In the military, a mission is a smaller subset of a larger overall purpose. While the purpose in Iraq may have been to overthrow Saddam, defeat the Iraqi army, and rid individual areas of insurgents so that a democratic government could be instituted and thrive, that plan was carried out via thousands of coordinated missions. So, in the process of finding our next mission, we must be ever mindful of the larger purpose, calling, or vision for our lives, so that we can ensure that each particular mission contributes to that purpose. Don’t get hung up on particular terminology here, just understand the difference between the overarching plan/goal/vision/purpose/mission and the smaller missions that are used to achieve the larger one. For ease of use, I’m going to refer to the overarching plan/goal/vision/mission as one’s “purpose” and the smaller ones as the “mission”. But these aren’t gospel, so feel free to think of them in your own way.
In identifying the next mission, we have to start with the larger purpose. In general, a man’s purpose will be very similar to the Hero’s Journey (check out Manhood and The Hero’s Journey for a thorough discussion). The details will vary from person to person, but each man’s purpose will involve developing and using our masculine virtues on a quest that brings value to the world. It will likely involve marriage and raising a family, and our wife and children will join in on our purpose.
Too often, young men get tripped up by making marriage or a family the purpose. While I believe that a strong, fulfilling marriage that creates children who will take our values into the next generation will often be a significant part of a man’s purpose, those things should not be THE purpose. They are a part, not the whole. The mindset that makes marriage or family a man’s primary purpose has significant detrimental effects. The man whose purpose is to find a wife will, in many cases, make a poor decision on a wife. He’ll rush the decision because he’s in too big of a hurry. More importantly, a man without a purpose attracts of lower quality of woman. Woman can smell desperation from a mile away, and the man whose purpose in life is to find a woman reeks of desperation. That man will only attract women who are similarly desperate, those who have limited options, those who need a man because they have poor self-esteem, or those who simply lonely or want to be taken care of.
The man whose purpose is to have children will create children without a father. He will end up as their friend, not their parent. He will cater to their every whim, remove every obstacle, and make them the center of the family’s universe. This mindset creates children who believe the world revolves around them and that every obstacle is either an injustice or insurmountable. While a man should be present and involved in the lives of his children, he must not make their happiness his purpose. Instead, he must show them what it’s like to live a life of purpose, a life in pursuit of something larger than himself and his family that brings value to the world. By modeling this life and having his family join him in the larger purpose, he creates a thriving marriage and family.
The beautiful thing about the man’s life is that, when a man pursues his larger purpose properly, he is able to have a strong, fulfilling marriage and happy, content, thriving children, who will then carry his values and perhaps even his purpose into the next generation, even expanding on it and taking it further than he thought possible. The key is that these things are a by-product of the man’s life, properly lived, rather than the purpose itself.
In a perfect world, the overarching purpose of a man’s life will allow him to develop and utilize his masculine virtues in connection with other men in the accomplishment of something significant that brings value to others. It will require him to be:
- tough, resilient
- connected to other men
- knowledgeable, thoughtful, and wise
This is partly why men have always loved war. It allows us to use these virtues to the greatest extent, in pursuit of (what is perceived to be) the greatest purpose, and for the greatest stakes. It’s partly why so many who have returned from war long to return, despite its horrors. And it is horrible, may we never forget. Nevertheless, in this sense, war is manhood at its highest level.
This is also why men have a fascination with team sports, as we recognize that athletes are pursuing a mission that requires all the things that are important to, and indicative of, men. They have a mission, they train together to get stronger, faster, and more skillful. They work together to come up with creative ways to accomplish the mission, and then work together to execute it. They use their bodies and their minds to overcome obstacles and win.
Thus, we must recognize that our constitution as men, whether you believe it to be from the design of an intelligent creator or the result of millions of years of evolutionary adaptation, leads us to love fight, struggle, physicality, ingenuity, and relationship in the pursuit of a worthy cause. It leads us to desire to use and challenge both our bodies and our minds. While the comforts of civilization are nearly miraculous and pleasant, they do not require us to use and challenge our bodies. Because physicality is encoded deep inside of us, many men are pursuing missions that leave them unfulfilled because they’re lacking that essential element.
As a result, for most of us, our next mission will involve developing our masculine virtues. In this day and age, that means we need to bring the physicality back. There was a time when men slept well at night. It wasn’t because they didn’t have problems, and it certainly wasn’t because they had easy access to Ambien. It was because they were physically exhausted. Their days were filled with physical exertion. For better or for worse, those days are gone. While we don’t need to return to the days when we had to ride a horse to the general store, we do need to bring back physical exertion. We need to work hard with our bodies. These days, for most of us, that won’t involve manual labor. If it does, that’s great. But for those of us with desk jobs, we must intentionally find ways to exert ourselves physically, because that’s a deep-seated aspect of being a man and we will not be satisfied unless we do it.
How do we do it? Here are some suggestions:
- Some of us simply need to get stronger. That part of your mission is simple. You need to start a strength program and spend the next year getting strong. There are plenty of programs that will work, though I’m biased towards The Man Strong Blueprint, which was made specifically for those who have never gone through an organized strength program, even if you’ve “lifted” for a long time. We need to be able to push, pull, drag, jump, and throw our bodies and external loads through multiple planes and ranges of motion. But it all starts with getting strong; that’s the foundation for it all and the aspect that makes you better at all the other stuff.
- Sprint. I know this is against the conventional wisdom, which tells you to “jog”. That word itself sounds about as feminized as it can be. Run fast. Take a break. Do it again. Start with short sprints and lower intensity, and over the course of weeks and months, increase both. I cannot emphasize enough the need to start slow and short; otherwise, you will get injured, which is neither smart nor manly. Train hard and smart, taking the long view.
- Walk. Take long walks, preferably out in nature rather than on a track. We need to be out in our environment and be able to negotiate it. Long walks in the woods are often spiritual experiences that serve to clear and cleanse the mind and the soul. You’ll find some of your greatest insights there. And it’s good for your body. Wear minimalist shoes to strengthen your feet and ankles.
- Fight. Take a class on boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, or Krav Maga. Learn to struggle and strain against an opponent. The strain and the awareness that are involved in fighting are hard to simulate, and they satisfy a primal need inside of us. Go for it. Do your research and find a gym that will bring you along slowly and properly.
- Get proficient with a weapon. Part of our role as men is to be a protector, of our family and others. As long as there are evil men willing to do violence, good men will need to be capable of doing violence to protect ourselves and those around us. There is likely no more irresponsible act than merely buying a gun and locking it away. You must learn to use it and use it well. Learn the fundamentals and practice them. Repeatedly. Then learn and train tactics. Repeatedly. Confidence comes from demonstrated performance, so keep pushing until you’ve demonstrated that you’re a competent protector.
- Inoculate yourself against bad weather. Our society has become comfort-obsessed, which has led us to become weather-obsessed. We work hard to make sure we don’t spend a single moment more than absolutely necessary in an uncomfortable state. This mindset gets perpetuated by complaining about how hot/cold/humid/windy/rainy/snowy it is. We need to chill out; it’s just weather. Unless you’re hiking alone in the Klondike or doing a 100-mile race in Death Valley, you’re probably going to be okay. Learn to deal with it. Don’t run through the rain. Don’t complain about the cold. I understand that the weather is good fodder for small talk, but don’t let it create a mindset that allows the weather to affect you. Want a simple method for getting started on this? Start taking cold showers. I’ve done it exclusively since 2010 or so. You won’t notice the cold nearly as much when you’re used to it.
While the physical side is just one aspect of the man’s life we’ll look at other aspects next week), it’s a critical aspect and is noticeably absent from the lives of too many of us. Unless you’re an outlier in our society today, I suspect your next mission should be to ramp up your physicality and do more with your body. Earn your sleep at night. You might just find out you don’t need that Ambien after all. This is the man’s life.
*If you enjoyed this post, do two things: (1) enter your information below to subscribe to my mailing list and get my free report, Why Men Need a Mid-life Crisis, and (2) use the share buttons below to share this article on social media. Also, if you’re looking for a jump-start in achieving your health and fitness goals, check out my new eBook, The Man Strong Blueprint: A Beginner’s Guide to the Body You Need. Thanks.