The Art of Meaningful Living – 9: Owning your problems

Maslow's hierarchy of needsMaslow’s hierarchy of needs is well-known and it is very useful when considering a move towards a meaningful life.

We all have problems in living. By problems, I mean, the struggles and challenges  we face that reduces the quality of our personal and professional lives. But we should understand that struggles and challenges are normal. Only when they cause reduction in quality( which is very personal) they become real problems which we have to deal with to make our life meaningful.

To understand and become aware our problems, Maslow’s hierarchy is very useful.

The first step is physiological needs– food, water, sex and shelter. If these needs are not fulfilled, there is no point talking about higher needs. If you are hungry, then getting food is the most important thing. So we have to make sure we have satisfied these needs to a reasonable extent.

The second step is personal safety and security– physical well-being and emotional protection. We need to be healthy. We need to be emotionally safe and secure. We need to be in a safe place, have secure employment and so on. If we do not feel safe and secure in these aspects, then we need to solve them. Otherwise a meaningful life is not possible. Many people in this world do not have all these needs met and to have a meaningful life, these are very important.

The third step is socialization: love and belonging. Some of us are introverts and some of us are extroverts. But we all need connections with others to feel fulfilled. We have to meet these needs somehow – through relationships with our family, friends, colleagues and our community.

The fourth step is self-esteem: If you have met all your physiological, safety and love/belonging needs, you then feel the need to have self-esteem. We gain this by positive recognition, reputation, achievements and status. Trying to gain this is not selfish, as your needs are as important as the needs of the world around you. We should not be completely self-centered but we should not be completely self-neglectful either.

The last step is self-actualisation: This is when we meet the peak of our potential in all aspects-physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. We find meaning in our lives. We will have pain, suffering and problems but we can deal with them holistically.

The problems we face in our lives, fall into one of the above steps. They are our problems. Trying to solve problems at higher levels when lower levels are not fulfilled does not usually lead to a fulfilled life. But this framework can help us become aware of where our problems lie and what we need to do to make our life more meaningful.

Own your problems, become aware of them and work towards solving them. Hopefully, you will start to find more meaning in your life.