Path to True Self: What’s Missing in My View of the World

4 min read

Though I’ve always thought that I had a balanced view of the world, I’ve learned that not everything is determined by nations and organizations that make decisions unilaterally from the top down. Rather, I sense that—even more importantly—it’s more about a multifaceted community where people simultaneously inform and execute decisions from the bottom up.

A useful analogy is that the world functions like a household. A good household assesses and meets the needs of its most vulnerable, such as children, those with disabilities, and elderly loved ones. Those needs are made a priority where possible since the household may sense that the success of the group disproportionally depends on the well-being of those loved ones. The leadership organizes efforts and resources for their support, including investing in growth and improvement, especially for the younger generations.

While top-down leadership is always true to some degree, effective leaders also put the needs of those who rely on them as a top priority, whether in families, organizations, communities, or nations. This allows their group to be profitable, effective, and impactful (Heskett & Schlesinger, 1991). Those who ignore this reality and burn up their resources—both financial and human—risk impairing their ability to make a meaningful and sustainable impact.

This matters especially now because resources are scarce for many organizations, households, and communities. Those who spend excessive time, money, and effort focusing disproportionally on profit and production over people may find themselves continually struggling to make ends meet, get buy-in and participation, deal with health and behavioral issues, and even foster a sense of meaning in their lives. As such, more people are preferring well-run and impact-driven workplaces (Achor, 2018, Tien 2020), which also impacts an organization’s recruiting and retention efforts.

I was a product of this culture and subscribed to its mindset for many years, over-prioritizing productivity and financial metrics at work and in my personal life. While such measurements are important, they are not necessarily the best end goal in terms of motivating the hearts and souls of individuals, organizations, or the world to be a more successful or better place. While money, power, and influence can grease the wheels of positive change, they, in and of themselves, insufficiently resource our ability to feel satisfied with our lives (Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006).

Now, I seek enough money and influence to enable the positive change that I wish to see in the world and to meet my basic needs. And while an escalating bank balance may feel satisfying, at the end of the day, it left a growing sense of dissonance when I was not using those resources proportionally in service of alleviating suffering, improving health and wellness, or providing opportunities for growth, wisdom, beauty, connection, or healing.

Where we are falling short individually and collectively provides many opportunities for new endeavors that can be both profitable and impactful in a way that’s most nourishing to us now. More hedonism and distraction are not going to help us advance our lives in the ways that are most needed by the world. I believe that inside each of us is a unique code that reveals our heart’s desire to do good in the world and which is energized by the strengths, talents, and passions that we can employ to make it a reality.

When we find commonality and collaboration with others, then that reality can become a reality for even more people. It doesn’t matter whether we do it on a grand or small scale. What matters is that we are living our truest, most authentic lives in service to whatever we define as a better world. I believe this can provide a sense of being fully alive, which, according to Joseph Campbell, is what humanity has been seeking since the dawn of storytelling.

Take a moment to reflect on the areas of your life that would benefit from that sense of aliveness. It’s never too late to make small changes toward contributing to others in the way that feels most meaningful. Who knows where it might lead? You might find yourself in a strange but beautiful land.

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