There’s a history of me being stuck to the same series of goals for most of my life. My journal and my blogs suggest this. Having this history really gives direction regarding what I’m really about just by means of consistency. If you haven’t read my previous post about journaling, go read that now. Regardless, it’s kind of an ad hoc way to state what I represent. And I’m trying to really be intentional here. It would be far more appropriate to define where I plan to end up and track my success at arriving there.
I’ve made some very clear outlines of what I want to be like. I’ve taken to identifying my role models and heroes. I’ve created the habit of paying a tribute to my better qualities. And I have creative daily habits to refine my activity to, and never were point closer to my ideal self. Now if I keep going down this path I could fill every waking hour with some self-development activity or another.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is a little bit aimless. What I have now is progress for the sake of progress, and that feels just a little bit empty. Instead of taking that course of action, I will establish some of my viewpoints and statements of purpose. There are more than a few good reasons for this. Greg McKeown, the author of essentialism, reminds us that saying yes to something good means saying no to something essential. Without laying out my essentials, I will swim in good and drown in mediocre.
Asking the Tough Questions
I like to ask the question “what do I stand for” because it implies a few specific things to me. I would love to learn my purpose, if I have one, and live up to it but that requires knowing what it all means. I’m not quite clever enough to say with certainty what the meaning of life is. It’s just far too big an answer and also begs the question if the universe has or assigns any meaning at all. I can, however, figure out what I stand for.
It may seem like a much smaller question, something a little bit arbitrary, but that question actually exists on the same scale as what my purpose is. when one thing stands for another, it exists as a symbol, a placeholder, and avatar. If I stand for peace then I am a representative of peace wherever I go. If I stand for knowledge, then whatever I am I carry knowledge with me as a delegate of that grand construct. The question of what I stand for is a question of what ideal concept I am willing and able to represent at all times. Similar to the list of my qualities I intend to accentuate, this thing I represent should be something that comes quite naturally.
Drafting a Mini-Manifesto
What I am going to do is write a mini-manifesto. A manifesto is a document that clarifies and crystalizes a series of goals or personal ideology. A mini-manifesto is like a starter document. It will describe my aims and reasonings in brief as a way for me to reference my own motivations clearly. Often the idea of a manifesto comes off as being something reserved for weird or dangerous extremists, but in reality, it doesn’t need to be either of those. The entire purpose is to put the nebulous opinions, beliefs, and ideals we have in our minds into clear, static words. For this manifesto, I will choose to use strong action words. “I am,” “henceforth,” “unwaveringly” are all strong phrases I might choose to place in there. The document will also be broken into four main sections. A statement of purpose, a list of objectives, what I stand for, and my supporting ideals.
Statement of Purpose
To avoid the rabbit-hole or a flurry of desperate activity, I’m starting off by asking myself why I’m creating this document. The answer is simple enough. “This manifesto exists as a declaration of my will to become and remain my best self. I call this vision of my self my ‘Eidolon’, and I will become a living tribute to the best qualities I possess.” There, that describes the document, but this isn’t really about the mini-manifesto, is it? It’s actually about me. So I’m going to add a bit more language in there to explain why this matters so much to me. “I am doing this in an effort to live for and fulfill my own ideals to the degree that they deserve and the extent that will satisfy my what I demand of myself as a person.”
What I Stand For
In addressing the question of what I stand for, I like to discuss it in a way that sounds most in earnest. I don’t want to be a weak or lukewarm representative of my chosen cause or concept. I want to come 100% and at all times. The point isn’t to become a zealot by any means. The exact effect I am going for is to offer exemplary service to the idea in mind. At all times, it is my priority. Not that I’m obsessed or it makes no room for other thoughts or actions, but I demonstrate with sincere follow-through that this is number one on my list of things to do today (this is a great use for the priorities in the daily journal). This is something I’m devoting a significant amount of my attention to. “I, Devon M Scott, stand for Ethical Understanding. I will act in devoted service to what I stand for, being a representative to the qualities and ideal of what I stand for at all times.”
List of Objectives
I now need to set forth some clear objectives. Luckily I defined several when outlining my Eidolon. “I will live up to the name of the archetype of Warrior Poet. I will play out my role as the hero fulfilling my life’s quest. I will live in joyful appreciation and gratitude. I will seek and accept challenges. I will behave in a way that is disciplined and steadfast. I will avoid unnecessary confrontation, but always be courageous when confronted. I will honor my heroes, role models, and teachers by being a positive example of what they’ve instilled in me.” This list of objectives was luckily already pre-chosen before we began drafting this mini-manifesto. I’m going to add a few more that point to what I said I stand for. “I will seek understanding in others. I will seek an understanding of the world. I will seek an understanding of myself.” This is a good opportunity to really expand on what it means to stand for what I stand for. “I will present myself so as to be understood. I will resolve the conflict of misunderstanding between others.”
Finally, I get the opportunity to write out some of my ideals and create a loose ideology. This will include core values that I can tightly identify with. Personally, I think it’s important to avoid strong convictions. The world has too much gray area to swear by unbendable laws or intractable rules, but again, that’s just a personal preference. This section can get a little bit wordy. It should be strong and confident. Certainly, no one wants to write down adherence to something they only sort of believe in. Also, I’ll be careful to use strong logic. I don’t want to contradict myself, at least not in an overt way.
I’ll begin by stating some of my high-level ethics, “I believe in the sanctity of spirit, and the right of self-actualization. That all things have the right to express what they stand for. I understand the imperfections of an ever-evolving world, and I forgive everything along the way of its actualization for being as such incomplete. I recognize perfection as a horizon, not a destination, and choose to travel that way regardless. I wish to actualize myself, as is my right, and in doing so also pave the way for the perfection of others. I will do so with understanding as my tool and compassion as my guide. Where imperfection impedes the path of actualization for myself or for another, I will navigate the course to provide the least suffering and the most felicity with the fairest sense and sensibility. I will stand up for all things and creatures I find along their path and defend them from degradation.”
The above is my code of ethics in a couple of nutshells. I will add a bit more, maybe with some flowery language to top it off. “I uphold complexity over complication, contentment over contention, and salvation over suffering. I will support the sustainable organization of all things with which I engage in the name of the actualization of organization itself.” That should be sufficient for what I’m going for. This more or less describes something I can authentically try to live by proudly. Further, it gives me direction where a couple of days I didn’t really have much of that.
What To Do Next
A key thing to do now is to live by my mini-manifesto. I’m going to try to memorize it since it’s fairly short, and I will certainly leave it near my personal shrine. Personally, I think it’s key to sign it as well. There’s something symbolic about signing a contract to yourself. In case you want it, I’m going to provide a free template with prompts for the questions above so you can follow along with me and make your own mini-manifesto as well.
Here I am, pretty certain of who I want to be and how I want to be that way. This is a great situation to be in, and is vastly superior to my previous position in experience alone. Following up I will write about how I plan to maintain this sense of self and even refine upon and improve my experience over time. It becomes pretty simply from this point on now that all the hard thinking is done. The rest is action and follow-through, which is difficult in its own right, but now I have instructions to go by. And the best part is that nothing is new here. This is still just me, just with a focus on my favorite parts that were there all along.