Saturday, March 24, 2007

First Sortie

Why all this talk about dragons?

Let me explain. I believe strongly in the value of systematic personal development. The crafting of a good life is not accidental. To that end, I am always working to become a more disciplined and focused person. I know that sounds really serious and kind of wonky. So be it.

Nevertheless, as part of this process, I occasionally will take time to meditate on the purpose of my life. This, I believe, is not so much something I impose upon myself, as much as it is something that I discover. Over the years, I have gone through several iterations of purpose statements, most of which have been quite banal -- at least in the choice of language. Lots of ordinary words or phrases you might find in thousands of self help books you would find anywhere. For example, for a long time, I felt that my purpose was to "Inspire others to become their best selves." Isn't that lame? Good in concept, but totally lame in expression. My own purpose statement was decidedly NON inspirational. (yawn)

So I decided to bring a little poetry into the equation. An image. A metaphor. Something that would elicit a more powerful and visceral reaction. As I cast about for the right image, I recalled this paragraph from the book The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck.

Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult - once we truly understand and accept it - then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.

Suddenly the image I needed came to me. My purpose in life is the serve others by Slaying Dragons.

A dragon is any challenge, problem or difficulty in my life. It could be a bad habit, a fear, or a circumstance. It could be a financial problem such as debt, or a sudden expense. It could be a problem with a personal relationship. It could be all manner of internal or external circumstances in my life. A dragon could even be simply a challenge I pose to myself, or decide for myself that I will take on. It need not be imposed upon me by outside forces. I can even create dragons solely for the purpose of killing them. Almost all dragons are by definition created by and arise from my own choices.

What makes this click for me so powerfully is the poetry, the imagery of it. The fear, the sweat, the struggle, the combat, the danger, the courage, the triumph. Not everyone's cup of tea perhaps, but I've always been attracted to and deeply influenced by the heroic.

My life's work then , is to hunt down the dragons of my life, find them and exterminate them. I do this for myself, for my family, and for my community.

If this picture seems overly dramatic to you, that's fine with me. It's not about you. Frankly , it fires me up. This helps me when I am faced with a task that I am not looking forward to. Perhaps it is mundane, monotonous, hard, or just NOT MUCH FUN. When I look at it in light of my purpose Then I get caught up in the excitement of what I am really doing -- killing dragons.

I have since added to that statement. to add a more positive element. I have now come to understand that my purpose is to kill dragons and build castles. It is not enough to destroy the obstacles and enemies that threaten my good life. I must build systems and structures that will protect and help my family.

So I am a warrior, and Lord of the Manor. That's a lot to live up to. God have mercy.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

Good refinement of purpose. I once asked an AA friend why they were so attached to these slogans. Her reply: "drunks have a hard time with complicated ideas." A witty comeback, but profound as well. Long mission statements are worse than useless, because they take so much time and irritate so much of your staff.

So even if you don't say it to others, for whom a long explanation would be necessary, to boil it down to "Slay Dragons" is a good way to keep your own focus. It fits your profession, and it fits raising children as well.

Dubbahdee said...

Exactly. It's really a shorthand way for me to remind myself what it's all about. It's not for other people -- if for no other reason than that it kind of requires a long winded explanation like this post. It's power for me lies both in it's brevity and it's emotional resonance. Like I said, I'm a sucker for the heroic. Now I can star in my own tale.

Ron Jung said...

Hey! It worked!

Good stuff. I look forward to reading of your adventures in dragon slaying.

Justin Johnson said...

Wandered by your blog today and I have to say I just love your analogy with the dragon slaying! I think it is an absolutely perfect way to think about those "challenges" of life. Very creative and effective! More power to you man! Love love love it. Good luck on all your dragon slaying!