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The Most Important Factor in Finding Work You Love

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Photo Credit: BetterWorks Breakroom via Compfight

 A few days ago I was a working on the careers section of my book.  In the early days of the Skool of Life, I wrote a post about self actualization and maslow’s hierarchy of needs. So I pulled it up and started looking at the pyramid and I was overcome by a somewhat disturbing but thought provoking realization. The way we prepare people to go out into the world is designed to keep them on the lower part of the pyramid.

As I’ve said before, I come from a culture of expectations.  Indian parents value safety, security, and survival.  If you started yapping on about self actualization and passions that light your eyes up, they’d tell you to go to your room and do some math problems. I’m kidding, but you get the point. But I don’t think this idea of prioritizing safety, security and survival is isolated to Indian parents. It’s deeply ingrained in our society. In fact here’s a recent quote from an article in the wall street journal:

 ”Your parents don’t want what is best for you. They want what is good for you, which isn’t always the same thing. There is a natural instinct to protect our children from risk and discomfort, and therefore to urge safe choices. Theodore Roosevelt—soldier, explorer, president—once remarked, “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” Great quote, but I am willing to bet that Teddy’s mother wanted him to be a doctor or a lawyer.”

We’ve done a fantastic job perpetuating the starving artist myth. It starts at a very early age.

I know some of you who read my blog are school teachers. So I have a couple questions for you?  How many educational institutions are focusing on meeting this need for self actualization?  Maybe Ken Robinson was right when he said schools kill creativity. The success of a career office at a university is based on placement statistics. If we place 100% of students in jobs they hate with a passion can we really consider that a success?

When you take a look at they pyramid you see that we have neglected to make our deepest human need for self actualization the highest priority.  As a result, we’re on the verge of people becoming dangerously unhappy in the work place. But you don’t need to quit your job to change the world.  Maslow describes self actualization as follows:

 ”the desire for self-fulfillment, namely the tendency for him [the individual] to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming

So instead of getting caught up in  the ego driven pursuit of a life that looks good on paper, start evaluating opportunities based on whether they meet your needs for self actualization.   Happier people at work will result in happier people outside of work, and the world will be a better place for it.


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