Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It…


This post is going to start somewhere in corporate leadership, meander through ancient Chinese martial arts, stop off at men’s support network The Mankind Project and arrive squarely, no, in spiral fashion, back in permaculture ethics and my permaculture design. Check it out!

I have a lot of conversations and do a fair amount of reading about leadership. It is an interest of mine as it’s something I’m developing my practice in. I work for a big organisation as a senior manager which requires me to lead a fairly large workforce in quite a challenging sector – social care.

In business, we often hear tell of the sacred triumvirate that must be in place if we’re going to get anything done at all:

  1. Vision
  2. Mission
  3. Values

The theory goes – without these three, working in harmony, you’re not going to get anywhere fast. The organisation sets the vision (usually the chief executive on behalf of a Board). The vision is the long term picture – the direction of the organisation. Mission provides ‘meat on the bones’ of the vision. Vision can be slightly abstract

A world where space flight is possible

Mission however is specific. It’s targeted. It tells you exactly what’s going to happen:

your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to send a manned rocket to the moon, and return safely

Mission can be described as Objectives (as in the example below). And an organisation must also have a value base.


These values must be instilled in the workforce in order that everyone’s behaviour is brought in line with the vision and mission. If we’re going to send a rocket to the moon, then we can’t have an organisation where the workforce is made up of Permaculture Designers who are going to be overly concerned about the fuel consumption of the rocket and the non-bio degradable scrap metal that is going to be left in space, making the place look messy, can we?

In the corporate world, Leaders are usually the people that the Board can rely on to deliver on the Vision, Mission and Values, in order to obtain a profit or a yield. This is my world of work. Some of my frustration lies in the fact that big organisations, by their nature, end up having either a wonky vision, or wonky missions, and sometimes even wonky values.    


But, I’m going to stay positive here – I try and live my life by a set of personal values. I practice Shaolin Kung Fu and Chi Kung within the Shaolin Wahnam Institute. It’s something I’ve been doing for nearly 9 years now and I do love it. It provides a basis for me to develop physically, emotionally, have a greater sense of mental clarity and vitality and even to experience spiritual joys – glimpses of… well, whatever you want to call it: peace, zen, expanding into the cosmos, becoming one with nature, meeting god… yep. I get that.

Relevance? The school has a set of “Laws”. A moral code by which it’s students are required to live. A set of Values if you like, which are based on strong ethical foundation. Here they are:

  1. Required to respect the master, honour the Moral Way and love fellow disciples as brothers and sisters.
  2. Required to train the Shaolin arts diligently, and as a pre-requisite, to be physically and mentally healthy.
  3. Required to be filial to parents, be respectful to the elderly, and protective of the young.
  4. Required to uphold righteousness, and to be both wise and courageous.
  5. Forbidden to be ungrateful and unscrupulous, ignoring the Laws of man and heaven.
  6. Forbidden to rape, molest, do evil, steal, rob, abduct or cheat.
  7. Forbidden to associate with wicked people; forbidden to do any sorts of wickedness.
  8. Forbidden to abuse power, be it official or physical; forbidden to oppress the good and bully the kind.
  9. Obliged to be humane, compassionate and spread love, and to realize everlasting peace and happiness for all people.
  10. Obliged to be chivalrous and generous, to nurture talents and pass on the Shaolin arts to deserving disciples.

There’s a lot of stuff in there (some of it I don’t really need to be reminded of, number 6 for example!) but there’s some things in there that I keep coming back to. In my view, the Laws support the development and sustainment of a healthy community. They allow Shaolin Students to work and live harmoniously on the planet and be mindful of how our actions affect others and are all interconnected.

Can you spot any comparisons to Permaculture Ethics?:

  1. Peoplecare comes up directly in 1,2,3,6, 7, 8, 9 and 10
  2. Earthcare can be perceived in 9 (perhaps debatable)
  3. Fairshare can be perceived in 3, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10

Good hey! Nice parallels! So, what’s this got to do with Mission (I haven’t lost my thread, I promise you).

In our school we lay a great emphasis on achieving aims and objectives. Aims? think Vision. Objectives? Think Mission. Rather than try and explain our school’s philosophy I’m going to copy some text here from Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit, the founder of our school:

It is so evident that without aims and objectives much of the learning or training is usually unfruitful, that mentioning this fact may become trite. Yet, most people practice chi kung or kungfu without set aims and objectives! Try asking some practitioners why do they practice chi kung or kungfu, and many of them will start searching for their aims or objectives after, not before, they have heard your question. Even if they have prior aims and objectives, often they are merely fashionable slogans, rather than real definitions to remind them of the direction of their training.

For our puropose here, aims are general in their definition, and long-term in their attainment; whereas objectives are specific and short-term. For example, to be able to defend yourself is a general aim in your Taijiquan training, whereas to be able to release yourself from some particular locks and holds constitutes an objective. You should also set a time frame within which to accomplish your aims or objectives. Needless to say, you have to be realistic and reasonable when setting your time. For someone who has been suffering from an illness for years, for instance, it would be unreasonable to expect the disease to be overcome my just practicing certain chi kung exercises for only a few weeks.

For convenience, objectiuves may be classified into personal objectives and course objectives. The choice of personal objectives depends on the needs and abilities of the person in question, and sometimes on his whims and fancy. Developing the art of tiger-claw, and performing well the Five Animals kungfu set are examples of personal objectives in Shaolin Kungfu training.

Course objectives are related to the particular set of chi kung or kungfu exercises you intend to train for a period of time. For example, you may wish to spend six months on Golden Bridge training in Shaolin Kungfu, or on the Three Circles Stance in Taijiquan. In either case, developing powerful arms and solid stances is an appropriate course objective.

To define your aims and objectives wisely, it is necessary to have some sound knowledge of the philosophy, scope and depth of the art in question. For example, if you do not understand that chi kung also promotes mind expansion and spirutual circultivation, you will be in no position to touch on the mind and spirit while you define your aims and objectives. If you think (mistakenly) that Taijiquan is merely moving your body, arms and legs gracefully, the aims and objectives you set for your Taijiquan training, no matter for how long you may practice, are necessarily limited by your narrow perspective.

Beginning to form a picture? The deal here is all about purpose. Without an idea of where we are going and the reasons behind that, we are, simply, lost. Our perspective must have both breadth and depth.


Right I’m on to the next specific example of Mission in my life. For the last year, I’ve been involved in an organisation called the Mankind Project. This has led me initially to spending a weekend on their Training Adventure, which was awesome and incredibly challenging. Part of the work within MKP, is about finding your Mission – and living your mission. 

The process of me working out exactly what my mission in life was, was a little difficult and I’m not going to go into too much detail here. Basically though, I found that my life mission was very closely linked to my Shaolin Wahnam Laws and the purpose of that training. I found it was also very closely connected to a desire to be more connected with the natural world and to be creative within it.

Now, I’m slightly embarrassed about sharing this because it’s very personal and means a lot more to me than it will to anyone else – but here it is:

I create a world of flowing energy, sound and lightness by making space for cosmic vibrations to joyfully resonate in our hearts and minds

This is exactly what was running around in my mind on Day 4 when we were working through our personal permaculture Visions toward the end of the day, and when I was coming up with a decision on what my final design would be.



My final design is my PDC Mission, and it’s choice is supported by a process:

  1. Survey: I observed myself in the world. What are my fundamental Values and Morals (Shaolin Wahnam). What is my Personal Mission in life (MKP) and how do these influence my decisions in permaculture? I looked at the available options for permaculture design and where it could be applied in my life: work or home life… what was it going to be?
  2. Analyse: I realised that of all the options I had, the Vision I have for a piece of land just outside Brighton is the one that makes my heart bounce up and down like a rubber ball the most. I also decided that a design with an opportunity to work both outside, on the land and with people would be my favoured option. This was about Peoplecare for myself and for others.
  3. Design: The plan began to formulate – the bigger vision is to develop a disused field into a growing space including an orchard. Also to build some shelter there. This larger vision has several key stages and because of the field’s location, there are neighbours who need to be consulted about the plans. So my smaller scale plan (or Objective, or Mission) is defined as:

To design a consultation process that involves all the key people who will and could be affected by or use the field space once it is brought back into use, with the purpose of developing a harmonious community surrounding and using the field. 

So the Design, is actually to implement the Survey and Analysis stages of a much bigger design.

I like.

Right – Just a couple of evidential shots of my notes, for the record:



Above, evidences some of my meanderings in the three areas where I was thinking about doing my final design. The process of Day 4 allowed me to zone in on my vision and values and come to a natural happy place with my decision.



Above, my initial notes as the day was introduced – interesting that my first thoughts of the day about ‘harmonious flowing energy’ have come straight from my Mission and I arrived right back there when deciding on my design.  

Right – this took me ages and I need to start work (the paid stuff!)

Focus Up. Think Purpose. Think Mission.


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