This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
A SEQUEL TO A HUMANIST PERSPECTIVE: ABRAHAM MASLOW'S PURPOSE FOR YOUR LIFE
Lyle L. Simpson
"Nothing is neither right nor wrong, but thinking makes it so." A previous paper, setting forth an essay on “Abraham Maslow's purpose for your life”, Essays on Humanism, Humanists of Houston, Volume 11, May 2003, introduced Maslow's theory of actualization as a scientific substantiation for a human purpose in life, justifying our own unique existence. Maslow's contribution to the science of psychology was to recognize that there are distinctly different levels of categories of needs; and that our behavior and orientation to life vary significantly depending upon within which level we are then primarily living.
Average Relative Strength of Needs Peak Experience
1/16 1/8 1/4 1/2 1
Actualization Ego Social Security Basic
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
For those not familiar with this prior paper, in summary, Maslow discovered that needs may be categorized by the strength of the drive level
caused by their deficiency. In other words, if a person is sufficiently hungry, or has need to go to the bathroom, their behavior will address those issues to the deference of their concern for others, or their wish to continue listening to Beethoven. Thus, the relative drive strength of needs can be measured against other needs. Maslow found that all needs may be placed into one of five distinct levels. Survival is the primary concern of all living organisms. Certain needs are essential to assure survival of any species, including humans. The fundamental need level is physiological; it includes those factors required to sustain life. Maslow classified these as "basic needs”. Once these basic needs are sufficiently attended to, the next level of needs, which Maslow labels “security needs,” emerge. Gratification of these needs assures the future satisfaction of our fundamental needs. We naturally “feather our nests” in the struggle for survival. When secure, “social needs” emerge. We seek friendships and love relationships, and we tend to bring others within our own defense mechanisms to assure the satisfaction of their basic needs. We want to be appreciated, and have need to belong—to fit into a network of social relationships. Maslow discovered when these physiological needs at the lower levels are at least minimally satisfied growth needs will emerge. We then extend our behavior outwards for recognition. These needs, Maslow classified, as esteem or “ego needs,” are followed by “self actualization needs”. To reach these levels of needs we must become open to our immediate environment. The goal is to actualize our full potential. When we are fully integrated, if all of our needs are satisfied, we are then in position to reach a state of contentment where we may resonate in harmony with our environment, including the whole of nature. If we do, we would then be able to recognize our sense of peace and well-being, which Maslow labeled a “peak-experience.” If achieved, we would realize at that moment that we are then fully alive. It is an exhilarating and liberating feeling. Identification of these two higher levels is the most important of Maslow’s discoveries. The strength of needs diminish as we pass from lower level, or deficiency needs, to a higher level, or growth needs. To be effective, barriers must have greater strength. Thus barriers for growth, including defense mechanisms, can easily block the progression from a lower level of living to higher levels as we mature. Barriers result in diminished capacity for growth and development. People live within their “safe zone,” venturing beyond only with great effort, or because of an outside intervening force that is stronger than the barrier. To circumvent a barrier without outside influence typically requires bridging, or bypassing, the barrier by creating new paths as a result of further education, or new training. The barrier is still present, but it no longer limits our range of living because we have acquired another path. This is why continuing education, with an open and receptive mind, is essential for healthy growth.
Maslow recognized that the natural psychological progression for each human life is to grow through the hierarchy of needs from the basic level, as an infant, to the point of actualization, at least as mature adults. This is a difficult developmental process. As infants we do not get to choose our own environment, nor our caregivers, or even the customs that are thrust upon us. However, we must interact with our environment, and others within our culture, in order to survive. These factors condition our behavior and easily create barriers to our growth; some blocking the natural progression toward the actualization of our full potential. To continue normal growth along our natural path requires conscious effort to limit, or circumvent, barriers. This first requires recognition that a barrier exists. Many people view the confines of barriers as their natural world, and feel safer living within known parameters, and therefore are content with their current existence. Removal of barriers requires more effort and risk than many are willing to endure. Thus these people continue to live a restricted life. Many live without the knowledge that higher, more rewarding, opportunities are available to them, through their continued growth. Eliza Doolittle spent the entire movie in “My Fair Lady” learning how to grow beyond her earlier life. If we are able to eliminate our barriers, most people will naturally progress toward actualization, or fulfillment, of their own existence. Maslow provides a framework for us to interpret each step in the natural progression of our life. Fulfilling, or at least diminishing the influence, of the first four levels of needs is necessary in order to reach a "peak experience". At that point, hopefully, we will experience being totally in resonance with our own reality. For Maslow, actualization of our own life is the purpose for each individual's unique existence. Maslow shows the normal path, and provides an understanding of the goal for each of our lives. Additionally, he instructs us how to recognize when we have become a self-actualized person, i.e., one who has for that moment maximized our own existence. We have all experienced attending grade school. For most, it was a great experience during the earliest part of our life. It prepared us for the next
level of our growth. Few really feel the need to repeat the experience. Grade School has served its purpose for us. We now enjoy seeing the benefit of the experience only through our grandchildren. It may be great for them, but we even have a sense of relief that the experience is no longer important for us. Although we have acquired all we wish from that part of our life, we may still enjoy the memories; but feeling fulfilled, have no need to live through that experience again. That does not mean there is any thing wrong with us. Quite the contrary. It simply means that, for that part of our life, we are fulfilled. If we have actualized our own life, we will have feelings of having fully lived, having experienced our own life to its fullest. We will then no longer need to fear death. We can then recognize that our own death is inevitable; not sought, but no longer really an issue for our concern. Protecting our family so that they may carry on our mission will be far more relevant to us. In my prior paper I used the example of my own personal orientation to life, demonstrating how Maslow's theory can be personally applied. I made a serious mistake when I did not include in my paper that there are also other orientations to life -- the result for some members of my family was devastating. Some were left with feelings that if they did not measure their own life by my standards, they must be less of a person. That notion cannot be further from the truth. My family's concern is a good example of how problems arise when we each assess others' only from our own point of reference. There are many paths for a fulfilled life. That is the issue I am addressing in this paper. I made the statement that, "To me, only two aspects of life are truly relevant. First, our own life is meaningful to ourselves to the extent that we share in happiness (Meaning fulfilling Maslow's hierarchy of needs to achieve actualization of our own life; which will be recognized as we achieve a 'peak experience'.) Second, our life is significant to the extent the world becomes a better place because we have lived. The healthy person keeps both in balance." Several in my family are now worried that their own lives may not be significant unless they serve mankind to make a really "big difference". Requiring all of us to make a significant contribution to our world may be appreciated by the rest of us, however the notion that this behavior is essential for everyone’s existence to be relevant, or that their own life lacks value without service to others, is absurd -- But I gave that notion to them. Service to others is only a necessary requirement for “idealists.” Serving others may be important for those whose orientation to life differs from mine, but, for most, may not be as essential for their existence to become fulfilled as it is for me. Success for an individual of one type may not be success for an individual of another type. Causing someone to measure their life by your standards would cause conflict, or at the very least be stressful.
We are each unique, even though we can be placed in at least four distinct primary types, or categories. From the time of Aristotle, it has been recognized that psychologically there are primarily four distinctly different styles, or types, of personality, or temperament. Hippocrates outlined this theory in 370 B.C. Each type share standards, or values, which primarily dominate the life of its adherents. It would be rare, if not impossible, for an individual to be able to claim more than one primary psychological type, although most people do have characteristics of one of the other types as a secondary characteristic, which serves as a modifier, or conditioner, of their primary style of thinking. All people can be classified into one of these sixteen sub-categories, or styles, which they retain for their lifetime. Although people are capable of learning beyond the limitations of their specific style, it requires significant effort, much like learning to write their name with the opposite hand. Each style of thinking, or orientation to reality, is perfectly valid, and can lead to a happy, successful life. Even though other styles emphasize totally different approaches to self-fulfillment from my style, that of the idealist, each of the alternative styles may be equally fulfilling and complete; but only for those people within the same category. Understanding, at the very least, which of the four primary psychological types we are provides a great advantage in fulfilling our own existence. Understanding all sixteen styles, or categories, aids in understanding how we may better interact with others. Because each psychological type is a complete system unto itself for perceiving reality, each leads to significantly different behavior. Although, those sharing the same type will process the same, only those sharing the same point of reference, or style, can measure their life with the same gauge. Isabel Meyers, and her mother, Kathryn Briggs, brought substance to the ancient psychological type theory by devising a simple questionnaire for identifying our own psychological type in the early 1950s. David Keirsey, more recently, amplified the theory in a book, that is still popular with psychologists today, titled: Please Understand Me II. This book contains a little more elaborate test that subdivides each psychological type into the sixteen styles, or categories, showing the secondary characteristic types. Thus, we can now easily identify our specific category, expressing our own style of thinking. Keirsey then describes how each type behaves, and then how each integrates together with all other types. Reading only a few pages, we are left feeling that Keirsey knows us personally. For an idealist, serving others is essential for his or her own happiness because they are incapable of validating themselves. They simply cannot internally do so. It is only through observing the reflection of their acts from the reaction of others that "idealists" are able to see themselves. For “rationalists,” who primarily validate themselves from within, imposing the requirement to serve others as a test of the quality of their own life seriously causes frustration. They cannot validate themselves through the opinion of others. Not only are they skeptical of the opinion of others,
they resent the intrusion of other’s opinions into their lives. They might want to serve others, but only by choice. They do not feel the need to do so. Does that make the rationalist an unworthy person? I hardly think so. There are competing theories overlapping Meyers-Briggs psychological temperament types, providing other categorization by measuring other characteristics. Likewise, there are some who have expanded upon Maslow’s hierarchy of needs by developing sub-layers. In addition to styles of thinking, there are also, of course, differences among cultural approaches to life. Review of these competing approaches, although perhaps valid in a more detailed study, is beyond the purpose of this paper. Meyers-Briggs adequately demonstrates that it is all right for each of us to be different. The point is that: Our own life may be fulfilled, and we can maximize our life on earth, and become fully actualized, if we follow a path consistent with our own personality type. Now what does this statement mean? I have identified my own type, as defined by Meyers-Briggs, as the idealist. Since each type can contain secondary characteristics of one of the other types, only a few of us are exclusively within their own type. My personal sub-type is identified by Keirsey as an “idealist-idealist,” which he labeled a "counselor". Counselors are only ten percent of the total number of idealists, who, collectively, are less than ten percent of society. Therefore, only one percent of the people in the world think like I do. We idealists share the burden of requiring recognition from others to find our own self-worth and we are damned to the constant quest of seeking validation. We spend our lives continuously giving ourselves away to others. If my wife does not tell me that I am all right each day, I become unsure that I am. I must wear out people requiring their continually reassuring me; but they know they can trust me, and I that I will loyally serve them. Idealists have many good qualities. They easily see the big picture, and are able to instantly put complex issues in proper perspective. It seems natural for them to provide advice, solving all of the problems of other people. They simply cannot solve their own problems without help, at least not easily. They only know what is right for others. But, don't bother them with details. Because they leap to the solution, idealists frustrate when a person must explain each situation in detail. Others do this because that is how they must process information. Idealist-idealist tend to make good counselors, thus the title. (That may explain why I practice law today. However, I best not represent myself. In my empathy for others, I would "give away the store".) My wife thinks exactly opposite from me. Together, if we agree upon anything, it is not only right, it is the safest approach for the fulfillment of the needs of both of us. She is a rationalist. She must validate each step for herself before she can proceed to the next step. She must first understand the process to respect the result. My telling her the "answer," or what to do, only frustrates her. For me, her effort is ponderous. For her it is essential,
because truth is her most important consideration. For me, I can hardly stand the frustration of barriers hindering my reaching my immediate goal. She finds the journey equally important, and as rewarding as the objective. Together she helps me stop to "smell the roses." She gets so absorbed in what she is seeing that she forgets where she was going. My mind is already there, but I cannot remember the route that I traveled. We discovered our differences when we first went to buy a birthday card for a mutual friend. I immediately found a card containing the message I wanted to convey and an acceptable design suitable for this friend. I was ready to buy it and get on with life. My wife was unwilling to buy any card until she examined all of them to make sure the one I chose was the best. You can imagine the discussion that ensued as we proceeded to frustrate each other. If we had not found Meyers-Briggs, our relationship undoubtedly could not have survived. We now have agreed to compromise. If I find a card that I like, I am free to proceed to the register. In the meantime, my wife continues to examine all other cards. If she finds one she likes better before I have paid, I have agreed to buy her card without question. If I have paid for my card first, my wife has agreed to leave with me, at least satisfied that it may not be perfect, but we did the best that we could for the moment. Of course, we no longer put ourselves in that situation often. However, if it happens, at least we now have a solution that avoids conflict. The rationalist must know "how" something happens. The idealist cares about "why". I bought my wife three books on "How Things Work" at a discount store. They intricately detailed the inner workings of the toaster, refrigerator, an automobile engine, and the elevator in our building -- all the important stuff you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask -including the inner-workings of our airplane. I thought this is the perfect gift for her. She promptly told me they were obsolete -- this, she critically pointed out, is why the books were being discounted. That fact had not even occurred to me. Our toaster still works the same way. When we take time to appreciate nature, I am interested in how what we are seeing integrates into the natural world, and why all of this is part of our universe in the first place. My wife sees the bunny in the road, stops to smell the flowers beside our path, and gets totally immersed in our setting, while I am aggressively seeking the end of the path. Since, for the rationalist the journey has equal, if not greater, value than the destination, together, we have enlarged our experiences by observing the world through each other's eyes. We have discovered that neither of us is "wrong", just different. I like the statement that "Nothing is neither right nor wrong, but thinking makes it so." Life is much richer when it can be appreciated from another's perspective. There are advantages and disadvantages from either perspective. Together, life can be much more fulfilling for each of us. As I mentioned, less than ten percent of our society are idealists, and that my particular category as an idealist-idealist is limited to less than one
percent. I do not share the sub-characteristics of any other psychological type. There are very few people with whom I can fully relate. The rationalist is even more rare. Collectively rationalists are only 6 percent of the population. My wife has always wondered why no one else appears to think like she does. Because she is a "rationalist," and is fully content validating herself, she did not feel it important enough to find out why. Although she knows she is different, it really does not matter to her what others think. I had to discover why I am different. First, I must understand the bigger picture to make sense of anything. Meyers-Briggs discovered that approximately forty-five percent of the people in our society are "guardians." They have an expectation that everyone should abide by "the rules", and they spend significant effort assuring that they do. Guardians make wonderful schoolteachers, police officers, homemakers, ministers, nurses and physicians, as well as many other professional positions where dependability is a primary concern. They must provide for everyone else. Everyone needs guardians. They get things done now, without question, because they feel obligated. It is the "right" thing to do. In addition, they make sure that everyone else is doing their job. Idealists may have originated the project. However, if they did not, idealists will be considering why the project needed to get done in the first place, while rationalists will be thinking about how to do it. Once rationalists understand the required process, they will get the work done. They are pleased that someone else originated the project. Guardians will be busy organizing the members of the committee to get the job done. Artisans will be more concerned with whether there may be a better way. They may not be interested in getting the work done themselves, unless they created the project. Fortunately for the rest of us, guardians are the largest category. Guardians will do everything for everybody, but they do need constant praise and reward, or they resent having to do it. Their anger at not being appropriately appreciated can become consuming. It accumulates. Because they may be relied upon, guardians are the ones to call to manage the church dinner -- but do not fail to spell their name correctly in the church bulletin. If the church fails to provide recognition, the rationalist may not notice, the idealist would quit participating. The guardian would resent it, but would begrudgingly continue to serve out of a sense of duty. Keep up forgetting to recognize them, however, and guardians will eventually quit in disgust. In the meantime, Guardians would be infuriated with the idealist for quitting. The rationalist would still be washing the dishes, ignoring everyone else. The rest of society may be classified as "artisans." In the example of the church dinner above, the artisan may not have shown up. If they had to show up they would be decorating the tables. Artisans are capable of seeing their world without restraint. They do not like routine. Artisans may ignore society norms because they do not accept living "inside of the box." In contrast, the guardian (and the idealist) feels life is scary outside of the box.
The guardian attempts to put everyone back in the box. While the idealist is worrying about why there is a box in the first place, and whether it is the right box, the rationalist is trying to figure out how they got in there. Artisans obviously make great artists. They are frequently good musicians, actors and advertising agents. Artisans can also become very good politicians. However, many are the criminals who cannot be controlled by society. A large percentage of social deviants may be artisans. Artisans can really frustrate the guardian. Guardians feel that no one should ignore the rules! Rationalists can ignore artisans, unless they are imposed upon. The idealist will appreciate the creativity of an artisan, but have little tolerance for any deviation that does not move toward a positive goal. What does all this have to do with the quality of our own life? Everything! Each person is entitled to maximize his or her own existence. The path to achieve a successful life is the point of my previous paper. With the additional explanation of this paper, perhaps we can now understand how the application of Maslow's psychology will vary depending upon the style of our individual thinking. “Success” can only be measured personally. There is no known universal purpose for life. Knowing who we are, and what this means for ourselves, increases our opportunity for living a successful life. Since our own psychological composition is unique, understanding ourselves is essential to empower us, and enhance our chance of success. Not knowing leaves us vulnerable. Assuming others think (from the same perspective or baseline) as we do may be disastrous for any relationship. Thus, from any perspective, first knowing who we are becomes critical. Our reactions when the person we are with stops to examine the flowers, while we are eager to get to the place we are going, can be interpreted by the companion as an irritant, showing a lack of concern for what is then important to them, or it could be viewed by us as an opportunity to expand our own horizon. We project to others our own point of reference. One approach limits our own existence; the other enhances our life. Understanding the differences between two people can only expand our own horizon, and enrich our life far beyond what could be achieved on our own. Together both become deeper and more fulfilled. The rationalist causes the idealist, artisan or guardian to stop and “smell the roses.” The idealist expands the horizon and goals for all other types. The guardian can feel more genuine with the idealist, more inspired by the artisan, perhaps more genuinely understood by the rationalist. The point is that interaction with each type will provide a different result. Combining types in a relationship enhances both, but only if each can accept the other as they are without trying to change them. Although knowing who we are is the necessary first step, attempting to change who we are is psychologically dangerous, if not impossible. For the right-handed person to be told they can only sign their name left-handed causes as much stress as ignoring our own personality psychological type can
cause us. It will not be natural for us to even try and act with any other style. Someone else requiring a change in our basic nature would be resented. We are who we are for life. Any relationship with another person is enhanced if we accept our style and recognize the differences in the style of our partner. Integrating ourselves with the positive qualities of another person enriches our own life. We become more of a whole person when another person fulfills our weaknesses. By understanding psychological types we can reduce negative effects so that weaknesses in our own psychological type does not become a dominant weakness, which could cause barriers in relationships with others. By fully utilizing our own strengths, and bridging our weaknesses with the strengths of others, we can enhance both our own existence, and our relationships with others. Knowing Meyers-Briggs theory, and the differences among psychological types, does not end problems of integrating with others, but it can broaden our perspective and increase tolerance of differences. Integrating with someone who has strengths in one’s own area of weakness minimizes weaknesses that otherwise could cause barriers or dominate one’s life only if you submit to the influence of the other person. Not knowing one’s own type may result in misinterpretation of the behavior of others, which may result in friction between the individuals. More important, knowing one’s self affords the opportunity to manage the effect one has upon others, and they upon you. This improved understanding should facilitate traveling successfully through life together. In other words, it opens new doors in life for you. Accepting, as proposed by Maslow, that the purpose for our own life is to actualize our own existence, after we know ourselves, and reduce the barriers for our own growth, especially those caused before our age of reason, our pursuit is to proceed naturally through life. If we are successful, our goal is to finally arrive at a point of peak experience where our life is fully in tune, or resonating, with the world around us. Thanks to the insight of Maslow, we will then know that we have maximized our own existence, at least for that moment. Although the purpose that fulfills our own life will be unique, knowing that there is a universal process for our own growth makes the journey easier, even though the specific path we must find for ourselves. Success is measured by the journey, not just the result. Each peak experience will only be transitory. They are rare even for those individuals fortunate to function predominantly at the highest levels. No one can sustain life at the peak. However, having achieved a peak experience you will then know that you have fulfilled your potential for that moment. Once one has this experience their life will be changed forever, because they will then know the feeling of having fully lived. Thereafter actualized people continually strive to sustain a full range of living. The only thing we, as humans, know for certain is that we currently exist, and that we have this opportunity to live our life here on earth today. What we do with our life is important, if only to us. There is good if we can
enrich the lives of succeeding generations during our journey, or otherwise improve our world, because that, itself, is a form of immortalizing our existence. But is having a lasting effect on others important to everyone, or is that obligation only important to we idealists? We can now recognize that this approach is only one form of a good life. I often think of a person I know with an intellectual challenge, whose quality of life is dependent upon Good Will Industries. What would he have done if they did not exist? Upon the loss of his parents, or other caregivers, my friend could be among the many homeless wandering our streets--or would not survive. Alone he could not exist above an animal level, or, in Maslow's terms, a basic existence. With the continual assistance of others he now barely lives on the lower social level, but that is at least two levels above what he could accomplish on his own. He cannot care for himself, let alone assist in the growth of anyone else. Does this mean that his life is not significant, or worth living? Not to him. When analyzed, for my friend, his own existence may be all that is truly relevant. That does not mean that he does not care about others. He feels that he is doing “good” when he smiles and says “hello” to everyone he meets. He knows no strangers. He does not need to write a book, or even a page on the meaning of life, or be able to play a piano, for his own life to have meaning for himself. He only has to live his own existence to the best of his ability for his own life to have genuine value for himself. As a matter of fact it may be easier for this person to actualize his own existence than for anyone else I know because, although he has some barriers to overcome-which others may resolve for him-- he does not create many psychological barriers of his own. We more “normal” folk have many more barriers because we more easily absorb cultural limitations, or establish artificial goals, that my friend does not perceive. Those who may care for my friend are able to enhance their lives by providing his necessary services. The result of their effort to enrich his life gives the guardian a sense of purpose. The idealist may gain satisfaction from serving on the Good Will Board, or raising funds to assure its continued existence. The rationalist might find value feeding the homeless from the Red Cross truck, or from buying products sold at the Good Will store. The artisan may have designed the brochure that raised the money, supporting the institution's future so that it can perform its mission. Each benefits the quality of his or her own life by making a contribution to my friend's existence. None do so expecting appreciation from my friend, but if it were received, it certainly would reinforce their continued effort. The real purpose for each person's participation in supporting my friend's needs is not only the client served. It is each person fulfilling who they are. Each of us continuously struggles to improve our current position in life, socially and economically, as well as enhancing our sense of self-worth. True, the idealist may need the constant praise of others to be able to raise money for the institution in order for it to continue. The artisan may gain
more satisfaction by submitting their brochure for competition among other artisans. The guardian will also want some show of recognition from someone for his or her effort, in addition to their own knowledge that what he or she is doing is “right”. The rationalist will know that they have done something that is good regardless of whether anyone else knows they were there. The motivator for all the needed activity benefiting my friend is for each of us to move toward our own fulfillment, in our own way, through our participation together in helping my friend. As a side benefit, it helps all of us knowing that we are doing good for someone who needs our help. Some believe that people are born totally malleable. That is not true. Psychological types, of course, can be influenced by culture or environment. The person raised in a Muslim society will have different values, which produce differing behaviors, than a person raised in a predominantly Christian culture. For those with the same psychological type, their respective style of thinking, or orientation for processing information, will be the only factor that is the same. Their needs could be identical. However, their reactions to the same stimuli will vary because they will interpret the stimuli differently because of their own psychological type, differing life experiences, and their cultural point of reference. Differing behavior does not mean that the style of thinking, or psychological type, is different. Those of us within the same category, or style, will behave differently depending upon both internal and external factors that influence us. Even though those within the same psychological style process the same, the resulting behavior may be different. Michael Jackson appears to be an artisan. If his parents are artisans that could explain why he appears to others that he might feel he can live outside of our society's rules. Had guardians raised him, he would most likely have been required to live within society's rules as a small child. If so, his behaviors today could well be different. (He would have learned how to be just as talented artistically, but, possibly, would be more apt to function within society's rules.) However, he would still be an artisan. He cannot be anything else. Being an artisan, does not mean his behavior has to live outside acceptable societal norms. He simply thinks outside of the box. The real message for each of us is to be ourselves. First we must find ourselves. Only then can we be authentic, leading to fulfillment of those needs that make our life meaningful for our self. Once we know our self, and remove barriers that limit our growth, our own life can become richer and more fulfilled as we integrate ourselves constructively into the world around us. When we become the best that we individually are capable of becoming, we will have fulfilled our own purpose for existing. There is no common goal for all; only the process of progressing through the hierarchy of needs for fulfillment is the same for each of us. What Maslow contributed is understanding of the process of how we become fulfilled in our life, and then showing us the path for integrating ourselves into the reality of our environment. He provides us the structure for our individual path for growth,
whereby each of us can actualize our existence. We now realize that we must provide the goal for our self. We each need to strive for all of our needs being reasonably satisfied, so that we are then free to resonate with our reality, and are able to achieve a "peak experience," at that moment we will appreciate that everything in our life feels in place, and all aspects of our life will then appear to be right. Happiness will be the content feeling we have from feeling fulfilled. At the moment of a “peak experience” we will have the exhilarating, and maybe even scary, feeling of awareness that is a rare insight into our personal universe. These moments of intense insight, according to Maslow, demonstrate that we have arrived at complete fulfillment, or actualization, where nothing else, or no other need or deficiency, is compelling our behavior. Thanks to Maslow, we now know that this is the state that we each should continually seek. Even though achieving that point in our existence is, according to Maslow, the purpose for our individual life, we know that arriving at this point will be uniquely experienced by each of us since we are not destined for a specific existence. Not only does the path vary for each of us as our needs and values vary, our view of the world, and what we consider important will be significantly different for each of us. Understanding ourselves is difficult. It is even more complicated analyzing another considering the differences between those with different psychological types. Only those with the same psychological type can even begin to view their world from the same perspective. Our differences are what make the world challenging, and exciting. We now know that there are at least four distinct psychological types, which are overall approaches to life, which further subdivide into sixteen subtypes, or styles, defining how we react within the larger frame of reference as the software controlling our thought process. Our psychological type frames our reality throughout our lifetime, giving us a point of reference from which we develop our values, and then serves as a filter for the receipt of all information upon which our life is dependent. We know that everyone may be classified within one of the sixteen psychological styles. As I previously stated, as an idealist, only two aspects of life are relevant for me. My life is "meaningful" to the extent I achieve actualization by reaching the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. My life is "significant" to the extent that the world is a better place because I have been here. To be healthy, I must keep both in balance. Considering only these two values leading to a successful life to make my point, let’s explore how others could respond very differently to the same circumstance, or stimuli. Keep in mind that the response to other values will equally differ. Thus, there are multiple approaches to a successful life. When each of us adopts a primary path for our self, all other goals become insignificant for us. It is our lifetime effort for us to continually rediscover and focus our life on our own path. To actualize our existence, our
path through life becomes our personal mission statement. What is truly relevant in each life should be reduced to a simple statement if we intend for it to become our goal. Consider what is truly “meaningful” and “significant” for you. To illustrate the point, if you are not an idealist, the typical artisan could say: "My life is meaningful to the extent that I am creatively engaged, to the degree that I am excited about all of the opportunities in life that I perceive. My life is significant when I have made a unique contribution, or creative work, that is really me, and is generously prized by others." the typical guardian could say: "My life is meaningful when I am accepted by others for whom I care, if I am secure in my role in life, my family and significant others are safe, and my own world feels to me to then be in order. I feel that my life is significant when I am in charge of what I do, and I am appreciated by others for what I provide." the typical rationalist could say: "My life is meaningful when my life is peaceful; when I know what is true, and I am fully functioning in the world, at least to the degree that I am comfortable in my own role. My life is significant when I feel my own contribution has succeeded better than in my previous efforts, and I know that my own efforts are right." The statement for each of us may only be valid for the moment, and typically may vary as we mature (although my statement has remained constant for over 40 years) and our mission becomes more focused. The younger rationalist will be more concerned with understanding how they are to accomplish the specific task in which they are engaged. As the rationalist ages, the need to know enlarges, and they eventually need to know how everything works in their life. Everyone feels similar experience as our goals in life shift and expand as we mature. Although everyone's psychological type, or approach to life, is “hard wired”, our particular answer to what is important in life, at any moment, may be tentative. It is only the processing that will be consistent. The result can only be similar for others within the same category, or psychological type, of thinking who have reached the same level of growth. It is fortunate that there is no universal truth, no single answer for the purpose for life--although each of us will continue to assume everyone else understands us and, at least, should agree with us. Imagine how boring the world would be if we all had to agree. Our mission statement is right, and the only one that works, only for us. It is good that each person will approach
actualizing their existence, and fulfilling their needs in a different manner depending upon their psychological type, or style of thinking, because their differences adds to the quality of our life. We also know, which was described in detail in my previous paper, as long as we achieve being the best that we can be for ourselves, our life will have fulfilled its own purpose for living. We need nothing more for life to have meaning. We will have fully lived. For me, as an idealist, I still contend that only two aspects of life remain truly relevant: "My life is meaningful for me to the extent that I share in happiness, and achieve actualization of my own existence. My life is significant to the extent that the world is a better place because I have been here. I believe that healthy people must keep both in balance." And I still know that I am right! However, we now know that you are right too. By living a life consistent with how we have each been programmed, and removing any barriers blocking our way, we can continually grow along our natural path from the point of our birth throughout the end of our life. Maslow’s contribution to our life is the understanding that if we carefully satisfy our needs on each level, maintaining a proper balance between them, we can eventually fully actualize our own existence. We can then tune ourselves to our reality, and be able to resonate in harmony with our universe. When we have a “peak experience” we will know that we are then fully alive. At least for that moment our life is fulfilled. From then on, if we are able to sustain our commune with nature, even our own death can then be accepted. Our life will have fulfilled its purpose. Bibliography Abraham H. Maslow, The Further Reaches of Human Nature, (New York: The Viking Press, 1971)(New York: Penquin Books, 1976; Arkana, 1993) David Keirsey, Please Understand Me II, (Del Mar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, 1998) Lyle L. Simpson, "Abraham Maslow's Purpose For Your Life", in Essays In the Philosophy of Humanism, Humanist's of Houston, Volume 11, pp. 21-43, 2002).
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?