of today: YOUR values and YOUR journey. Today I want to teach you how to write a personal manifesto and exactly why you should take the time.

Have no fear: it’s easy! And INSANELY VALUABLE.

And it might just change your life forever.

Will Hatton writing his personal manifesto in the mountains of Pakistan
Grab a pen and paper: it’s time to start writing!

Oi, cuz. To make it even easier, I put together a printable template manifesto to work off in the VIP section – sign up below! It’s just my way of saying you have a nice butt… I mean, thank you.

How to Write a Personal Manifesto

Writing a personal manifesto is easy – it’s easier than you might think. The hardest part is just getting started.

Now, everything that surrounds the process of writing the manifesto is where it gets more difficult. Because that’s you. That’s where the you happens.

You live, you suffer, you rejoice, you gain, and you lose, and all of that gets channelled into the manifesto. That part is hard; channelling all that you into such a deeply personal piece of writing. If you feel emotions stir up as you write, good: that means you are on the right path.

But making the manifesto… Penning it out… That part is easy.

Ready to see how easy this is?

Step 1: Kickstart Your Brain Juices with a Value Smoothie

Got a pen? Good.

Got a piece of paper? Good!

There are several different ways to start making your manifesto, but it’s good to start every day with a green smoothie of delicious personal values! Or at the very least, a protein-loaded breakfast of positive affirmations.

Personally, I like to start my manifesto with a cover page listing positive affirmations, goals, and reminders about the person I want to be. That way, I get a crystal clear picture in my head of what my goals are and what my ideal life looks like, and that kickstarts the writing process!

I want to share with you guys the cover page of my manifesto. I read this every day because it hammers home what’s important to me and who I want to strive to be. Sometimes, I’ll give it a tweak as I read it, and sometimes I add to it. Remember that writing a manifesto is an ongoing process; it’s never truly finished.

I’ll warn you now, the cover page can get kinda messy and jumps all over the place from concept to concept. That’s totally fine; a manifesto is a dumping ground for all of your thoughts and ideas on who you want to be and the strategies you may use to get there. It’s important just to start somewhere, and the most influential ideas you have in your head about your targeted self is the perfect place to do it!

There will be plenty of time in your journey to clean this bad boy up later, but step 1 is to just fucking write SOMETHING.

Will Hatton on his villa porch writing his personal manifesto
Just start writing. (And smile too!)

The Cover Page for Will’s Personal Manifesto…

Be a sniper: focus on one thing. Be present. Breathe deep and be calm.

There is so much to be grateful for.

Be disciplined. Say no to the monkey. Love yourself.

Your environment is crucial – don’t keep booze in the house, and be around people who encourage a healthy lifestyle.

I write my core principles…

  • Healthy body, pure mind, strong heart. 
  • Always be kind, never be weak.
  • Invest in your future self – do not fuck over the Will of tomorrow.
  • Always be honest, ethical, and compassionate.
  • Find strong flow, create things.

I write my current goals…

  • To be sober for 90 days.
  • To be open and honest in my relationships.
  • To hike more.
  • To be fit, healthy, and free of angst.
  • To foster greater personal discipline.
  • Use my phone wisely.

I write my aspirations for the next five years…

  1. Have built a house.
  2. Bagged an unclimbed peak.
  3. Be sober, calm, and free of anxiety.
  4. Have published a book.
  5. Be a father.

I write my positive affirmations…

I am strong and flexible.

I am healthy; I give my body what it needs. 

I am dedicated to being the best version of myself. 

I am constantly improving. 

I am a warrior and a leader. 

Healthy body, strong mind, pure heart. 

I write my reminders to myself…

Don’t take things personally, have no expectations, try your best. Keep moving forwards.

Be honest and true. Be proud of yourself. Be humble. Send love to myself and my inner child. 

To grow as a person, one must not ignore weaknesses or temptations but acknowledge and rise above them. I have a problem with drugs and alcohol – accepting this is the first step to moving past it.

I write who I am…

  • I am: A writer, an entrepreneur, a humanist, a hiker, a leader, a dedicated and loving partner, a recovering addict. 
  • I believe: Digital detoxes are essential, porn is toxic, phones are addictive.
  • My five foundational pillars: Exercise, gratitude, body intake, journalling, and meditation. 
  • Pep talk corner: You can and must be better. Be honest about what you want. Don’t take on other people’s problems.
    Don’t worry about what others think. Keep moving forwards; be 1% better every day. If you meditate, journal, workout, do meaningful work, and get off your phone every day, you are doing well…. Acknowledge that and honour yourself.
  • Aims: To feel good in my body and my soul – to not care about what people think of me. 

I write my belief system…

  • Body: Sweat, fast, eat healthy, drink water.
  • Mind: Meditate, minimise phone use, no porn, be in the present, practise gratitude.
  • Purpose: To create. 
  • Pilgrimage: Travel tough, help people, digital detox. 
  • Virtues: Work hard, be creative, share love, be honest, waste nothing.

I write my monthly personal goals…

  • 30 days of sobriety.
  • No porn, no cocaine.
  • Fast often.
  • Don’t smoke on weekdays.
  • Put the phone down.
  • Ask the deep questions.
  • Journal my progress.
  • Dial in sleep and evening routine.

I write my 3-month goals…

  • Meditation practice.
  • Be sober.
  • Sleep well.
  • Eat right.
  • No porn.
  • Journal often.
  • Practise gratitude.
  • Get out amongst nature.

I write what I still need to work on…

  • Overthinking about what others think of me.
  • Being addicted to validation/being desired/being noticed.
  • Don’t slip down the porn and alcohol rabbit hole.
  • Taking on other people’s problems .
  • Detoxing the digital life (utilise the 2 phone system, cut off phone #1 at 7:30 P.M.).
  • Anger management (smile, wish an antagonist a nice day, defuse, do not escalate situations – there’s no point).

Annnnnnd…

BOOM!

Will Hatton kissing his journal after finishing his manifesto
Pièce de résistance.

Yep, that’s quite a lot of randomly formatted goodness – hopefully, it will inspire you to write out your own manifesto! At the very least, setting your goals and self-affirmations is a therapeutic process… Plus it makes for a damn nice cover page!

One thing to note is that my manifesto is in fact about 30 pages long with many different sections. For example, I have a section that lists important lessons I have learned. There are sections dedicated to my values, my goals in life, my vices and management techniques…

Your personal manifesto is the drawing board for you as a person, and that is – ALWAYS – a work in progress. Some things about ourself remain unchanging over the years, but a lot does not. Be prepared to spend many waking hours of many years of self-therapy attending to your manifesto.

But a poignant cover page is one way to kickstart the whole thing:

  • Have you written out your core values yet?
  • Or a framework of who you want to be in the future?
  • Perhaps some short and long-term goals?
  • Maybe some positive affirmations to guide you on your journey?

And that is the cover page! Drink that spirulina-and-self-help loaded smoothie deep – once a day even – and meditate on what it means. Already, the idea of who you want to be is crystalising.

But that’s still just page one.

Step 2: Set the Manifesto’s Structure

A cover page is one thing, but again, my manifesto is 30 pages long. There’s still a lot more to write.

To truly understand your values, you have to be willing to engage with them. You have to understand their importance and how they’ve founded the person that you are.

Swing back to that idea of a public declaration to yourself, and then put it in another form – a form we’re all versed in: writing a letter. Except, in this case, you write a letter to yourself.

You don’t have to literally write a letter to yourself, however, you could. You could copy this verbatim or tweak it to your liking.

Dear [YOUR NAME]

I am writing to you today to tell you what matters most to me. I know we’ve had some good times – and I know we’ve had some bad times – but that’s the point, [YOUR NAME].

I love you and I want us to be fucking legends together. Together, we shall conquer galaxies, but we shall not rule with an iron fist.

No! No I say to the man in [YOUR CAPITAL CITY]. We shall rule with compassion and the intergalactic denizens of the universe shall prosper!

But to do that, together, we need to define what our guiding set of principles is. What are our personal values? What framework can we design to then structure the house of our life around?

What are the values that we hold highest within ourselves and within others? Who are we NOW and who do we WANT to be in the future…

The purpose of this manifesto is to honestly list our strengths and weaknesses and to identify traits which we want to cultivate within ourself. Maybe that’s patience, honour, integrity, sobriety, spontaneity… The time has come for us to sit down together and meditate upon the values that define the [MAN/WOMAN/NEITHER/SPACE HAMSTER] we want to be.

This is who we are…

And then you just write those values out: that’s your manifesto.

You write as much or as little of each of these principles that you feel defines you and your moral code – the code you live by. Because the code you live by defines who you are, and that’s why you’re writing your manifesto.

A really easy way to start is to simply start listing out traits that the best version of yourself will have and the lessons that version of yourself practises – such as kindness, forgiveness, wisdom, etc. – to achieve that best-version status. It’s important to note that your manifesto will change a lot over time; I’ve re-written mine well over 100 times.

But that’s the point. Journeys, not destinations, amigos.

Remember: First Drafts Don’t Matter

There are many different ways to write out your manifesto, however, do not stress. What’s important is that you start.

I recommend you start by simply listing the values that are important to you – do that now. The first 10-20 things that come to mind, and there are no wrong answers.

Another good way to think about it is… What values define the PERSON YOU WANT TO BE?

Then, mayhap you will rank their place in your personal hierarchy and choose several important ones to explore in-depth? For example, ‘Practise forgiveness’ is a strong concept, but it’s little more than an aphorism in that form – why does that value matter to you?

Write about it. The lessons you have learnt from that value, experiences from life that taught you its importance, and the reasons why you know it underpins your humanity. You just gotta write this shizz down.

Page 1 of the first draft of my manifesto example
Don’t worry. You don’t have to use Roman numerals. I’m just a fancy bitch.
(This manifesto draft was provided by a Ziggy – everybody needs a Ziggy.)

Don’t overthink it either! Write as many or as few personal values as you can think of, and don’t stress your gorgeous face. Make it messy and make it any length.

Expanded scribbles are great, but short and concise is good too. Brevity is a valued art, but brevity is something achieved over time. You start with a great concept, spend time with it, and whittle it down over many rewrites to its core meaning.

And that will take many drafts, but there are no wrong answers. Just a starting point.

This is just your first draft: no one ever sees your first draft. 

Page 1 of the first draft of my manifesto example
Well, except you just saw Ziggy’s.

Start with the personal value that’s obvious to you. You must have one that’s so important to you that it jumps into your mind when you first hear the words ‘guiding principle’? The value perched on top of the hierarchy above all your other values.

This value serves as the fundamental cornerstone of your worldview and how you interact with reality. So you must have one; you’re only human, after all. 🙂

And that’s the value you start with: that’s the perfect one. Write it down. Write what the value is, and below it, write why it’s so important to you – why it’s the ultimate tenet of your life that guides you above all else.

If you were lost in a dark cave, this manifesto would be your lantern. Or headtorch (depending on what era you’re from).

An example of a shorthand manifesto with inspiration quotes
This is a manifesto too: wise people say less and say more of value.

That light takes root from the core of who you are.

As you write that down, more ideas for your manifesto will pop into your head. It’s all connected, y’know, and I don’t mean that in the tie-dye and ketamine way. But the framework of values, morality, ethics, and all the other razzmajazz that makes up your conscious (and unconscious) impact on the world?

That’s all woven together in the exquisite tapestry that is your life. Follow one thread and more will become clear.

And it is an exquisite tapestry, too. It’s a bit frayed on the edges, sure, and sometimes the stitches loosen or the patterns peace out for breakfast, but it is certainly an exquisite tapestry nonetheless. It has a lot of history: more than you can know.

So start defining that tapestry. All your values, some of your values, your most treasured values: just get it down in that deliciously dribbly first draft format. Once you’ve begun this process of defining your personal principles, the rest of the tapestry of your life will become clearer, as will the remainder of your manifesto.

And there you go: you’ve started your manifesto! Is this the only format for a manifesto? Na – not in the slightest, but a manifesto is a very personal project. Yours will take a very different look to anyone else’s.

But you’ve started: it’s your first draft. Now the rest is on you. 😉

Creating the Manifesto – First to Final Draft

The easy part is done! I mean, I hope it wasn’t too easy. I hope it was uncomfortable at times; I hope you had to talk to yourself and listen when unsettling emotions came up.

That’s the point.

You see, the final outline of the manifesto isn’t what’s important; it’s the PROCESS of writing the manifesto that really matters.

This manifesto template that I’ve given you is nothing more than a personal mission statement. A personal constitution for you to write and, I hope, follow. That’s why I say treat it as a letter to yourself.

You’re facilitating a conversation with yourself – something we don’t do enough of in a world forever trying to increase the volume around us.

Have you ever hiked in the middle of buttfuck nowhere with no one around for miles and brazenly held a conversation out loud with yourself? You should give it a try sometime.

It’s the same reason I tell people they should try journalling regularly; you never know what you might learn once you start listening.

Will works on his personal mission statement in the mountains of Pakistan
Find somewhere to turn down the noise.

And once you’ve held that conversation with yourself and documented the minutes, your next step to making the manifesto and finishing the piece is just to polish it like a polaroid picture.

And that means rewriting the shit out of it.

Step 3: Finishing the Manifesto

Here is a link to a finished (and rather pristinely polished) example of a manifesto: The Broke Backpacker Manifesto.

This manifesto was the culmination of a tonne of hours mixed with a dash of grit and a splash of Mary Jane divided across me and the members of my team over on The Broke Backpacker. Each stellar human is a decorated and veteran traveller in their own right – and the good kind too! The Broke Backpacker Manifesto is a properly diverse bunch of vagabonds documenting what they believe to be the guiding tenets that define a legendary traveller.

20 tenets and 2053 words in total length (excluding the poetic piledriver of the intro and outro). That means…

2053 divided by 20… carry the math… equals…

Roughly 100 words per value!

And that’s not all…

We have an even shorthand printable version in the VIP section if you sign up! below

Snoop Dogg dancing GIF with arrows pointing to the signup form for a manifesto template example
dyd email form image will on laptop

Want to take your business to the next level?

Ditch Your Desk subscribers get access to my best content. Period.

And that one is barely even a few hundred words in length!

The point of a first draft is to write a second draft. And a third. Probably a fourth.

Remember that yours will look very different to anyone else’s and will be the product of a lifetime. Maybe the end goal will just be printout you keep in your wallet: X’s Guide to Being a Dope Human. Or maybe there will be an index with dedicated sections to the various areas of your life that require work… with pretty pictures!

As long as you’re in the mindest that writing your manifesto is a journey that you will walk time and time again. Because defining yourself is a journey you will walk time and time again.

You see, that Broke Backpacker Manifesto? I wrote so many drafts I stopped numbering them! I just started giving them Pokemon names instead.

You write, rewrite, refine, rework, maybe combine a few principles, maybe cut one that doesn’t resonate quite so strongly, and above all, you trim the word count.

The lighter you trim the weight of the manifesto, the easier it will be to carry (both physically and metaphysically). A manifesto can be long or longer, but it shouldn’t have to be. Your brain is already full with all the suffering and joy of existence, so trim dat shit!

But trim it gently – like a bonsai. Go all Miyagi-san on its ass until all you have left is a series of punchy one-liners veiled by esotericism and a kindly old Japanese man’s accent.

Miyagi trimming his bonsai representing the redrafting required to create the manifesto

Or write it real direct, real simple, and real from the heart. That’s just as good.

Because as much as having a printable manifesto for your wallet in times of crisis is kinda fyreee, gurrrlfriennnd, the real POWER of the process comes in writing that personal mission statement to yourself – the manifesto.

You write, you rewrite. You converse with yourself. Maybe you end up with a numbered list of personal principles, or maybe it’s a 500-word soliloquy filled with borrowed Eastern philosophies and punchy idioms you saw etched on $10 coffee mugs.

As long as it speaks to you and the speaking with you has occurred to reach it, you’ve done it right. Because you’ve defined YOUR personal values.

And that leads me to why you SHOULD write a manifesto.

Why You Should Write a Personal Manifesto

Look, it doesn’t have to be as laboriously and lovingly polished as The Broke Backpacker Manifesto with epic photos of YOU ON A FUCKING MOTORBIKE IN PAKISTAN.

Will on a motorbike in Pakistan shortly after writing his personal manifesto in the mountains
LOW-KEY FLEX!

But the redrafting and rewriting IS important because it extends the conversation with yourself. You’re not just stopping in to drop off your neighbour’s wrongly delivered mail. You’re sitting down for cigarettes, coffee, and metaphysical chit-chats about your inner-self in a black and white Jim Jarmusch film.

Remember that point I made before? That the code you live by defines who you are.

Your code is there, whether you realise it or not: it’s an unconscious part of yourself. As much as I might wish we were, we’re not Batman getting our brood on around Gotham City’s shadowy heights spurred by a code of antihero-styled righteousness. But that also doesn’t mean that you don’t have a code.

Follow your code.

Your code is there; it’s the habituated product of who you are built up over years of conditioning – both internal and external. The maddening mayhem of whirling chaos that swept through your years on the planet to leave you as the beautiful you that we see before us now.

Thoughts become words and those words turn to action. Action becomes habit and those habits, in turn, define your character. Beyond that, lies destiny.

That’s what an eccentric old Zimbabwean man told me deep in a forest once. He pissed off to the desert shortly after that, so his destiny is probably being dead, but that’s ok! He was a dick… albeit a wise one.

Your actions are predicated by your code – your conscious and unconscious thoughts – and those actions define who you are. We are not beasts; we are people. We have the power to rationalise, process, and make cognitive decisions.

You can, and should, act on wisdom – not kneejerk reactions. There is no wisdom in that.

But to reach that wisdom, you have to understand yourself and how and why you interact with the word in the way you do. You have to understand that framework of tapestry and all the threaded colours, intricate moments, and jarring imperfections that make the beautiful whole – you can make better choices. For yourself and others.

That is the very essence of personal development right there: making better choices. The BEST choices, for the world, which includes you.

The power of writing the manifesto lies not in the final product. It’s in the conversation. Defining your own personal values is a dying art in a world where so many people would prefer to just preach piety as a dogma rather than discuss it in open dialogue.

I had a stinker of a 2020, complete with marriage breakdowns, substance abuse relapses, and a crumbling business model courtesy of Ragnarok. But DEFINING my values and holding this conversation with myself – i.e. writing the manifesto – was one of the apexes of my recovery.

It allowed me to see who I was and exactly what choices I had made that had led me to where I was (because spicy hot take: you design your own despair). And then beyond that, it allowed me to define the person I wanted to be and what values I wanted to uphold above all else.

And that gave me something to aim at. You always need a target in life.

Sit down and talk to yourself some time: you never know what you might learn.

After all, everybody has their story. Everybody knows something you do not.

Including you.

Tips for Writing a Manifesto

  • DO NOT STRESS. It really is so not about the final product. A manifesto, much like the therapeutic nature of journalling, is about the process. You can do it as many times as you like, and there are no bad ideas.
  • As you try to find your personal values, think on past regrets, mistakes, triumphs… People you’ve loved, lost… hurt. Your highest highs, lowest lows, and the wounds that still seemingly haven’t finished entirely scabbing over yet.
    These collections of haps and mishaps encompass YOU. If the goal is to understand and make concrete the explicit and implicit values of your self, then retreading the roads that brought you here is a necessary step in that journey.
  • But as much as the process is the instrumental component of writing a personal manifesto, remember that there is a final product! And it’s something you want to be able to call on when navigating dire straits.
    Trim that word count, keep it poingant and pointed, and speak in way that resonates with yourself!
  • If writing your manifesto doesn’t happen all at once, that’s cool! Maybe you write six values down in a moonlit mountain hut one day while walking off your woes and suddenly you feel miles better. Maybe the next creative flair won’t come until the next time you’ve hit the burnout phase and need a sitdown cuddle, chat, and warm beverage with yourself.
    When the word comes, let them flow. And when they slow to a drip, sit with what you’ve written.
  • Remember you’re writing a letter to yourself: use strong ‘I’ statements!
  • Feel free to use other people’s words! We’ve all got pieces of art we hold dear that have defined who we are, and in those works, we find wisdom.
    Book, movie, game, dead wise white dude, dead wise black dude, fucking Winnie the Pooh – doesn’t matter! If it speaks to you in your hour of need, use it!

Because That’s The Final Takeaway on How to Write a Personal Manifesto

It’s there to help you in your hour of need. There are times where life is a real stinker – we all know that. Many of the ancients believed that life is suffering by its intrinsic nature, and honestly, they weren’t wrong. It’s something we have to endure through our own goodness.

Relationships break down. Vices overwhelm us. We lose people – our most cherished ones. Death, war, goddamn shitting pandemics!

Some days, it isn’t even that ridonculous. Some days, the Gods just look down as you’re stepping out of bed and say-

Zeus from Hercules (Disney) representing the sufferening a life that predicates the importance of making a manifesto

And boom! You step on something jagged and uncomfortable that you don’t remember leaving there the night before. The Gods just took a shit in your morning coffee, and the day doesn’t get much better from there.

But for all those times and many more, it’s good to have wise words to lean on. Comforting and enlightening pieces of perennial wisdom. They guide you through the darkness. The wisdom of our contemporaries and forebearers flow together with our own.

What a manifesto is and what it means is simply a strongly-worded letter to yourself to get you through the times where it’s all a struggle. Tough love or a comforting cuddle – you know what works best for you. But think of it like a soldier clutching a letter from home as he rests in the trenches.

It gives you the strength to keep fighting.

Because times will come when you need those wise words, and writing a manifesto is the antidote to the poison. It’s the speech you give yourself – fists banging relentlessly on the podium – before you send yourself off to do battle with the Gods and suffering of existence.

And if those wise words were just your own… well… isn’t that even better?

Chin up, kid. It’s a battle you’ll win.

Miyagi smiling and approving of the completion of a personal mission statement

One more time, don’t forget we have printable manifesto templates and examples in the VIP section. Sign up and go hard, amigos!

dyd email form image will on laptop

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