First a disclaimer: This blog was ignited by notes I discovered recently that had fallen out of whatever book inspired them -- so unfortunately I can’t credit the source or recommend the book. Maybe someone out there knows….?
You’ve seen venn diagrams where several circles intersect, and that point of intersection yields a whole greater than its parts?
Imagine the circles in the venn diagram are labeled LIVE, LOVE, LEARN, LEGACY.
Where they intersect is where Maslow’s expansion of his famous Needs Hierarchy exists. Where they intersect sits something that includes and surpasses the original four. This place of intersection has the intriguing name, "the universal set."
Maslow’s original hierarchy is a pyramid.
Maslow’s premise is that once one level is achieved, we are liberated to attain the next one up. So, once our bellies are full (1), we can entertain the thought of getting out of the alley(2). And once we have safe shelter, we graduate to the need to hang out with some people who “get” us (3 & 4). The apex used to be that once we feel valued, we are free to expand and express our own personal genius -- start that band, write that book, invent, initiate, inspire (5).
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned that towards the end of his life, Maslow amended his Needs Hierarchy to include what he called a new “peak experience”. Now, Self-Actualization is not the crowning achievement of a lifetime, but rather SELF-TRANSCENDENCE.
Self-transcendence means getting beyond self -- living for a purpose higher than the self.
The author wrote about BIG PICTURE AWARENESS of our goals, challenging us to become transition agents- rather than transmission figures. I take this to mean that when setting our goals, the focus is not just on transmitting lots of information (ie. feature dumping or giving unsolicited advice), but on helping someone else transition from wherever they are to somewhere better. In short, before giving someone directions, listen for where they want to go.
I also jotted down this admonition: “Deal with roles and relationships in transformational, rather than transactional ways.”
An example: We can treat a waitress as her function -- as a robotic presence that performs a task in return for a tip -- OR we can express interest, show gratitude and add some joy to her day. Just to be clear, I’m not advocating showing interest instead of tipping! I’m talking about going beyond transaction -- I give to get, and progressing to transformation -- I give to potentially boost someone else up the Needs Hierarchy.
Another example: We can encourage someone to chase their dreams, or we can weigh in with how we might be inconvenienced by their choices. We’ve all met people whose primary concern is whether they’re being compensated in some way for what they are bringing to the relationship. Not that we should allow ourselves to be taken advantage of in relationships, but love and encouragement don’t function well as bargaining chips.
I see here that on page 130 of the “mystery book,” the author assures us that “We do make a difference one way or the other. We are responsible for the impact of our lives.”
I am responsible for the impact of my life. We all are. To make a difference on the plus side of the leger, we travel beyond mere transaction -- beyond the cocoon of self-gratification. We soar without counting the cost or presenting a bill, and in soaring, dry the wings of those around us so they can fly too.
It was when I was 29. That was over 37 years ago. I had a slight hangover that day and a less than perfect attitude. The day was misty and grey, mirroring my mood.
I told myself, “I’ll just run for five miles -- maybe seven. Just far enough to clear my head.” I hadn’t been gradually increasing my workouts. Hadn’t even really considered running a full marathon. A half marathon at the Avenue of the Giants a few months previously had seemed like plenty. I remember how I resented guys passing me whom I had passed previously -- just because their “bathroom breaks” didn’t take as long. I had felt strong and full of wonder that day, with the giant trees so graciously presiding over the scurrying, busy little humans down below.
This, however, was the day of the annual San Francisco Marathon which takes you through Golden Gate Park, along the ocean, and then back into the park again. My thinking was that once a little deep breathing and purging sweat had me feeling better, I’d find a way to get to the finish line in time to cheer my boyfriend over. I didn’t expect to run with him even at the start. We trained together most days but he always kept a faster pace during a race.
After I’d run about 3 or 4 miles, I found myself having a conversation -- between breaths -- with a very young, boyish and sturdy Irish rugby player. We seemed pretty well paced for each other -- so we just kept running along side by side, sometimes talking, sometimes not. My knowledge of rugby went from zero to minimal in the next few miles.
Then much later a strange thing happened… Well, two strange things: One, I was still running at mile 18 -- and two, the mega-muscled young rugby player hit the proverbial wall that runners talk about, and called it quits at one of the water stations. All those huge muscles that served him so well in rugby just locked up and refused to move him forward anymore.
So I waved and flew by -- an almost 30, hung-over, under-trained and cranky (initially) woman -- finishing my first marathon in just under 4 hours.
Much later in life it hit me. A robust young athlete has limitations. I have limitations. Everyone has limitations. (I was really feeling mine at about 2 pm the morning after my triumph. Getting to the bathroom required climbing three steps. I crawled.)
Seems obvious -- we all have limitations. Of course, or this would be a peaceful world full of soaring accomplishment and uninterrupted joy.
But we all have genius too. Seems like it should be a law of physics: “All organic beings are flawed and limited. However, these limitations are equivalently counterbalanced by the potential for brilliance and the compulsion to grow wherever we place our focus.”
Sounds too simple to say that we can just choose a new direction and stick to it and we’ll excel. No, I’m not saying that I could ever have competed and excelled in a Rugby match, or have taken technology to the next level, or taken up photographic safaris for a living... or any number of other magnificent things people do --just by shifting my focus. Native ability, talent and inclination have their place in our destinies too.
But I do believe that focus has magic in it. The list of miraculous arrivals of people and stuff and fortuitous 180 degree turns have been too frequent in my life.
I still have to remind myself that if I’m running a race, whether it’s running down the road or running towards a freer, more purposeful existence -- that it’s not about my limitations -- or my preparations -- half so much as it’s about where I’m focused.
Am I thinking about, talking about, planning for not making it to the next “finish line”? Or am I thinking about, talking about, planning for breaking through my current limitations and running towards a greater and greater sense of freedom and creativity?
I believe this is the right question to ask myself -- regularly! The challenge comes when I intermittently don’t listen to myself, and start listening instead to all the distracting, disturbing, unceasing noise out there.
So grateful that I’ve listened over the years to so many great thinkers who pull me back from the brink of going deaf to my own best voice.
What I love about the business I’ve owned for over 25 years:
I know I’ll think of even more reasons! Stay tuned.
Susan is a published writer and motivational speaker with 30 years of experience, dedicated to guiding people to a life of financial invincibility and peace of mind.