Achievement and Ego-Strength The Fourth Level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need

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It is probably more important now than most times in history to possess a clear understanding of human need. When someone “needs” something, they may take extreme measures to obtain it. In our relatively affluent society, the word need often replaces the more appropriate “want.” Just because I desire something that does not mean I need it. Furthermore, if I reflect on my desires, I may discover I have allowed the advertising industry to convince me that I should desire that thing.

Our actual needs may be well met (clean water and air, safe food, protection from heat, cold, or predators, and relationships that matter) yet we think we “need” something else. But in our community, most certainly, in our nation, many people struggle for adequate food, shelter, and safety. So. when I say, “I need a new computer.” What I probably mean is “my current level of luxury is insufficient, since I know there are faster, fancier computers with more bells and whistles.” There may come a time when my computer stops functioning completely, and my local computer guru cannot repair it. When that happens, as a writer, I might truly say, “I need a new computer.”

Maslow has given us help in the process of deciphering our real needs from our wants often promoted to needs by our lack of clarity. But Maslow does suggest that we have needs other than physical necessities, personal safety, or the relationships that sustain us.

The fourth level in the hierarchy of need is sometimes labeled: achievement. As individuals, we need to have some sense of accomplishment. The question why and I here? Is often answered by pointing to some accomplishment. However, many people remain unconvinced of their worth by looking at others (who have done more) or by comparing actual attainment with the hoped-for ideal.

Another understanding of Maslow’s fourth level is ego-strength. Often when we speak of a person’s ego, we equate it with egotism. An egotist is a person who thinks the universe revolves around them. The most important thing about any action is how it makes them look or feel. To such a person, failure is always someone else’s fault, and they can do no wrong.

Ego-strength, on the other hand, enables us to be strong enough in our self-understanding to accept our mistakes and learn from them. The person with a healthy ego accepts responsibility, even takes part of the blame for problems even when they played only a small role. Such a person also shares the praise for successes and keeps others accountable.

Most people can point to accomplishments as well as places where things did not occur as intended. The person with a strong ego can claim their successes and acknowledge their shortcomings. A healthy self-respect will help us stay focused even in the face of defeat.

What we need to promote for a healthy future is Ego-strength. On the other hand, those with big egos often are very fragile, and drain away a lot of the community’s energy propping up their egos or responding to their inappropriate accusations.

Someone with positive ego strength is well equipped to address the fifth and final of Maslow’s classifications of needs: Self-Actualization.

Tribute to a Friend

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Friends are important. All my life, I’ve heard dogs described as “Man’s Best Friend.” More appropriate language would be “human’s best non-human friend.”

Saying goodbye to a friend—regardless of how many legs they have is difficult. Particularly true for introverts who tend to have fewer but deeper relationships. Two weeks ago, my four-legged companion departed this life.

Continue reading “Tribute to a Friend”

Creating a Viable Future Principle 3: Faith (Part 1)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe third of the five principles undergirding the collaborative society envisioned in The Doorkeeper’s Secrets is Faith. When pictured in a diagram the Plan is supported by five pillars with Community, Vigilance, Respect, and the Common Good as the four corners and Faith in the center.

When we speak of faith in the first part of the 21st century, we tend to think of some form of religious tradition, or belief system. That is a powerful meaning of the term which we will discuss in the next posting.

I would like for us to begin with other applications of “Faith.” Ones I believe will become universally important in the coming years. I mean faith in oneself and faith in others.

 

Our age has an appalling lack of faith. It is especially apparent in absence of trust we see all around. Conspiracy theories abound. Individuals we used to trust, disappoint us. We feel betrayed by their behavior. We often move off into our little tribes, and complain about those in the “other tribes.”

It matters not what the subject might be: politics, economics, education, the latest action (or inaction) of our congress, state legislature, governor, president, favorite sports team, the role of the press, gun control or freedom, money, the power of the rich, or who makes the best pizza. When any of those come up, there is an abundance of opinions (stated as fact) and little light directing us toward a shared understanding. We soon find ourselves wanting to be with those who think sort of like us—because—well it’s easier than taking blood pressure medication.

And we haven’t yet mentioned the most significant parts of lives: our belief system, career choices, mate choices (or choosing not to mate). What about how we will spend our time and energy on earth (will we be a life-long-learner or quit when the diploma is in hand?) will we accumulate friends, possessions, dollars, or goodwill? And what’s our attitude toward those who are different from us?

 

Yes, we all know these things. But have you thought of them as Faith Issues? They are. Our lack of trust in large groups of “others” is one reason why we do not have a sense of interdependence in our day and age.

For nearly three decades I worked with volunteer organizations in conflict. Usually, there had been a major disruption shortly before I was called. In the first days, I would see the various camps, plus a lot of accusations and finger-pointing. Early in the process, I state my belief: everyone—even those you disagree with most violently—was doing what they believed best for the organization. In-other-words, everyone was acting in “good-faith.” I then encouraged others to adopt the same view.

Once this process gets started we could move toward the perspective of having a “Problem to solve together,” rather than “Turf to defend against others.” In an interdependent society, people work together to address common concerns. When that happens, everyone uses their skill, wisdom, and energy to address the issue. Even when solutions are slow in coming, we still have confidence that we are not alone—and as long as everyone else has not given up—we will get there.

Another stage is finding what we have in common. What is holding us together? Often it is the commitment to a particular mission, vision, goal. In the process of recovering our “glue” or commonalities, we may begin to trust the others—at least a bit more.

Perhaps we can begin such a process as a city, state, nation or international community. If I reach the point of being interested in what you think, and how you reached your conclusion, then I can stop seeing you as someone to be kept off my turf.

 

Which brings us to the other point for today’s blog. We need to have faith not only in the other but first of all in ourselves. Part of the reason we have so many tribes is lack of trust in our ability to reason out an answer—so we join with others—the group thinks for us.

Even in a group where I agree with the mission, vision, strategies, and general directions being proposed, I am still responsible for raising questions and looking at the broader picture. In other words, joining a tribe does not mean I lose my need to think critically about the issue.

We need to have faith in ourselves: our skills, abilities, curiosity, and wisdom. We need to know our ideas, opinions, values, lives and dignity count. We need to remember that our experiences are different from others, and not sharing our perspective is often a disservice to the overall goal.

We also need to have faith in others: family, friends, teachers, leaders, and those who challenger our lethargy. We believe that our particular “perspective group” has integrity, and is working for the best outcome for all—not just the few. And when we are honest, we must believe the “opposition group” to have integrity and desire what they believe is the best outcome of all.

Then we can begin to rely on a process to bring us closer together. To be discussed next time.

Creating a Viable Future Principle 1: Community (Part 1)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANovember 22, 1963, I was a Sophomore in college. My campus job included making trips to the bank to pick up change for the men’s dormitory offices. I was three blocks from the campus when a red sports car pulled to the curb beside me, and a man I had never seen before or since, rolled down the window and said, “They’ve shot the President.” Stunned I asked him to repeat himself, which he did. We exchanged a few more words, and he moved on.

I arrived at my destination three minutes later, and the news was being “pipped” over the bank’s public-address system. No usual chatter about the weather, or ball games, or the hype about opening a “Christmas Club” account. Everyone focused on the broadcast and his or her internal reflections of what this was going to mean.

In that shared tragedy, the customers and tellers became a community. No one was anxious to get back to their regular activities; we lingered, listened and shared shock and grief.

By the time I got back to campus, classes had been canceled, and everyone was gathering in the recreation rooms of each dorm, where there were TVs. We didn’t have smartphones or internet, but word traveled from one end of the country to another in the matter minutes. For the next few days, we became a national community.

The same can be said about September 11th or the many towns and neighborhoods that have experienced a school shooting, or other acts of violence. The same happens when there are fires, tornados, hurricanes, floods, and devastating snow or ice storms. When there’s trouble; people help. Helping one another makes us into a community.

There can be positive experiences that create a community: Neal Armstrong stepping on the moon, or your team winning a championship. While the achievement may live on; the community formed around it seems to be more short-lived, or self-selected (as in the case of shooting events).

All the examples I’ve used involve a “shared experience.” Sharing experiences with others tends to create some lasting memories or even long-term relationships. Another key to community is focus. If you were in a coma during the week of 9-11, you likely wouldn’t have the same intensity of response years later, as one who experienced it moment by moment as it happened.

 

So, if Community is to be one of the focal points drawing people into a positive future, where do we look for a sense of community other than tragedy or chosen focus? In the mind of the characters in The Doorkeeper’s Secrets, my book about a possible non-dystopian future, a sense of Community is an essential element.

These are Foundational Principles. The absence of any one will create instability in the philosophical underpinning of the culture. We will continue our exploration next time by looking at the barriers to effective community. Understanding the barriers to community will give us a starting place for creating a “better version of ourselves.”

Starting Over

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHave you ever thought what we would create if we could start over? Not just in our personal lives, as fruitful as such reflections can be, but our whole culture.

What if we took the resources, technology, infrastructure, and skills we currently possess then reorganize their distribution and use? What if we could restructure the economy to be more appropriate, fair, inclusive, and progressive? What if we created a system that rewards compassion and initiative rather than greed and manipulation?

When I began developing the inspiration that became The Doorkeeper’s Secrets, it quickly became obvious that many aspects of life needed to be different. Central among those differences are work and money.

I had the privilege of working for 48 years at a fulfilling job. It kept me learning, growing and using skills. It’s also a job I continue to affirm as valuable and true.

In the course of my work, I’ve met and/or counseled people who hated their jobs. Sometimes it was because of the people they had to work with or take instruction from. But more often, the dislike of work came from disillusionment.

Of course, some parts of many jobs are less appealing: writing reports, documenting encounters, and researching the company manual to be sure you haven’t broken any rules come to mind. The disillusionment may also come from a perspective that the thing you have given your life to is relatively insignificant–or you no longer believe in the mission–or the vision has changed.

Sometimes, at midlife people desire to choose another path, but realize they cannot “afford” to start up in another field. A driver’s education instructor in a public school expressed the dilemma when he told me, “I would rather be teaching outdoor survival skills. But I can’t because I have two kids entering college in the next four years. It would take ten years to build up a reputation and client base to earn what I now make. During the time we’d lose our home, cars, and savings. Assuming I don’t have a career ending accident or illness.”

For my friend, each day was a drag. His life passion no longer matched his job.

What if he could have retrained for the job he loved without putting everything at risk? It would require a complete reorganization of how we treat work and finances.

As for money. What if every young person were raised knowing they could be trained for a job they would find meaningful and enjoyable, without concern for what it will pay. What if the person who repairs streets and the University President (with the same years of experience) made the same?

What if people did a job because of “love for the work” and had what they need for participating in the economy. More about a possible future economy in future posts.

 

The next paragraphs provide a glimpse into some of the inner-workings of my mind as I write the series.

While working on The Doorkeeper’s Secrets, it became clear to me, that none of this is possible without a renewal of the emotional contract. In the context of The Sheltered Cities Series, a complete reweaving of the fabric of society was initiated by President Jim Earldrige (in the 2050’s).

Key to making the “Plan for the Future” (developed in the 2040’s) work is a renewed commitment by citizens and leaders alike to a society that functions for the good of all. That foundation includes five primary principals: Community, Vigilance, Faith, Respect and the Common Good.

I’ll address each of these over the next five posts. Maybe you have some ideas to share about a new start. I welcome your comments.

To Plan or Not to Plan?

Wisdom from many writers says – “Write what you know.” Well, I know a few things for sure. Not many, but three maybe four things I know. One of them is: To Plan is Better than Not Planning.

A friend has a wall plaque which reads, “No Amount of Planning Will Ever Replace Dumb Luck.”

It is true that sheer circumstance may produce unexpected results. Some people seem to live by the mantra of “Luck will see me through.” The problem about depending on luck – is that it’s just as likely to be negative as positive.

Those of us who want some control over our lives –  Plan. Another message on a wall: “If you have no Destination Then any Road Will Do. The Problem is – you Won’t Know When You’ve Arrived.”

Planning begins with a “Destination” in mind. A goal is essential to any plan. What is it you want to accomplish? What skill do you want to learn? What place do you wish to visit?

Anything from a secure retirement, or a beautiful garden, to a family gathering at Thanksgiving works better with a plan.

Planning involves steps. The Thanksgiving dinner purchase and preparation of food (keeping in mind who is allergic to what) arrange a space (including keeping the belligerent family members apart) making invitations and dozens of other details. The dinner doesn’t just happen because it’s the 4th Thursday in November, and everyone’s going to Aunt Joann’s.

One of the great things about plans is that they can be changed. If you have a procedure, you can modify it when an emergency intrudes, or the situation changes or new information presents itself. But without a plan, you may be blown about by the winds of change, and end up somewhere you did not intend.

Plans are not chipped into stone. They need to be living, growing and adapting. There must be an evaluation to see if goals are being reached, and sometimes the findings lead us to replace all or part of the plan.

Planning helps us anticipate the obstacles we may encounter along our journey. If a surprise pops up – well at least we have experience making adjustments.

The Doorkeeper’s Secrets has a social and economic foundation: “The Plan for the Future.” Developed decades before our story begins, it outlines policies supportive of an interdependent society, with true “Liberty and justice for all.” It’s the elements of compassion, integrity, respect, and dignity mandated by “The Plan” that is under attack. Our protagonist finds herself in the middle of a controversy with more power than she wants.

IMG_20170730_151742635One more “wisdom slogan” about planning: “Life is what happens while we’re planning something else.” The real key to happiness may be our ability to unite our plans along with all the surprises that come our way.

 

 

Collaboration and Interdependence

If the human race is to have a future, we must learn to be respectful and honor the dignity of each person’s contribution. In other words, we must listen to one another and learn from each other as we seek the common good; collaborate and become dependable.

Today, if someone is called a “collaborator,” it’s often an accusation. Suspicion of collaborating with the enemy of one’s nation, company, family, political party, or religion may be grounds for dismissal from work, friendship, or society.

However, most collaborations are positive: Rogers and Hammerstein, Lewis and Clark, or Ben and Jerry’s are only a few. When parents agree on discipline principles for a child; when educators agree on the essentials for a course of study; or when communities develop infrastructure plans we see this skill at work. To collaborate is simply working with someone else on a project. It’s the essence of teamwork. No baseball team can win without each player contributing their skills at the right time—both at bat and in the field. When a batter hits against a pitcher, she or he knows there are eight other players on the field ready to take charge and make the best of the situation.

Teamwork is similar to interdependence. To be in an interdependent relationship with colleagues, spouse, or friends means each person contributes their best to the situation. Interdependence happens only when those involved are dependable. Everyone must carry their weight, because all others are doing the same.

So why are we talking about this? Well, my picture, in The Doorkeeper’s Secrets is based on a cultural shift. The change required includes moving our economy and social structures away from greed and competition toward collaborative and interdependent leadership and relationships.

When I learned about leadership from a collaborative stance, it quickly became the only kind I wish to offer. Interdependence means it is not all up to you – whether you are at the top of the organizational chart, or think of yourself as a “flunky.” It’s a gift to know all the ideas and wisdom (in or out of the organization) is available for the asking.

We can begin taking steps in a cooperative-supportive direction. Some are small like looking for “Fair Trade” and “Ethically Sourced” marks on foods we purchase. Recycle and buy products that are at least partially made of recycled materials. Other actions include supporting cooperative ventures; seeking sustainable everything (especially energy) and asking our politicians what they plan to do to ensure a habitable planet for the fifth generation.

The future of planet earth is bright because we can work together to address issues. We have wisdom, intellect, and technical capabilities sufficient to address and solve many of our problems. In my picture of the future – we do. The real question is: will we?