Understanding our inner ‘drive to become’ helps us manage stress and self-actualise

Sometimes we are happy with the lives that we are living. Sometimes we feel dissatisfied: sometimes there is a gap between the person we are being and the person we want to become.

It is this inner gap that catches hold of us when the American Dream whispers softly in our ear, “You can be anything you want to”; when we watch the Hero’s Journey, told and retold in countless movies and television programmes; or when Hamlet speaks Shakespeare’s most famous line:

“To be or not to be, that is the question.”

All three of these external patterns are echoes and reflections of our own inner will or drive to become. They resonate with our internal equivalent of a caterpillar’s drive to transform into a butterfly or a seed’s yearning to grow into a plant — the shared urge to become that is part of what it means to be alive.

We all know what a seed and caterpillar want to become, but what about a human being? If who we think we are is shaped by the century, country, and family we happen to have been born into, how can we look past these surface symptoms to find out who we really are?

Sigmund Freud taught us that life is love and work. He said that success for a human being is about being able to love and be loved and being able to find work that we do well. To this, psychologist Will Schutz added a third dimension: significance. We also want to do or be something or someone that matters.

These three factors drive all human beings forward. We all want to love and be loved. We all want to do work that uses our unique talents. And we all want to matter, to someone or something.

We don’t always find ourselves in the perfect conditions to achieve these three things. But (like a plant growing through concrete) we strive on anyway.

And once we understand these three underlying drivers we can use them in two ways. First, we can use them to understand why we react emotionally in stressful situations. This makes it easier to manage those reactions and reduce our levels of stress.

Second, we can use them to choose how we respond and so shape the person we will become. We can use them to self-actualise.

Inner Leadership gives us the tools to do both.

Do you feel content with your life at the moment? If you feel dissatisfied, is that to do with love, work, or significance? What do you want instead? How can you behave as if you are that already, right now?


Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo By Maria Keays via StockPholio.com

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