Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Luxury of Dissatisfaction.

An interpretation of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
I had a long conversation with a good friend last night about how we often feel our jobs are not what we want to do.  

He wondered if it was something in a creative person’s nature: because we know the joy of ‘working’ in our creative fields, we expect to have that same feeling in our paid employment.  ‘Perhaps we expect too much as a result,’ he said.

Being able to think and talk like this is a huge privilege.  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs suggests that Self-Actualisation is at the very pinnacle of the Motivation Pyramid.  If this is what we’re striving for, it probably means the things below it are already taken care of.  Many people don’t have that luxury.

Someone might be turning out every day to a tedious factory job just to put food on the table for their family.  They do their job, otherwise their loved ones would suffer.  That’s their motivation, their focus.

I’m a single, young(ish), fit and healthy man, living on my own.  I don’t need to worry where my next meal is coming from, and I don’t have responsibility for anybody other than myself.  Which allows me to, basically, do what I want.  If I’m not happy in my career, I can study to be something else; I can dream of what I want to do, and go after my perfect life. 

I’m not saying our factory worker friend doesn’t feel dissatisfied, or dream of a ‘better day’, but they probably don’t have as much time or energy to sit around and talk it through, mull it over, and work towards it.  There are bills to pay, mouths to feed, DIY jobs to do.  They have ‘more important’ things to think about; more important to them and their needs.

Looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy (and it’s probably out of date these days anyway), there are certainly aspects of the lower stages I still don’t have, and yearn for.  But on the whole I’m in that top group.

If we are able to long for creativity and fulfilment in our work, rather than just to provide for ‘more basic’ needs, we are in an elite group.  Dissatisfaction of this kind is an enormous luxury. 

I’ll try and remember that next time I’m moaning...

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