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Don't Seek Success; Seek Self-Actualization

"You make a living by what you get.


You make a life by what you give."

So said Winston Churchill. Cooperation and giving is better for you than competition and taking.

Competitors do not see it this way. To them, making money is an overriding goal so they and their families can live in "style." In the name of money they run in the rat race. When they win and become CEO rats, they wonder why they are depressed and unhappy with their lives.

The reason is simple. They do not have a larger purpose. There is no meaning in the work they do. They are not being helpful to people. They are not givers, but takers. They are not cooperators but competitors.

Cooperators have a vision to serve other people. If they help others by doing what they love to do they eventually reach self-actualization.

Self-actualization is the highest need in Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs:

  • PHYSIOLOGICAL 'Basic living needs, such as food, water, oxygen and sex

  • SAFETY 'Once physiological needs are satisfied, you need to have a home and other forms of security

  • BELONGING 'So far you have taken care of yourself. Once you do this, you look to make friends, find someone to love and in general feel part of a community

  • SELF-ESTEEM 'You need self-confidence, to be appreciated for what you are and be treated with dignity

  • SELF-ACTUALIZATION 'This is the highest level. Once your basic needs are supplied, you seek ways to reach your highest potential

Maslow also said:

"Ours is a money and power society, and so long as it is, it is thereby insecure."

Yet most people chase money so they may be called a success. Success, what would you do to achieve it? What would you give up in order to win? Would you do what you hate in order to make millions of dollars? Would you slavishly follow rules laid down by others in order to ingratiate yourself with them and thereby get "promoted"?

Do you want to live in the fast lane? According to John Jensen there is one thing wrong about it:

"The trouble with life in the fast lane is that you get to the other end in an awful hurry."

Competing wildly to make piles of money so that you would be recognized as a success, while all your personal relationships fall apart, seems to be the goal of many. Does it make sense?

You can achieve the real thing, self-actualization, by seeking ways to help other people in your area of expertise while pursuing what you love to do. Pursuing what you love to do beats competing for success. Instead of working hard, you do not work at all. Doing what you enjoy can not be called work. Instead of sacrificing your body, mind and spirit in the interest of making a buck, you do as you wish. Mark Albion thinks it is a shame to sacrifice this way. He says:

"Do what you love. Whether or not money follows is not vital. What's vital is that you won't be wasting your life."

Instead of being rewarded by others, reward yourself. The great dancer, Baryshnikov, got it right when he said:

"I do not try to dance better than anyone else.


I only try to dance better than myself."

Instead of traveling in the fast lane, travel in your own private lane.

Self-actualization brings people contentment and happiness. Self-actualization comes easily to cooperators and with difficulty to competitors.

Cooperators may affect not only their own lives and the lives of their family members, they have an impact on the world. Yes, they do. Most of us are skeptical about this because we feel helpless compared to the great leaders and shakers of the world. But Margaret Mead cheers us on:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has."

Be a cooperator. Do what you love. Serve others. Reach self-actualization. Make life better for you as well as for the world.

Paul Siegel is the author of "WE DON'T AGREE, BUT... How to Live in an Age of Terrorism," from which the above article is adapted. The book may be obtained from Amazon.com for $17.95. The article may be used freely, provided the author and the book source are acknowledged. The author is also called Paul "the soaring" Siegel because of his performance on the platform.


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