Recently I played a few app games with my 3 year old son (Ari Salmansohn).
Or at least we tried to play.
There were no instructions.
We did not know the mission of the game.
Nor did we know how to get the most points to achieve whatever this mysterious mission might be.
Where were we supposed to aim our avatar?
At that flashing green thing?
Or should we avoid it?
Did the blue blobs earn more points than the red blobs – or vice versa?
Not knowing any of these answers made my son and I feel stressed and unhappy.
We did not enjoy playing this app game. At. All.
I’m a philosophical gal. I even named my son Ari as a “wink” to Aristotle the philosopher – who I have a platonic crush on.
So I wound up thinking about my “app unhappiness” in a philosophical way.
In particular, in an Aristotlean way.
You must know exactly what it is you want to achieve – your mission – before you start any project.
This applies to everything from writing a book, to making dinner – or even when it comes to approaching that gigantic project called Your Life.
Aristotle said: “Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what is right?”
When it comes to knowing your mission for life, Aristotle believed your final ends for life are the same as my final ends.
Now, a lot of you right now might be wondering what the heck all of this has to do with that app game. It’s simple.
My son and I didn’t enjoy playing that app game because Aristotle was right.
I thought about how unhappy my son and I were when we did not know the final ends for that app game.
Next, I thought about what it takes to create happiness in life.
Aristotle had some particular suggestions for scoring life happiness points.
Once you fully and clearly understand your mission for Your Life, then life becomes less stressful.
Once you fully and clearly understand your mission for Your Life, it becomes far easier to score those glorious life happiness points – and become a winner at life!
Aristotle recommended aiming yourself at “Best Self” habits – including things like:
high integrity, kindness, mindfulness, patience, discipline, courage, altruism, generosity of spirit, love of learning, love of doing your innate passions, etc…
Plus Aristotle suggested you avoid doing “Lowest Self” habits – because they’ll simply get you whacked, kicked and fire-bombed.
“Lowest Self” habits are pretty much all the opposites of the items shared on the “Best Self” habits list.
Plus, “Lowest Self” habits also tend to be anything impulse-directed, ego-directed, and/or body-directed – like cheating, lying, stealing, pigging out, sleeping around.
I thought about how I wished somebody had clearly told me when I was a kid this final ends mission for life. I could have avoided a lot of painful whacking, kicking and fire-bombing.
I wish someone had sat me down and stated in a very matter of fact way:
“Yo Karen! There’s a reason why you are here on this planet! Your mission here is to become your best possible self! You can accomplish your mission by aiming yourself at as many people and/or habits which will stretch you and bloom into a better you – while simultaneously avoiding aiming yourself at people and/or habits which will shrink you or hurt you – or shrink or hurt others – or the world at large.”
Unfortunately, nobody ever sits us down to so succinctly explain that this is our life’s mission.
As a result many of us wind up with highly incorrect “life missions” playing in an ongoing loop in our heads.
To become the richest person on the planet!
To become the thinnest/prettiest girl on this planet!
To have the best wardrobe on this planet!
To be the most famous person on this planet!
To party and have fun, fun, fun!
To have the most orgasms as possible!
To have the most power as possible!
To get lots and lots of people to fall in love with you!
These are all ego-directed missions and body-directed missions – instead of missions which the soul can be proud about.
According to Aristotle all of these missions which are purely ego-directed and/or body-directed lead to “pleasure” – a form of “fake happiness.”
I believe it’s wildly helpful to have a mindful awareness that becoming your “best self” is what leads to winning at the game of life.
I believe this so much, I’m now raising my 3 year old son with this “life mission” awareness.
I have specifically told him:
“Ari, there’s a reason why you are here on this planet. You are here to become your best self – which also includes helping others to be their best selves and helping this world to be a better place.”
My hope is to empower my son to develop a wise inner voice – which will guide him to avoid aiming himself at people and habits which whack, kick and firebomb him!
Now whenever I catch my son making a less than wise choice, I relate it back to his “life mission.”
I don’t say, “No, don’t do that.” Or, “No don’t eat that.” Or, “No, don’t talk to someone that way.”
Instead I remind him of his mission – to become his best self.”
Next I point out how doing a misbehavior will block him from becoming his best self – and thereby block him from winning at the game of life.
I’ve witnessed a true improvement in his behavior.
My son now on his own loves to brush his teeth, eat healthy, read books, be kind and generous.
My son even told me that his favorite Power Ranger is the red one – because his power is “studying.”
I’d love to bring this “life mission” concept to as many parents and educators as possible.
I’d love to remind parents and educators how important it is to not simply blurt a “no” or a “stop” when you catch a child doing something unwise.
Instead we must teach kids to understand the “why not” behind a “no” or a “stop.”
I believe an effective way to do this is to take the time to talk with kids about their mission for life – and the importance of doing habits which help you become your best you!
And speaking of YOU….
I also believe that whoever YOU are – however old YOU might be – it’s helpful to think of life in this way – as being like a gigantic app game – and if you want to rise up to higher and higher levels – you’ve got to aim yourself at actions your soul can be proud of!
I’d love to hear your insights on the comment section below! What’s something which comes to your mind and heart when you read the message on this essay? Share your personal story or a personal happiness tool!
Hi I’m Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon. My mission is to offer you easy-to-understand insights and tools to empower you to bloom into your happiest, highest potential self. I use playful analogies, feisty humor, and stylish graphics to distill big ideas – going as far back as ancient wisdom from Aristotle, Buddhism and Darwin to the latest research studies from Cognitive Therapy, Neuro Linquistic Programming, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Quantum Physics, Nutritional Studies – and then some.