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

Sometimes we are happy with the lives we are living. Sometimes we feel dissatisfied: 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”; or 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.”

The reason all three of these external ‘patterns’ excite and tantalise us is because all three are echoes of our own inner Will to become. They resonate with our internal equivalent of a seed’s yearning to grow into a plant and a caterpillar’s drive to transform into a butterfly. They are a reflection of our inner 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? When 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 that:

Life is love and work.

He said success for a human being is about being able to love and be loved and 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 together are what 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 be significant, to someone or something

We don’t always find ourselves in the perfect conditions to achieve these things. But, like a plant growing through concrete, we strive on anyway. When we achieve them we feel happy. When we lack them we can feel depression and an urge to become something more.

Once we understand these three fundamental 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 work out what we want instead, choose how we respond, and then shape the person we will become. We can use them to self-actualise: become fully who we truly are.

Inner Leadership gives us the tools to do both.

Do you feel content with your life at the moment or do you want to make a change? Is your happiness or discontent to do with work, love, or significance? What do you want instead? Do you know how to get that? Would you like to?


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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