Personal mission?

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m741
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Personal mission?

Post by m741 » Wed Jan 16, 2019 11:46 pm

I've taken some time off work after reaching FI, though I'll be returning to work in a month or so. I left work in mid-March 2018, traveled through November, and then planned and executed a move from NY to Seattle that completed in mid-December. I've since been a bit lazy, but also focused on my personal goals.

I was always cognizant of the warnings "don't retire without any plans, it's unsatisfying to do nothing all day" and while I worked, my default feeling was "there's so much I want to do, so many interesting hobbies," that I didn't take it seriously. And I still feel like this isn't a problem for me, but a related one hits home. While I've been very busy with reading, studying Spanish, playing guitar, and just completing chores in general, I also have to ask "why?".

I'm wondering how those of you with a number of disparate hobbies justify them? When hobbies were a little thing I did on the side, it was easy for me to spend an hour on them, feel good that I was learning something on my own, and then return to work the next day. Now though, I feel pretty strange spending two hours on guitar. I'm unlikely to be the next Hendrix; I enjoy the hobby but it feels so self-indulgent or wasteful to spend an hour here and an hour there getting mediocre at a bunch of things.

More generally I'm feeling quite unfocused, after a number of "missions" or long-term goals - saving for FI, planning and executing a long trip, then a move, and then the usual high school, college, etc. The decompression is unsettling. For those of you who (A) do not have kids and (B) aren't devoutly religious, what do you consider your mission, either for the time being, or in life? How do you justify it in the broader scheme of things, or looking past your own death? I realize this is akin to asking "What is the meaning of life?" but I'd like to hear different perspectives and understand how people have grappled with this. Also any resources with concrete recommendations would be appreciated.

(In the meantime, I do have a software project I plan to work on, and will look into some volunteering, but these also feel like small piecemeal efforts - an hour here and an hour there).

daylen
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Re: Personal mission?

Post by daylen » Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:01 am

I want to be aware of everything. I want to know what has existed, what is in existence now, and what will be in existence. Beyond my death does not factor in, because that is not relevant to my life. I am continuously changing what information I attend to based on feelings/intuitions about what seems important or what has the most potential to change my perception/action.

Jean
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Re: Personal mission?

Post by Jean » Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:02 am

I have the same problem. I went back to college this year and started studying medicine, But It will take 12 years before I'll be able to have my own praxis. And I don't think I will want to work then... So It's hard to be motivated. Making private joke to myself on this forum is one of my main motivation.

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fiby41
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Re: Personal mission?

Post by fiby41 » Thu Jan 17, 2019 1:31 am

daylen wrote:
Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:01 am
I want to know what has existed, what is in existence now, and what will be in existence.
I know everything that has happened in the past, all that is happening in the present, and all things that are yet to come.
-God, in BG 7.26

classical_Liberal
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Re: Personal mission?

Post by classical_Liberal » Thu Jan 17, 2019 2:42 am

This is a problem brought about by the secularization of society. Nietzsche's God is dead. Some have basically made the argument these thoughts are part of a more engrained fear of death. The most common response to this is having kids, another would be leaving some form of legacy (see every billionaire).

I have neither kids nor billions, so these thoughts used to bother me pretty regularly. At first I thought a BRUTE-type nihilism was the only natural response. However, I don't think that's true. Even as an agnostic one can still think of the ways our lives today will have significant impact on the near, and even very far term future. Look at evolution, was a single cell organism's life 2 billion years ago a waste? or did it's small part (even extinction/failure) eventually lead to the Cambrian Explosion? It's not unthinkable that some form of life a billion years from now would be indistinguishable from what we would consider "god". This form of life very well may owe it's existence to us, in the same way we owe those single cell organisms.

This type of thinking is a choice. So chose to do it. Now, will it make you feel better about playing the guitar? IDK, but obviously you like doing it anyway or you wouldn't waste your time. I think you could make the argument that anything that helps you individually, or humans in general, thrive has a potentially large impact.

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fiby41
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Re: Personal mission?

Post by fiby41 » Thu Jan 17, 2019 3:19 am

classical_Liberal wrote:
Thu Jan 17, 2019 2:42 am
This is a problem brought about by the secularization of society. Nietzsche
I wouldn't believe in a God that doesn't know how to dance.
- also Nietzsche, the Nihilist

slsdly
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Re: Personal mission?

Post by slsdly » Thu Jan 17, 2019 7:00 am

At my first few jobs, I was really smart compared to my peers. As time passed, I found myself surrounded by many who are just as or more apt on a professional metric. After some soul searching, I have become okay with being mediocre. An hour here, and an hour there, it is enough for me. I've always had a fairly low novelty seeking compulsion. Many hobbies I would like pursue after ending my engineering career are interesting precisely because I am bad at it. Going from incompetent to mediocre will be a challenge in its own right. The only purpose we have in life is what we choose. For the moment, mine is to be less wasteful and more curious -- I don't really care about being remembered or leaving a legacy, that's the stuff of my self-indulgent fantasies at best :).

IlliniDave
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Re: Personal mission?

Post by IlliniDave » Thu Jan 17, 2019 7:10 am

I have kids but their now adults and have their own families and parenting/grandparenting is a relatively small part of my self identity these days. It does give me something to do with any leftover money after I'm gone. Aside from what do do with all my stuff, I don't spend much time looking beyond my own death. In the broader scheme of things I'm probably just an anonymous link the a biological chain of a species whose lasting contribution in nature may prove to be simply freeing all the carbon trapped through the eons and return it to circulation to help usher in whatever the next biological era of the planet might be. In other words, a glorified bacterium in the planet's meta-microbiome. That's not food for immense self esteem, nor very romantic, obviously.

I really don't have a mission in the grand sense, nor do I feel a compelling need for one. I don't rule it out either. I don't feel the need to justify that, nor my disparate collection of hobbies/interests.

That may all make it sound like I'm wallowing in negativity, but that's not the case. I hope to be as alive as I can be for as long as it lasts. For me borrowing from the eastern philosophies seems to be the best approach. To that end I try to minimize the amount of time/energy I expend rehashing the past or wringing my hands (or daydreaming) about the future. A dash of that is necessary, but life, while it lasts, happens right now, something that is always true. So when I play my guitar for a couple hours, I play my guitar and wallow in the peace and contentedness it brings.

Of course, it's possible I may have worked hard through my life to ultimately transform myself into a mega-slacker.

Jason
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Re: Personal mission?

Post by Jason » Thu Jan 17, 2019 8:14 am

When Nietzsche said God is dead, he did not mean that God Himself was literally dead. He meant that the intellectual and cultural conditions of a secularized society no longer provided the grounds for the moral imperative required by a Judeo-Christian God (remember, his father was a Lutheran minister). His nihilism and emphasis on personal will was a reaction to that reality as influenced by Kant who said God exists, we just cannot know him but should act as though there is one. Nietzsche believed in personal, moral requirements. His writings were an attempt to create a value system. Whether one agrees with it or not, that's a different question.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Personal mission?

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Thu Jan 17, 2019 8:19 am

1)permaculture project
2) rare book rescue
3) helping 5 year old children zip up their coats before recess

There is an infinite regress shit ton of needful and potentially rewarding work to be done on this planet, but you have to attain and maintain appropriate perspective and boundaries and objectives . For instance, you are almost certainly spreading your musical talent and training way too thin and high if your point of reference is Hendrix. OTOH, could you potentially get good enough to play at some local venue? Could you potentially use your moderate Spanish language skills to volunteer at a low income school? Once “future you” is well taken care of , you pretty much have to expand your boundaries sideways to encompass other people or your environment in the moment, engaging through love or curiosity.

You are master of your own domain! What will you choose to help flourish? What will you vanquish into oblivion? What new and wonderful things will you discover or create?

Jason
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Re: Personal mission?

Post by Jason » Thu Jan 17, 2019 8:49 am

Eric Clapton and Pete Townsend stealthily met in a movie theatre when Hendrix arrived in England to have a "what the fuck are we going to do now" conversation as Hendrix was stealing both their spotlights and their groupies. I personally don't like Hendrix's music, but I think if there was one thing he didn't want people to start doing is putting down their guitars because they weren't as good as he was. Otherwise, no one would be playing. On the other hand, there is nothing more pathetic than a bunch of guys sitting on amplifiers riffing on new guitars in a music store. I don't know. Maybe you have a point now that I think about it.

iopsi
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Re: Personal mission?

Post by iopsi » Thu Jan 17, 2019 9:31 am

You have to love those activities and you must be serious about improving your skill on them. No half-assed effort. Otherwise they will feel empty.

For example, you play the guitar right? I don't know how much you love doing it and for how much time you did it, but try your best to make some original music and publish it. Even if it will not be very good and nowhere near Hendrix level.
This will increase your focus and the activity will feel meaningful.

Note that one can't seriously focus on too many things at once so you will have to choose your main project for the time being. Whether it is guitar or the software project. Ofc other activities can be done at the same time but mostly only for maintenance of your skills.

The time for which one has done a certain activity is heavily correlated to whether you love doing that thing or not. For example, i love lifting weights because i randomly started doing it 10 years ago and i sticked with it, and now i want to reach the highest lifts i could possibly reach (well maybe not randomly, i wanted to attract girls... didn't work too well for that purpose :( ).
So if you right now don't have anything that you like a lot, pick something and try to stick with it (maybe by doing a project). The passion for it will develop in due time.

That's one way to find meaning. Otherwise, if doing things for their own sake just doesn't click for you, try to do things that are useful for the world.
Maybe some activism, a permaculture project, or whatever you feel like helps the world.

There is also the hedonist way (i.e just go for pleasure, instant gratification, etc), but i think it brings unhappiness at the end.

Also have you tried meditation? Buddhism is big on the questions about meaning, happiness, satisfaction, etc.

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jennypenny
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Re: Personal mission?

Post by jennypenny » Thu Jan 17, 2019 9:35 am

“… what do you consider your mission, either for the time being, or in life? How do you justify it in the broader scheme of things, or looking past your own death?”

I realize I don’t fit your criteria since I have both kids and a religious bent, but my answer isn’t really based on either of those qualifications so I’m going to risk posting it.

Everyone is familiar with the original stages of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: Physical Needs, Safety, Social Needs, Self-Esteem, and Self-Actualization. A common problem with forumites is the constant pursuit of self-actualization. Self-actualization is an attainable goal but people keep moving the bar -- going from one goal to the next, pursuing ever-increasing satisfaction and meaning. That Sisyphean quest for the best possible life can never be satisfied and forces people to view all activity in life through that lens.


Interestingly, Maslow amended his original hierarchy. Here is the amended version …

Image


Maslow added transcendence at the top and defined it this way: “Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos.”

It is often argued that transcendence is an overcoming of self-interest and the pursuit of goals that benefit others instead of oneself. That is part of it but not the whole of it. If you read the definition again (or read his writings in the late 1960s and early 1970s), you'll see that what he means is not only a forgetting of self, but internalizing self-actualization to the point of forgetting about self-oriented goals completely. Once you can put the world ahead of your own interests, you no longer have to worry about what you choose to do, or the ‘ends’ as he refers to them. One can focus on the means — the means that bring the individual the most satisfaction and pleasure — without concern for the ends because the ideal ‘ends’ have already been internalized.

Based on that, my advice is to get off the treadmill of self-actualization and transcend into a life that no longer needs to be justified or measured against the meaningfulness of the lives of others. As long as you take care of your responsibilities and make sure your actions don’t cause harm or impede the pursuits of others, you don't owe the world anything and don’t need to justify what you do all day -- you can do whatever brings you the most fulfillment in the present and accept when your interests change (they will).

I don’t mean this to sound like a lecture, I mean it more as encouragement to anyone constantly trying to outdo themselves or wondering why they still feel a little lost or empty despite all attempts to inject meaning into their lives. I’m also not arguing that one should abandon all pursuits of any significance. I’m only suggesting that you should consider them based on personal desires and not measure them on some imaginary meaningfulness scale. Sometimes you’ll feel moved to do something for others. Sometimes you’ll feel moved to do something artistic. Sometimes you’ll feel moved to learn something. Transcendence is learning to let those things move you in the direction you obviously want to go at any given time. Feeling there is something you should do keeps you stuck in the self-actualization stage.

tl;dr: Focus on well-being instead of well-meaning.

Scott 2
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Re: Personal mission?

Post by Scott 2 » Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:07 am

JP with the cheat codes to life :D


I took a 6 week meditation class from a former Buddhist abbot. On top of the decades of life experience, he held a lofty position at the theosophical society and had written a book on meditation. The entire class was him telling us in different ways - "you sit, and you breathe", then encouraging us to find that space through the day. I was pissed, but came back every week to get my money's worth. The message never changed.

Years later, I appreciate his wisdom.


Yoga approaches this problem as symptomatic of affliction by the 5 kleshas:

https://www.yogashalasac.com/new-blog/2 ... ve-kleshas

Ignorance
Ego
Attachment
Aversion
Clinging to Life

Of course the practice of yoga promises to help reduce these afflictions. In my experience, it helps.


I believe you'll find these ideas recur through each approach to spirituality and are a well accepted, proven "meaning of life".

suomalainen
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Re: Personal mission?

Post by suomalainen » Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:21 am

Great thread. I have kids. I have a job. I used to have religion. What do those three things have in common? One could argue that they include a taste of the "transcendence" that @jp talks about. Another way to look at them is that in those activities you are fulfilling your genetic programming to its fullest by working in social groups to achieve a common goal - i.e., precisely how your genetic code came to be and what it is "designed" for. Another way to look at it is that those activities are simply really, really consuming distractions, excellent at numbing your overactive, meta-conscious navel gazing tendencies.

Regardless, I have pondered this question myself for many years and the most intriguing answer I have come across is to consider that it's the wrong question. The reason it is wrong is that you are trying to create an infinite product from finite inputs. Or, as @brute would put it: nothing lasts, but nothing is lost. So, enjoy whatever distraction you are currently engaged in without worrying about its lack of infiniteness.

George the original one
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Re: Personal mission?

Post by George the original one » Thu Jan 17, 2019 11:05 am

As a Smurf, I can definitely endorse Jennypenny's map.

In other words, follow your interests guilt-free and let the goal-setting occur naturally without trying to force it. PLAY!

Chris
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Re: Personal mission?

Post by Chris » Thu Jan 17, 2019 11:58 am

m741 wrote:
Wed Jan 16, 2019 11:46 pm
While I've been very busy with reading, studying Spanish, playing guitar, and just completing chores in general, I also have to ask "why?".

I'm wondering how those of you with a number of disparate hobbies justify them? ... I feel pretty strange spending two hours on guitar. I'm unlikely to be the next Hendrix; I enjoy the hobby but it feels so self-indulgent or wasteful to spend an hour here and an hour there getting mediocre at a bunch of things.
Scott Adams has a theory on goals vs. systems. His viewpoint is that goals (do x activity y times per week) can actually be demotivating, preventing you from accomplishment. Whereas systems -- just improving yourself with no specific goal in mind -- will result in opening up opportunities over time. So, maybe you don't know the answer to "why" just yet, but if you're improving, you're getting closer to it.

Jason
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Re: Personal mission?

Post by Jason » Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:13 pm

Chris wrote:
Thu Jan 17, 2019 11:58 am
just improving yourself with no specific goal in mind --
I don't even think you need to view it as a way to opportunity:

Kierkegaard (roughly translated) "The highest goal in life is the will to be yourself."

Mr. Rogers (roughly translated) "One should not feel obligated to do great things in order to be loved and accepted."

I do not believe in Eastern Philosophy but I am starting to believe in the the negative impact of the goal centric, individual accomplishment emphasis permeating the Western world. And well, I am lazy as fuck all.

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C40
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Re: Personal mission?

Post by C40 » Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:50 pm

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Thu Jan 17, 2019 8:19 am
Once “future you” is well taken care of , you pretty much have to expand your boundaries sideways to encompass other people or your environment in the moment, engaging through love or curiosity.
:idea: :idea: :idea: :idea:

ooooooh, thank you 7wb5 :-)


I also want to say to everyone that I am getting a LOT out of this thread. Thank you

chenda
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Re: Personal mission?

Post by chenda » Thu Jan 17, 2019 4:36 pm

Jason wrote:
Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:13 pm
And well, I am lazy as fuck all.
I've never really gelled with Buddhism, which I find a bit too nebulous, but there are certain Japanese schools which suggest that a mere single repetition of a chant is enough to liberate you, or give you rebirth in the pure lands were you'll be guaranteed liberation. Or something like that; basically you'll be sorted for eternity. Its called the easy way. Seems a bit too easy, doesn't it ?
----
FWIW, the Zoroastrian notion that our purpose in life is to bring this potentially pefectable world closer to perfection gives a good purpose for life. Although I find Dharmic religions to be somewhat more believable, at least the concept reincarnation seems plausible. Sikhism says the highest form of religion is to chant the name of god and maintain pure conduct i.e. be a good person, engage in selfless service and chant. You'll improve the world and get then liberation from it.

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