I’ve recently noticed that more and more often, I’m having to apologise for missing so many social events with friends, whether it be birthdays, beach/park days or simple catch-ups – and every time it’s a difficult decision to make.
While I struggle to do this because of the risk of disappointing my friends, it’s a decision that’s taken plenty of reflection to be able to articulate.
Thankfully in the beautiful New Zealand which we live in, a large majority have the bottom two layers of this pyramid already satisfied (although I’m highly aware that’s definitely not the case for everyone) and they’re often even taken for granted.
It’s in this third layer where I feel the New Zealand culture is generally situated. We have a strong desire to spend our time with loving family, friends and partners which can define a happy life, and many of us see travelling around the world with these companions as an ideal picture of happiness – e.g. A Europe/South East Asia trip with friends or a honeymoon with a partner.
While it’s great that our desires have shifted away from plain materialism, there is still progress to be made. We in New Zealand for example tend to have a significant amount of Tall Poppy Syndrome, where we despise others for their success rather than encouraging and celebrating it. Getting over this would personally allow us to reach that 4th stage of Esteem in the hierarchy of needs.
And beyond that there is the top and final layer of the pyramid of self-actualisation which is by far the most exciting. It is at this stage where we can each live our lives to its fullest potential, with purpose and meaning in what we do.
It’s my desire to live this life of full potential which has led me to “socialise” less in the traditional sense of the word. The “perfect beach day” or the “perfect night out” which I, like many kiwis, used to cherish, no longer seems so appealing to me. Instead, I’ve started to enjoy the work that I do which provides the stimulation, challenge and deeper connection with people that I crave.
I’m incredibly thankful for where I’ve come thus far, where this summer has been the first chance for me to do so. I’ve been doing Summer Research on BMI in New Zealand with a database of 400,00 patients – work that thrills me for its focus on the big picture and how we can improve health on a grand scale. The second large commitment of mine has been work in a new Education venture which I’ve been working on with a few colleagues, with the aim of improving equitable education for all in New Zealand. These two grand-scale projects together, in health and education, are where I believe I can currently maximise my impact.
Off course though, this journey hasn’t been without years of confusion and searching for my calling. But the idea that our work is fulfilling and purposeful to us rather than just financially rewarding makes the journey worth it. I recently stumbled upon this video which so nicely summarises this journey and how each of us can begin to find fulfilling work. Imagine if every single one of us reached this stage of fulfilment. Where each and every one of us loved our study or work enough to stimulate us more than travel or the beach. While it’s perhaps a radical shift from our current views on study or work, it promises to take us even higher up the Maslow Hierarchy pyramid, and in turn become happier human beings.