- Created on Monday, 27 August 2012 15:15
- Written by Jim Sheridan, League of Power
- Hits: 392
I just witnessed someone in an SUV slam into the back of a stationary, big, bright yellow school bus in a 25-mph-speed-limit school zone. "Hey, who put that school bus there?!"
I'm now thinking about suing the driver of that SUV for the psychological trauma that witnessing the crash exposed me to, but that's another story. Just kidding. (Hey, a lawsuit like that actually happened in L.A.!) But how did that driver manage to do that?
People often go through life like they drive: trying to do too many things at once and resultantly doing everything half-assed. I regularly see drivers swerving around aimlessly, often almost crashing, and when I overtake them -- yep -- they have a cell phone in one hand and a coffee cup in the other and/or are using the rearview mirror as a vanity mirror.
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Sheer lack of focus -- no concentration on the moment -- is what caused that unbelievably avoidable crash... and this chronic lack of focus is also the root of most discontent today. Everyone seems very busy to point the finger at their children and accuse them of having ADD (an entirely made-up "disease"), when adults don't seem much better. (Side note: Maybe the parents should be the ones made to take ADD meds. Or maybe the parents should stop giving their kids artificial food and unlimited sodas before they complain about kids having ADD. But I digress...)
A friend of mine in California recently drove his cell phone out into the desert, took out a gun and shot it. Perhaps a little extreme, but he's now one happy guy. Conversely, more and more people now see the need to walk around with hands-free receivers strapped to their ears and look like the Borg from Star Trek (when those things first came out, I thought they were devices for some kind of mental handicap).
So what? Well, it's indicative of what I'm saying here: Multitasking has become the goal in modern life... and we've never been taking antidepressants at such a high rate. We're stressed like never before...
But once again, is this reality or our perception of reality? Is the stress perceived or actual? Does multitasking make us happy, or is it our imagination playing tricks again?
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The quest for happiness is quite simply our reason for being, our ultimate goal, the answer to the eternal question: "Why are we here, what's my purpose, and what's the meaning of life?" Once upon a time, simply surviving was our reason for being, so we've come a long way.
Focusing on the moment -- perceiving the situation correctly -- is essential to achieving happiness. If we're playing with our kids, the only thing that matters at that point in time is giving them our undivided attention, praise and love. Likewise, if we're out to dinner with our spouse, we should treat it like a first date, with all of the respect and appreciation that goes with that. When we're in a business meeting or anything to do with work, the same applies.
This is, in effect, the art of meditation, the art of being present. There's nothing clever about doing 20 things at once -- usually just the opposite. When 20 things at once come at you in life, just prioritize and calmly deal with them one thing at a time, with your full and appropriate attention on each. As a former airline captain, I can tell you from experience, that's precisely how professionals are drilled to deal with a crisis.
The scientist Abraham Maslow, long considered the grandfather of modern psychology, identified this idea of taking things one step at a time on a grander scale with his "hierarchy of needs," as shown in order of priority from bottom to top.
(source: Abraham Maslow.com)
Translated from top to bottom:
Self-Actualization: Acceptance of facts, creativity, problem solving, lack of prejudice.
Esteem Needs: Achievement, respect of others, confidence, ego needs.
Social Needs: Friendship, family, lovers.
Safety Needs: health, property, income, physical security.
Physiological Needs: Food, water, breathing, sleep, etc.
The thesis is simple: Humans aren't interested in -- and/or aren't capable of achieving -- the level above unless the level below is satisfied.
Humans tend to prioritize their requirements as shown above. We're not interested in the level below unless the one above is satisfied; clearly, we won't be thinking about where our next meal is coming from if our lives are in danger, just as we're not interested in friendship if we're hungry and cold.
As we evolved as beings, each level of the hierarchy became more and more taken for granted. At each stage, we never once looked back at how far we'd come and thought ourselves lucky. It's in our nature to just want more and more. After a baby has learned the words "mama" and "dada," the third world is often "more."
So, looking at Maslow's hierarchy of needs, in our world, survival, food and shelter are pretty much taken for granted -- we don't give a second of our day contemplating gratitude for this. But most of us in the U.S. have fulfilled the bottom two levels of the hierarchy (safety and food and shelter), so by the same token, most of us are ready to realize the next need: love and friendship. As a result, most of us have lovers and friends.
So the next level up from there is "Esteem Needs." With our health intact, a roof over our heads and a spouse at our side, we arrive at this level, and this level is where most people find themselves in a daily struggle as our egos fight for recognition and respect, making a name for ourselves. Millions of egos all battling for an increasingly scarce resource these days: admiration and respect.
But the ego is never satisfied; it will always crave more. And give you more stress in the quest to feed it. The only way out of this rut is to break through to the next and ultimate level...
The top level on the hierarchy of needs. The one most elusive to us: self-actualization -- finding purpose and meaning in our lives.
"Why am I here?"
We constantly ask ourselves that question both consciously and subconsciously, but there never seems to be an answer. We look around at our lot in life and ask, "Is this all there is?" At the same time, the world talks and wonders about phenomena such as obesity, alcoholism, stress, road rage and depression being the modern diseases without ever seeming to make the link. Just as a boy joins a violent street gang out of frustration from not gaining love and friendship, increasing amounts of others find themselves suffering from one of these modern diseases for failing to attain the final level of self-actualization.
So how do you achieve self-actualization? In a word, by destruction of the ego, consciousness of one's actions, self-awareness.
But what of this question that tortures us so much and, in some instances, drives us to insanity, death and destruction? The question "Why am I here?"
Dare I answer such a magnificent question in this newsletter?
Well, I can make a start and give you what I believe is a BIG clue to the answer...
Since man walked the planet, he has been creative -- he has produced things. It seems to be the inherent and lasting key to man's personal satisfaction, whether it's building a house, producing a child or writing a poem. Or discovering fire.
You can answer such a difficult question only in a broad fashion like this. Each of us it unique, and that certain something that represents meaningful activity to us is different for each of us, as a result, but I believe that at the heart of everyone's personal dream is creativity in some form or another. We thrive on creating something, doing something and seeing an end product.
Think about this: When we were small children, we were happiest when we were busily engaged building, painting, playing games and inventing -- creating and seeing an end product. And of course, our childhood represents our true selves that we need to recapture in order to each find meaning and purpose, so this fact about children's habits is an important clue to answering why we're here.
Does the average job of today feed this inherent need to create? Sometimes. But does the average job of today give an individual the freedom of self-expression that is so essential to personal creativity? Even if you are "lucky" enough to have a job that provides you with a level of creative expression, you're usually compromised and restricted in some form unless you work for yourself. And even then, the marketplace restricts what you create if you want to actually make any money.
I could go on forever, quoting the types of work most people are engaged in today. Needless to say, the average employee is highly unlikely to find meaning and purpose from their job and, resultantly, will be unhappy at a deep level. Why do you think people have never changed employers as frequently as they do now?
This is why I also encourage you to gain enough wealth to break free of the grind. At least, this way, you'll have the freedom to find your dream and express your creativity in some form. You see, wealth and happiness are not contrary. Rather, they are complimentary, to a large degree, when you appreciate the freedom money can give you through the combination of reducing what you spend and creating a passive income (one that requires minimal input).
Not only that, but the very act of going into business for yourself is an expression of your creativity. Now, I'm not talking about a glamorized form of wage slave, such as a self-employed laborer, but rather, about coming up with an original idea and nurturing it from conception to production. Or writing down a plan and watching it transform from a piece of paper to a bustling office where you're the boss.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I was in a department store later on the same day that I saw the car crash. A woman carrying an infant blazed toward me, cursing under her breath, her face like thunder. "Get out of my way!" she hissed at me. I'd done nothing to her, apart from getting between her and the exit. I don't know why she was so angry. The infant in her arms was laughing, though, as he watched me blur past, evidently enjoying the fast thrill ride. I think we can learn a lot from children, They seem to know how to just enjoy the ride.
If life's getting you down, consider your place in Maslow's hierarchy and fight the appropriate fight. And who knows? You may just be sleep deprived and be way down at the bottom.
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