“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.”
― John Greenleaf Whittier, Maud Muller – Pamphlet
No matter how much I learn, how much I write, and how much I can give advice or preach to others, I will always be imperfect.
And so will you.
I think about death often. I think about the shortness of life often. I think about seconds and minutes and hours as they go by, often analyzing how I am spending my time. Buy not matter how much of this I do, I still struggle with motivation and with being in the moment. My mind is too often 3 or 6 months in the future.
And let me tell you, this is no way to live life.
I know this. I am aware of it, which is a start.
I realize how backwards my ambitious and motivated tendencies are when you analyze them. I work hard so I can enjoy life in the future, and so I can buy the safety, comfort and luxury that success provides. The problem is, what about now?
Am I only able to enjoy life when I’ve reached X dollars or X accomplishments?
The fact is, I am giving up parts of life in exchange for other part of life. And a huge problem with this is the later parts that I’m trying to “trade up” for, are not guaranteed to come or come the way I want them. But such is the paradox of success and accomplishment.
It’s hard to know what the right “dose” is. It’s hard to know if I am doing what I am destined to do or if I am just spinning my wheels because I’m appeasing my Ego or avoiding being vulnerable in other aspects of my life.
But then I think about security and I think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Then I think about my past. Maslow’s pyramid of needs goes like this, from the bottom: Physiological, Safety, Love/belonging, Esteem, Self-actualization (at the top).
Maslow’s believed that humans pursue these levels of the hierarchy in order. For example, if you don’t have food or water, each will invariably become your primary focus; you can’t worry about starting a business or getting a raise if your basic human needs are not met.
Once you have your basic needs meet—like water, food, shelter and physical safety—you will focus your attention on attaining the next level: love and belonging. After you acquire an adequate amount of love and belonging (whatever that means for you), you move to the next level—and so on up the pyramid until you get to the top: Self-actualization.
Self-actualization is defined as becoming the best you can be. There are usually bits of purpose and service, but everyone’s version of self-actualization is their own. Self-Actualization is the reason you hear of wealthy individuals giving back. Since these individuals have met all of the needs—security, social, esteem, physiological—they search for the next thing that is going to fulfill them, which usually ends up being some form of charity or service to others.
After thinking about self-actualization in my own life, I realize that one of my driving forces for acquiring “success” is to capture the whole that is Maslow’s pyramid. For example, I own a couple businesses but there is no guarantee they will last forever (which I’ve had to realize the hard no quite a few occasions), and this threatens my safety. I am also motivated to pursue esteem and self-actualization and success has a lot to do with each. The same goes for love/belonging: It gives me the resources to spend more time with the people I care about.
I’ve always had a need to be autonomous. This would fall in the “safety” category. I can’t stand the idea of putting my life or my family’s into the hands of a government, a business, or anything external outside of my control. I want to be in absolute control of my destiny.
And so, I try to balance the Now with the Future. I try to enjoy the journey and the destination. It’s not easy, but it is completely necessary.
However this makes you think about your life, pursue those thoughts and let it lead you where it may.