Maslow’s Paradox: Who’s Happiness Do We Choose?

There is an innate human need to belong. There is comfort in the crowd. It is safe. It is convenient. We want to fit in, and we want others in the circle to fit in as well. Our circles help define us as well as those within the circle.

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.” ― Beryl MarkhamWest with the Night

When I mention the word “circle”, you have a very clear image in your head what that looks like. Whether you are in Nigeria, Pakistan, Georgia or China, we all have the same image of what a circle is. But what happens when someone inside the circle crosses a boundary and distorts its shape? The circle will rebel.

For many years psychology focused on the study of mental illness. Abraham Maslow studied mental wellness of the most successful people of the recent century. It is here he created Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. After securing our fundamental physical survival needs of food and safety, the next level is love, belongingness, and community. Before we achieve great things in life, we NEED connection.

But Maslow’s Paradox asks the question, “What happens when the connections we have and the circles we are in prevent us from reaching the next level of esteem and self-actualization?” It is here we face the dilemma, remain a part of the existing group for the sake of the circle, or do we find or create a new circle that helps us achieve our growth and ultimately be the best authentic version of ourselves.

“Letting go means to come to the realization that some people are a part of your history, but not a part of your destiny.” ― Steve Maraboli

You will have many circles in life. Your circles may be jobs, friends, relationships, faith groups or professions. These circles help define us, but only during segments of time. When we focus on our own personal growth and development, others around us may not be growing. No matter how much a child loves their 4th-grade class, there comes a time to leave the 4th grade behind. In adulthood, the idea is the same. But in adulthood, we don’t have to leave the classroom. Many do not. They simply remain in the 4th grade forever.

If you want to graduate to greatness, fulfillment, and happiness in your life, there will come a time when you will have to leave some circles. There will come a time to leave your classmates behind.

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