Although each of us is unique in thousands of ways, we all share the human experience of being born, living and dying. It is helpful to realize that we are not alone when it comes to dealing with life’s challenges and setbacks. It is also helpful to understand that we all have needs that motivate us to act upon those needs and wants. Over our lifetimes our needs change and our motivation changes along with them.
Needs > Wants > Tension > Action > Success or Failure > Wants
The more tension we feel, the more likely we are to take action to reduce it. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, our first needs are “physiological”: food, water, warmth, sleep and sex. These needs must be met for growth to occur. The next level of needs are “security” needs: protection from physical danger, financial security, nutrition and shelter. Once past these stages we move on to the “acceptance” needs: the need to be accepted by others, the desire to be popular. After learning to fit in, we try to fulfill our “esteem” needs: the need for self-confidence, status, prestige and power. If we make it past the esteem needs then we have the chance to self-actualize, something few of us have ever done. By self-actualizing, you fulfill your desire to become all that you are capable of becoming. You maximize your talents and share your success with the rest of the world. Some well known self-actualizers are Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Thomas Edison, Stephen Hawking, Gandhi and Mother Teresa. Who do you look to as a role model and why? What values does your “hero” hold in high esteem?
The following is a general time-table for stages that we all seem to go through. The better we understand the natural process of life, the better our chances of dealing constructively with life’s little bumps. Try to determine the needs and wants of each stage in order to speculate the motivation (tension) behind the actions.
0-3: Basic survival. We eat, drink, sleep, absorb information, and are completely dependant on others. We are very impressionable in our first three years. Our brains are processing input, be it positive or negative. Research has suggested that children that did not receive love and affection at this age are much less likley to find happiness later in life. They are often unable to express love and affection as adults. They are less likely to develop a conscience and they tend to commit more violent crimes as adults.
4-6: Discovery period. We learn that we have needs and wants. We learn that siblings can interfere with our wants. Our creativity and emotions dominate over logic and rationality.
7-10: Schooling begins. We learn to read and write but now our creativity and emotions must be kept under tighter control. We discover friends and start to discover ourselves.
14-18: Our teen years. We are searching for our identity while battling acne, parents, siblings, friends, school, and puberty. These could be the easiest years of our lives but for many individuals, they are the toughest. Some start dating, most of us still fear the opposite sex. At times life seems unfair and against us. We are still young but struggling to be grown up and treated like an adult.
19-25: The real world. We leave home and either go to college (a 5 year educational playground before the real world), or get a job and possibly start a family. Real responsibility begins and we finally find out what it’s like to run our own lives. By age 25, most of our values and thinking patterns are established. It takes great effort to change ourselves after this stage. For men, the sexual peak is passing but the instinctive drive still causes bad decision-making on occasion.
26-30: Still young but aging. We begin to realize we are not immortal and we can not abuse our bodies like we used to. Many of us have married and started a family by now. We can get caught up in the struggle to make ends meet and forget the importance of living. We still want to accomplish great things but time seems to be slipping away. Remember to enjoy life while you are still young and do not think that things will get better after you have made more money. Live life now while you still have youth, energy, health and lots of enthusiasm. When you get old and “rich” you likely won’t have as much of these youthful qualities. Hopefully you will have wisdom and peace of mind after youth has left you. (:
31-35: Identity is established. By now we know who we are and what we want. How to get it may not yet be determined. Most of us have experienced the death of a loved one and perhaps drawn closer to family. Women that have not had children may fear that their time for having kids is running out.
36-40: Maturity sets in. Many of us are loaded with responsibilities by this age. We might have many debts and not enough income to do all we want. We start thinking about saving for retirement. Most of us have experienced some kind of traumatic illness or pain by now. Setting goals and planning for the future take on new meaning.
41-50: Mid-life dilemmas. We may find ourselves looking back on our lives with disappointment that we didn’t accomplish more. We are still young enough to accomplish our goals and dreams but we have to act now. Our kids are going through their teens and moving out. The house starts to gets bigger and emptier. We start worrying about our health and may start exercising more.
51-60: Nearing retirement. The final years of working are getting closer. Financial concerns and health problems dominate much of our worries. We may have to deal with the death of one or both parents. The kids have gone and started their own families. Many of us move into new residences that fit a family without children. Grandchildren become idols to adore and spoil. We begin to give back to society.
61-70: Retirement starts. We’ve finally made it! No more work, only rest and relaxation. Why then after a year or so of R&R do we often feel bored and non-productive? Because for many of us we’ve reached our goal of just getting here. Our health may also be stopping us from enjoying our time off. We must set new goals to accomplish, just the same as any time in life when we reach our highest goals. Strive for the next level, don’t just relish in past glory. Life’s a journey, not a destination. Make it a fun journey because the destination is merely the end.
71-80: Continuing retirement. If we haven’t started planning for our deaths by now, this is the time. We spend more and more time reflecting on the past, partly because these memories are the strongest. If our health is good, the seventies can be very rewarding due to the amount of wisdom we have acquired. This wisdom needs to find an outlet so that others may benefit.
81-90: Nearing death. For almost all of us, death is a very scary thing. We fear the unknown and death is probably the least known thing about the human experience. But it is part of the human experience and without it, life as we know it, would not exist! It’s like a big physics equation that states that the amount of energy going into a system must equal the amount of energy leaving the system. For new life to enter, some must go elsewhere. Death is probably harder on the survivors than the person dying. By this age, death can actually be a welcome event, especially if our mental or physical health is poor. In a sense, life could become a curse if death did not occur when our bodies deteriorate.
91-100: More people are living to the grand old age of 100 and many do so because they were good to their bodies and good to their souls. With medical advances and better nutrition information these days, more of us will be able to enjoy our nineties. So start taking better care of yourself and keep setting new goals so that life is worth living.