You hear it all the time…
A man without a mission is…
But how does a man find his mission? That’s the rub.
When you’re starting out, your mission is like an adventure. You have a general idea of the destination, but you don’t know how to get there. There’s a great description of this in Josh Kaufman’s How to Fight a Hydra:
“I am wandering, but wandering with a purpose. I have an outcome in mind, but the future is impossible to know.
I suppose this is the essence of adventuring. You know what you want, but the only way you can get it is to abandon what you know, set off into the world, and trust in preparation, skill, and Fortune to see you through to a good end.”
The starting point of a mission is knowing what you want… or at least have a sense of direction towards what you want.
Your instincts are what give you that sense of direction. You cannot change your instincts. They are hardwired into your biology.
A desire is simply a specific picture that fulfills the instinct. You saw something and instinctively wanted it.
The devil is very clever though. He knows if he can derail a man from his mission, he will have the man enslaved. But he cannot change a man’s instincts so he devised an ingenious snare:
Using philosophy to
pathologize a man’s instincts.
If the devil can convince men, through the authoritative language of philosophy, theology and psychology that their natural impulses are “bad” and need to be “controlled” or changed, then he can trap them in a pseudo-mission of warring against their own nature.
But of course, this is a futile mission. No amount of “cleansing” will ever wash away a man’s instincts.
The devil blinds men to the simple truth of the gospel of grace:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.~ Galatians 5:1
What does it mean to be free?
It means you are unbound. There are no shackles holding you back. You are free to become who you were meant to become.
In other words, you are free to pursue your own instincts.
Now, let’s get practical…
Many men have difficulty identifying what instincts truly motivate them. They’ve been conditioned from youth to loathe their instincts. They don’t see them as a source of guidance.
But once you accept that your instincts are good and designed by God, you are free to accept them and use them to define your mission in life.
There’s a simple exercise I use that I call
The Instinct Reduction Test
There are a lot of things you could wish for in life. Especially in the age of social media, we are exposed to countless visions of what life could look like.
If all you do is look at how great other people’s life is, you’re going to be miserable. You’ll think, “Oh, I wish I could do that… Ooh, look at that guy, I want what he has.”
But it takes a tremendous amount of time and focus to build a remarkable life. And since most men do not decide what they want, they spend their time thinking about a variety of things they wish they could have but will never get.
Life is short. You don’t have time to fulfil every passing wish.
In the next life, yes. You’ll have all the time in the world to get everything you ever wished for and more.
But in this life?
Forget about it.
The less you want, the happier you’ll be.
But this isn’t to say, want nothing. You cannot be desireless. The pursuit of something, especially if it’s difficult to obtain, is what gives our life meaning.
So the Instinct Reduction Test is about picking ONE instinct and making the fulfilment of that instinct your personal quest in life.
If you need helping identifying those instincts, here’s a handy list to get you started.
Instincts are universal. We all share the same set. But different people experience them in different intensities. Whatever you pursue beyond the “sustenance” instincts like eating, drinking, finding a safe neighborhood, etc. is what gives color to your life.
For me personally, my strongest instinct is to obtain and defend resources for a tribe. I want to create a “safe space” for like-minded people to thrive.
So I identify as a “tribe builder.” I certainly have other instincts, but they are all subservient to that primary instinct.
Everything I do has a sense of purpose because I’m thinking about that tribe that I’m going to build and provide for.
Your primary instinct may be different. Don’t try to copy another man. There are always costs involved that you may not be willing to pay.
Instead, take an inventory of all your instincts. Compare each instinct and ask…
If I had to choose between fulfilling Instinct A and Instinct B, which would I be willing to sacrifice?
Once you arrive at the point where you have an instinct you are unwilling to sacrifice, you have found your function.
You will probably find you have a set of 3-5 instincts that are strongest. That’s where creativity comes into play. You’ve got to figure out how to synthesize them so you can fulfill all of your core instincts by pursuing the same thing.
As a believer, you are part of the body of Christ. And you have a special function within that body. Your core instinct is what points you to that function.
Take time to ponder these things. It is not a waste of time.