How Finding a Mission Can Cure Status Anxiety


I have noticed a peculiar trend in my local gym. The strongest, most muscular guys aren’t the ones draped in Nike from head to toe. They’re not the ones who are wearing the latest Beats headphones. They’re not the ones with the perfectly polished Under Armor shoes and shiny Fitbits. No, the most muscular guys in the gym are typically the ones in the back wearing a t-shirt with ordinary shoes.

The difference between the truly impressive, muscular guys in the gym and everyone else is simple: they have a mission. The muscular guys have a reason to be there. They aim to have a great workout, regardless of what they’re wearing. They don’t care about status or appearance. They have a job to do. Everyone else is just there to be there.

This brings up an important point: finding a mission to pursue is the best cure for status anxiety. Whether it’s creating a product, working on a project, starting a business, writing a book, or training in the gym, people with a mission focus so much of their energy on accomplishing something that they aren’t concerned about their perceived status.

It’s a classic case of the “Millionaire Next Door”. Most millionaires are actually the people in your own neighborhood with ordinary houses and average cars, not the ones living in the 4,000 square foot houses in upscale suburbia. The true millionaires have a mission, so their house, car, and status are irrelevant. But everyone else drifting around with no mission is overly concerned about their appearance and status in society.

This is why we live in a world overflowing with high-tech cameras, but very few professional photographers. It’s why gyms are full of people wearing Nike and Under Armour, but very few people are actually in shape. Most people want to achieve a certain status without the work to back it up. Mission oriented people put in work. Everyone else just wants to give off the appearance of putting in work.

The people who are writing powerful content, training for a competition, building an awesome product, or chasing after some goal are too mission oriented to worry about their status. But the people who lack a mission or point in space to aim for are the ones who have to compensate for it by trying to show the world they’re doing great things. This means buying flashy houses, cars, clothing, and keeping Instagram updated to show the world their success.

Mission-driven people let the work, the art, and the creation talk for them. Everyone else lets the stuff they consume talk for them.

Cultivating a mission also has financial benefits. The desire to impress others suddenly falls away the more you know what you want to do, what you want to create, and where you want to go in life. This clarity of vision overpowers the desire to appear successful. This means less spending on unnecessary crap that doesn’t further the mission.

We only have so much energy. The more we spend immersed in a mission, the less we spend stressing about status. The more we focus on creating, the less we care about consuming. Mission-driven people create the life they want. Everyone else attempts to buy the life they want. My advice? Keep the money in your pocket and go create.

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6 Replies to “How Finding a Mission Can Cure Status Anxiety”

  1. I never realized that before at the gym! We really do live in a status driven culture. I’m sure you could find that at any place if you look at it with that perspective.

    I can’t help but think about minimalism while reading this. Others are always going to look at you and your stuff and create a status for you, regardless of being mission driven. Like my parents and in-laws that call us cheap. With minimalism you are curating what you find value in and controlling your image.

    You are right though. Mission driven people should care less about the status other reflect on them and more about their goals. Career goals will be seen by decision makers. My son will see how we value our time over work and how money is only a tool and that is more important to me than what others think of me.

    I will have to keep an eye out for examples in other places.

    1. From the outside looking in, mission-driven people seem absurd. But the good news is, if you have a mission and you’re out there trying to accomplish something, you’re not worried about what other people think of you. Mission-driven people are more concerned about what they DO instead of how they LOOK. It makes all the difference. Thanks for the feedback 🙂

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