In any experience of adversity, be it the pain of a training regime, the setback and struggle of a political battle, or the simple, day to day war against our own limits and ignorance, it is the power and clarity of our purpose, the vision which raises our eyes towards a higher goal which pulls us forward, or the lack of one, which fails to do so.
After a flight from Berlin and a wild cab ride, I’ve arrived in the City of Kutaisi. A gem in the Georgian crown lying in the lower valleys beneath the Imereti foothills.
We’re here to lead a group of men on an expedition into the heart of darkness. Into the depth of their souls. We are leading six men on a vision quest up the Svaneti mountain. There to endure a process of extreme austerity and challenge by meditating and fasting until they receive a vision of their what to do with their lives.
To achieve anything of substance, we must know and maintain a vision of what we are seeking to bring into the world. What we are striving towards. Without it, we are lost. Drifting and often lazy. Or pushing harder and harder in a boat that seems to be going around and around in an excruciating cycle. I’ve known both sides of this coin. Drifting from job to job, trying to escape reality through drink, video-games, women, drugs. On the other side I have created such severe disciplines for myself, such striving that I would force myself to wake at 0530, write for an hour, meditate for 30 minutes, exercise for 30 minutes, and then go to a full days work. After which, I would then have a list of tasks to lose myself in. Publish this. Record that. Contact this person. Each day becoming a dreaded ride up against the river of resistance, pushing myself through the gauntlet, waking to chase the setting sun, and seeing it sink each day with a feeling of anguish and loss.
Without a vision for our lives, we become one of two extremes. A machine chasing a goal, losing all sense of joy and fulfillment, compassion and heart, posturing on how hard and difficult our path was. Perhaps with the appearance of outwards success and comfort but deep down a hollowness. Or we become a bozo, someone needing and clinging to the safety of conformity and ambiguity, lost to ourselves, coasting or having completely given up.
Without a vision for our lives, our relationships begin to sag and stagnate into emotional eddies and circles, tense and compromised, with arguments which seem to go nowhere. Eventually, they stutter and stall, breaking apart piece by piece, or dying on the vine until we are suffocated under the obligation and crust of compromise.
Soon, we want to escape and break out. If we are weak, lost most men, we blame our woman. It was her fault. She couldn’t relax. She was too crazy and emotional. Or perhaps the other way, perhaps you felt her moods and neediness trapped you from your freedom. That she did or didn’t want to have kids, or wanted to live somewhere you didn’t want. Either way, it’s on her. She wasn’t this or that, not up for being your partner in crime and your help, or she didn’t do enough to turn you on. Whatever.
This is the sign of a man who does not know who he truly is, and who has not cultivated the courage and clarity of a vision for his life and to make this the guiding principle of his life and relationship. Many choose the easier path, they play around, or find a new woman half their age. One who doesn’t know what she wants and won’t challenge them as much. But over time and deep in the core of you, the problem remains the same, and as this woman grows, she too will begin to feel this resignation within you and emptiness of your superficial life. And all the while, beneath you, the same resentments and complaints will arise.
The simple, uncomfortable reality remains.
A man without a vision for his life is lost.
Now, he doesn’t need to become Jesus Christ, or the Buddha, or create the foundations of the Islamic faith.
But he does need to feel and know that there is a future which is uniquely his to manifest and to claim. He needs to be committed to discovering and moving towards clarity. Discovering, as a mountaineer discovers the nature of the pass, where to go, what is needed, how and where he wants to live, what he will settle for, what he needs from his relationship, just as the mountaineer knows what gear he will need, where the pass is dangerous, what conditions he will attempt the summit in, not simply by theorising, but through following his intention to it’s realisation. Through experience.
If you wish to see the results of men who live a life without a vision and purpose. Look around you. Are the men surrounding you inspiring? Do they dare and goad themselves into challenges and arena’s which make them alive and powerful, full of humor, strength and inspired passion? If the answer is yes, this is a good sign of a man who has a vision for his life and is acting with a purpose.
Men without a vision for their lives often find themselves divorcing or alone in the forties. In intimate relationships, the spark of attraction, the passion which overcomes all conflict and the hard times, and the commitment to a shared future died a long time ago. As if you do not feel within yourself that compelling desire, that passion which overcomes your own hard edges and defeats if there is not a future you are seeking to bring into being, then how could you attract and keep a relationship with a woman that shares these same essential qualities?
A compelling vision for your life is the true and essential power of a leader. And all men who wish to live a life of freedom and depth, of authenticity and power, must cultivate and continue to clarify the vision of their lives. How on earth are you to know what is important if you don’t know who you are and where you are going?
If you desire a fulfilling relationship with a woman, you must create a fulfilling relationship to life. If you desire a relationship which goes beyond reducing your woman to a trophy or a security blanket, you must discover a vision for your life. And create a purpose and mission to fulfill it.
Or else you will languish in a no-mans land of ambiguity. Trapped by superficial pleasing, endless obligations and incessant changes of mind from one interest to another. Endlessly talking, or chronically thinking and working, rather than acting with precision from place of presence and power towards a destiny and destination you have anticipated in your dreams. Full of the clarity and passion needed to realise your vision, living the life of substance you know in your heart and loins, no matter the struggle.
A man is content and happy when he has done the work he feels compelled to do, and put his heart into his life. Anything else will give him no peace. He will find no joy or ease. Only a nagging need to fill and distract himself. Be that with conversation, sports, TV, dating, drugs, work, or otherwise.
If you do not have a vision of your life, if you do not know your purpose – who you are, what you must become, create and realise – then it is because you are afraid.
You have, for one reason or another, contracted your vision, the scope of your life and your ambition in a bargain for something. Most likely the safety and certainty of significance, or the variety and comfort of distraction, or the false freedom of vagueness and confusion.
Perhaps this contraction came about through some misfortune. Perhaps your father would hit you when you made a mistake, as mine would when teaching my to read or tie my shoe laces. Perhaps you failed at a business, or a dream project exploded on you. And now you play it safe. I’ve seen the kind. Or perhaps your ambition and drive hurt someone, or maybe you simply fear the pressure of success, of leadership, of responsibility.
Only you can know and discover the truth. And I can tell you from experience it most likely will not be revealed overnight. Purpose is a posture. It must be practiced and honed. It must be deepened into and discovered. Day by day. Moment by moment. Vision is a skill, a ritual which must be exercised every day to keep us on track, as a Captain checks the compass and almanac to arrive at the intended destination, whatever the weather or setbacks that he is met by.
Look around you. Do you feel that, given your limitations and flaws, you are living your life towards a vision which inspires you? Do you act to face your fears for this vision? Does it compel you enough to come out of your paddings of comfort? I mean, why do you even keep breathing if your goal in life is just to pay the bills, or get a promotion? Don’t you know where that leads? Look at your life. Look around you and ask, is this life a reflection of who I am in truth? Or have you cut a deal because you was too afraid of the effort to find out and do whatever it takes to create a life which inspires you?
I will tell you a secret. One it took me considerable time, pain and effort to realise. When you live a life committed to a vision, courage comes to you. Clarity of purpose begins to make itself known. Resources that once would have seemed unattainable begin to flow towards you. Because you have proven yourself worthy of them. You have taken responsibility for your life and it’s direction.
In my own life I have faced many struggles. At times I have been broke beyond being able to buy a bag of rice. I have, at points in my life, failed in business, lost loves, trapped myself in a deeply dysfunctional family, and much more. After a period of self-destruction, dejection and failure, I wondered if I was better off being put down like a dangerous dog.
Grace found its way to me, however, and through a broken moment of desperate tears and hellish pain asking myself why I existed at all, I rediscovered my will to live a life with no limits. To transcend all the setback and trauma and loss I had faced and witnessed. And inside I felt a spark within light the fire of passion and determination that has never gone out.
Once I was back up, I dusted myself off and resolved once again to live a life that inspired me. I rediscovered that we must live a life with a vision and purpose if we wish for any fulfillment and meaning in our lives. Since that moment, I began to meditate daily until I knew what I was here to do. After weeks of waking up early, meditating in outside, through sunshine and frost and rain, holding the question with me: ‘What is my purpose? What must I do next to reveal the vision of my life?.’ I received an answer. I was to undertake a difficult journey, a pilgrimage, to one of my heroes, Satish Kumar. A man who had walked around halfway around the world with no money, during the height of the cold war, in the name of nuclear disarmament. A man who walked from Mahatma Gandhi’s grave in New Delhi, through Pakistan, through the Afghan steppes and mountains to Moscow, and onward still until he came to meet Martin Luther King Jnr. besides the newly dug resting place of JFK.
It was my vision to walk to this man. I was terrified enough by the walk. But the instructions I received were even more specific. I was to walk in the same manner Satish had. In the name of a cause, for soil, soul and society. Everywhere I went I would speak to people on these subjects. I was to confront my fear of scarcity and inadequacy directly, taking a vow to use no money, to use no map. In this mission, I would have to rely completely on the kindness of strangers. I would take nothing that was not given freely. My only qualification was the clarity of my purpose and the determination to follow my heart.
This journey was to be a daily confrontation with my deepest fears. Yet I found a way through every obstacle and challenge. Somedays I went hungry, walking twenty miles in the summer heat without a bite to eat. Yet most often, I was aided. Given shelter, given food, given trust. Along the way, I met many many people. I would stop and talk to them whenever I was in need or felt the urge to talk. Many, after hearing of my journey, asked me for insight into their own predicaments, many having come to crossroads in their own pilgrimage in life. It was an invaluable experience in the work I now do with men in facing their fears to follow their vision and realise the true purpose of their life.
My purpose pulled me through. The vision kept me going. It made clear to me what was important and what was superficial and empty. It cut through the paralyzing fog and fat of doubt and confusion and fear.
In life, whatever path we choose, there are unforeseen challenges, pain, boredom, ridicule.
We have only one choice. To suffer these slights and setbacks for our chosen dream, for the vision we hold of our life. Or to suffer them regardless. We can choose to be guided and pulled forward by a clear, consciously chosen purpose. A realisation of what we are here to give and to do, discovered moment by moment, deepened day by day. A vision through which we can face the vicissitudes of life, like a rope leading us over the roaring river of uncertainty, chaos and danger which is existence. Or we can be pushed around by these same forces, until we hide in the corner, covered by a blanket of comfort: be that the false sense of significance we gain from achievement and status, the anonymity of the crowd and conformity, or otherwise.
Whatever you choice, just know, in the long run, you will lose. You will die. The only way to win is to wage the war against fear, and the sword of purpose is the weapon you must wield, and your vision the guiding light which raises your eyes to the horizon, past the inevitable darkness and defeats which must be faced, by simple virtue of being alive.
So, tell me, what is the vision you hold for your life? What is the deep impulse you feel in your life? And what are you willing to sacrifice to make it a reality?
Comment below. I want to hear from you.