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, we will endure a process of extreme austerity and challenge. Meditating and fasting isolated on the mountainside. Their goal is to receive a vision for their lives. To connect with their purpose.
But why do such a thing? Why bother?
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 become 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. Shifting from job to job. From place to place. 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. Then write for an hour. After that, I would meditate for 30 minutes. Then practice yoga for 30 minutes. Only after that would I go to a full days work. Training, either running, climbing or martial arts before or after 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 only 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. In which case we lose all sense of joy and fulfillment, compassion and heart.
We harden ourselves by posturing on how hard and difficult our path was. This strategy may bring with it the appearance of success. Even comfort. But deep down it is a hollowness. A life lived without joy or integrity. It is self-idolatry we see many heroes commit.
On the other extreme; we become a bozo. Someone 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. They drift into emotional eddies and circles. Tense and compromised. Arguments and distance eat away at us. We seem to be going nowhere.
If this continues too long, our relationship stutters and stalls. Breaking apart piece by piece. Or dying on the vine until. We become 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. Her feelings and moods and neediness trapped you from your freedom.
The fact that she did or didn’t want to have kids, or wanted to live somewhere you didn’t want. 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. Either way, it’s on her.
This is the sign of a man who does not know who he is. In truth, he has forgotten himself.
Absent is the cultivated the courage and clarity of a vision necessary for guiding his life. He has forfeited the will to master the guiding principle of his life and relationship.
Many choose this or lesser paths. They play around. Becoming a perpetual Peter Pan. Never growing up. They find a new woman half their age. One who doesn’t know what she wants and won’t challenge them as much. Sure. It works for a while. 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. She too will begin to undermine the trappings of your false freedom. Revealing the emptiness of your superficial life.
The simple, uncomfortable reality remains.
A man without a vision for his life is lost.
Now, he doesn’t need to become the next Muhammad Ali, the next Jesus Christ, or the Buddha. He doesn’t need to create the foundations of great faith or climb the highest mountain on Earth.
But he does need to feel and know that there is a future which is unique to him. Which is his to manifest and to claim. He needs to commit to the discovery of that destiny. Moving towards it with skill and presence.
Discovering — as a mountaineer does — the nature of the pass, where to go, what needs doing. This is the same as deciding how and where he wants to live, what he will settle for what he needs from his relationship.
As the mountaineer knows what gear he will need, where the pass is dangerous. Under which conditions he will attempt the summit. Not simply by theorising, but through following his intention to it’s realisation. Through confrontation with reality. Through wisdom gained from failed attempts. Through experience.
If you wish to see the results of men who live a life without a vision and purpose, think of those you admire most. Consider the lives of great visionaries. Whatever their field. Whatever their accomplishments. Whatever the outward vehicle. Each was manifesting a destiny.
Now, look around you. Are the men surrounding you inspiring? Do they dare and goad themselves into the challenge of their life with vision and humour?
Are they stepping in arenas which make them alive and powerful, full of humility and strength. Are they inspired by a 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.
Beware men without a vision for their lives. Such men often find themselves divorcing or alone in the forties.
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, you must discover a vision for your life. Else you will fall prey goes to reducing your woman to a trophy or a security blanket. Or worse, being her pet project. A surrogate child she learns to dominate and control. Nothing wrong with these things, in their proper place. But you subordinate them to the greater purpose and vision of your life. A fulfilling relationship with life lies in purpose and vision of service, truth and the giving our unique gifts.
If you do not do this, you will languish in a no-mans land of ambiguity.
Trapped by superficial pleasing. Giving in to endless obligations. Falling for your own and your woman’s incessant changes of mind from one position to another.
Stuck in cycles of talking, chronic thinking, working. Sliding or grunting through life. Rather than acting with precision from place of presence. Rather than moving with power towards a destiny you have anticipated in your dreams.
You will lose the fullness of clarity and passion. The passion and clarity needed to realise your vision. You will totter into the safe corners in stead of living the life of substance. The life 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. you have closed your eyes to the scope of your life and your ambition in a bargain for something. Most likely the safety and certainty of significance. Or 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 shoelaces.
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. 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 skill. It must be practiced and honed. It must be deepened into and discovered. Day by day. Moment by moment. Vision is a capacity. It requires a ritual to be available to us. Every we need refreshers and reminders to keep us on track. As a Captain checks the compass and almanac to arrive at the intended destination. So to must with refresh our knowledge of where our vision is taking us. Then account for whatever the weather or setbacks that we meet along the way.
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 lazy 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.
In my own life I have faced 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 dysfunctional family. Been fired from jobs. Quit from jobs. Vagabonded. Hurt people. Failed people.
At times, I have wondered if I was better off being dead. The periods after failures, seeming self-destruction made me dejected. Risking failure can lead to such thinking.
Yet somehow, through those broken moments of desperate tears and hellish pain our strength is born. I persisted. Grace found its way to us. I discovered a way to survive. I looked to teachers and began to ask myself why I existed at all.
In similar moments since then, I have discovered and rediscovered my will to live. To transcend the setback and loss. To face myself bear witness. In return, I felt a spark of light and fire of passion reignite within me.
My purpose pulled me through. A 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 these slights and setbacks all the same without our vision.
So, tell me, what are you going to do?
Comment below. I want to hear from you.
Strength and courage!