A brand-new banner caught my eye during a recent trip to China. If judging by the size, variety and volume of banners alone, one would think that the communist revolution is still in full swing 98 years after the formation of the Party and 70 years after formation the People’s Republic. This particular banner read “Recall the original mission and advance the self-revolution” (牢记初心使命，推进自我革命). Not being part of the ongoing communist revolution myself, I read these words as “Keep in mind your original intentions and continue your personal transformation.”
It is important to understand that “revolution” in this context does not mean “to overturn the existing order”. The last things the leaders of China or any incumbents want is a such revolution. In this context a “revolution” is better understood to mean “transformation” or “development” of a prosperous civilization. Of course, when organizations become too bureaucratic or formalistic to serve the needs of its people, transformation in the form of a peaceful revolution or reformation may need to follow.
Whether or not we are on a revolutionary or transformational journey, we all have a personal mission or life goal. What it means to “recall the original mission” is to ask ourselves
– What was our original purpose?
– What causes us to lose sight or get distracted from the mission?
– How can we prevent that from happening?
– How can we recognize gaps in our thoughts or actions to achieve our mission?
– What do we need or learn or practice to close those gaps?
To me “self-revolution” means removing excuses, having a sense of urgency, and going beyond personal comfort zones in pursuit of something more important. It means having the courage to do what is hard. It means answering the question, “What am I willing to change about myself in order to achieve the heart’s desire?” It is also important that our original intent fits within a social context. Self-revolution must not be a selfish or ego-driven activity. The mission is shared with our loved ones, our team, our organization, our nation, our planet. Working as a team is the only way to achieve great things.
The American Revolution happened because a small group of people decided to come together to create a nation that protected a set of common interests. They were wise enough to set up the new nation with ways to detect flaws in the system and self-correct through the balance of power between the three parts of government, term limits, constitutional amendments and so forth. One could argue that the American Revolution is also ongoing. Regardless of our nationality or political persuasion, we can reflect on our shared original mission and advance our self-revolutions.