Writing down the Axioms was tough, but incredibly worth it. And now we’re getting warmer, and getting closer to the fun stuff. So about this Mission of mine….
why have a mission
You probably have an intuition of what I mean by Mission — it’s the mountaintop I’m climbing towards. So why have one? In combination with the Axioms, Mission gives everything direction and context.
I’m not sure how one can have sustained and constant Enjoyment without Mission. What’s the point of all the trials and hardship one faces? With a Mission, they’re part of the journey and story and are sources of growth, information, and defining moments. Without Mission, it’s just pain and irritation. What meaning can it have? (Please let me know if you have an answer.)
Beyond Enjoyment, all the Axioms, all the reasons for being, are crippled without Mission in a similar fashion. Less Meaning can be made, less Differentiation will occur if you pursue nothing, and higher levels of Integration become less necessary.
And lastly, I think people have a desire to feel like they’re progressing somewhere. If humans didn’t have a desire to progress themselves (at least a small amount), we wouldn’t have made it this far. And if we want to be progressing ourselves, it makes sense to be very explicit about what we’re trying to progress towards.
what makes a good Mission
A Mission does not need to be grandiose, nor does it need to be lifelong.
The only thing it itself has to do is be able to stand solidly on the foundation of the Axioms. For instance, a Mission to “learn as little as possible, be cared about by no one, and live a miserable life” would not stand on the Axioms.
However, there are a few characteristics of a good Mission that I think are useful for an individual to keep in mind when choosing a Mission:
It should be able to provide a concrete vision that can be clearly progressed towards. (This doesn’t mean it needs to be able to be objectively measured.) Without the tractability provided by concreteness, it can never be attained, and even worse, it can’t provide the absolutely necessary positive feedback that is needed along the way.
The Mission should resonate with the individual and, consequently, has to be personally defined. For instance, I think it’s important to gather input from ”our wisers’”, but in the end we have to make the decision for ourselves. We have to own it. The corollary to this is that, if the Mission no longer resonates and we’ve approached it with conviction, the Mission can and should be changed.
The Mission should represent the individual’s highest desires–an expression of what you care about most. This creates the chance for it to be taken up with sincere conviction.
my Mission (11.4.2012)
To be remembered as a Great Ancestor
To clarify what this really means to me, I’d like to first say what it definitely is not. Consider a similarly worded statement: “to be a great ancestor.” This is an extremely abstract statement to me, and my feeling is that its meaning is simply “be a really good person.”
Let’s return to the original wording, “to be remembered as a great ancestor.” The addition of remembered is extremely important. Suddenly, it becomes more concrete. We understand what remembrance looks like. The missing piece is what I mean by Great Ancestor.
In light of the Axioms, defining a Great Ancestor is quite simple: a Great Ancestor is someone that continues to increase Meaning in the world for thousands of years.
Meaning is increased by furthering the other Axioms — Integration, Differentiation, and Enjoyment. As for how to increase Meaning for thousands of years, I see only 2 options: a) to live for thousands of years or b) make a contribution to humanity that persists thousands of years into the future.
I do not consider a lifespan of thousands of years to be impossible in my lifetime, but I think it’s very clear that focusing on making a contribution is the better approach.
And as far as whether or not I’m remembered for this contribution, I’ll leave that for the significance of the contribution to decide.
With these clarifications in mind, here’s a rendition of my Mission in expanded form:
To make a contribution to humanity that will increase Meaning in the Universe
and will continue to do so 10,000 years from now.
why I chose this Mission
Largely, I gravitated towards this Mission over time and was drawn there by intuitions. However, I consider intuition to be a conglomeration of data points our brain is able to use — even though we are not able to explicitly state to ourselves what the meanings of those data points are. A major purpose for my writing this is articulating what my intuition already knows and turning it into an explicit model so I can know it better. So, I will attempt to explain some of the reasons why this Mission resonates with me.
First of all, it meets the characteristics of a good Mission that I described above (concrete, personally defined, an expression of my highest desires–the highest realization of the Axioms). But, I want to delve deeper than that. Onward.
Secondly, one of the reasons “to be remembered as a great ancestor” resonates with me is that it screams “ego.” I think many people would consider it an egotistical statement. And, I hope they do. I recognize to the highest degree the influence and role of others, but I do not think we can look at it any other way: everything flows from the individual. And I want to shout that principle loud and clear. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with an ego of any size, no matter how massive. (Do be aware of my meaning, people often associate “ego” with negative sides of what is actually an immature or incompletely developed ego, which are amplified when found in larger egos.)
However, this ostensibly egotistical wording, “to be remembered as a Great Ancestor”, presents another funny thing that also makes me love this articulation: if you look back at the expanded form of the Mission stated above, it’s actually very focused on others. It’s perfect. It’s a complex statement, and I love dichotomies that make perfect sense.
Thirdly, similar to how I described I’ve long had a compulsion of asking “why?”, I also equally ask, “Why not?” This has some interesting consequences for me in many aspects of life.
When thinking about possible Missions, for any given Mission, I would ask myself “why not greater? why not more challenging?” The answers I find are usually extremely flimsy, so I continue to ask this question until I come to a meaningful answer. And I came to a meaningful answer once I hit this particular articulation.
But, “why not?” has an interesting consequence, if I were to settle for something less than the greatest, I would be left with the question, “if not the greatest, why not something simpler and easier?”
I’m explaining this in a fashion more focused on logic in order to best communicate the processes, but it’s important to remember this is bound up in one’s personal modes of feeling. And for me, the bottom lines is that I’m personally unable to connect with the middle ground in this arena.
In general, in most contexts, this “nothing-in-between” feeling is very detrimental, particularly if it’s not recognized. And, I could try to change it….or I could find a context in which it can thrive. And I’ve found the context where I can thrive–this role I’ve chosen for myself.
This “no-in-between” outlook has an interesting consequence. Right next to a vision of myself becoming a great ancestor, just one step away, is a vision of my worst nightmare…a picture of me sitting in my chair, watching TV, un-immersed in what I’m doing, and apathetic to most of what is happening around me. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this picture in several places that hit very close to home. But, I’m going to make that picture Meaningful by having it help drive me to the place furthest from it.
Lastly, to say it explicitly, I only want to do something that will require everything I have, something that requires complete conviction, the pursuit of complete self-actualization, and something that will take a lifetime of work.
I know where I’m going. And this statement often garners chuckles from the wiser, but I know the self-fulfilling truth: I’m free to be whatever I want to be. And I’m free to be me. And I don’t know how to do anything else anymore.
The Axioms and the Mission create my playing field, and now the question is, “what’s the game plan for getting up field?” The answer starts with the next two elements: the Objectives and my current Resources.