Newton postulated that a body at rest will tend to stay at rest. Witticisms aside, that principle clearly does not apply to human beings. Rest is merely a reprieve from living. Those of us that seek to stay at rest are not seeking that oasis in life that allows us to feel fulfilled and satisfied, but are seeking to avoid the challenges that interaction with the world demands. Yet, many of us describe our idyllic oasis in terms of doing nothing!
In my articles on finding your oasis in life, I have focused, to date, on self-realization. Self realization principally enables us to recognize who we are, what we want and how we relate to the world around us. It is self-actualization – the endeavour to become the best we can be – that provides the fulfilment necessary to being comfortable with ourselves and our lives.
In the early 1900s, Abraham Maslow proposed his hierarchy of needs. This schematic implied that the most basic needs must be met before we could hope to climb the eight-rung ladder to self-actualization. More recently, psychologist Steven Reiss suggested that there are sixteen basic desires that all of us seek to satisfy. Psychologist Clayton Alderfer revised the Maslow model, and formulated his Existence, Relatedness and Growth theory. He subsequently added in a regression component, saying that, when higher needs such as self-actualization and self-esteem needs are not met, we redouble our efforts to achieve lower-level needs.
These theories all imply that humans have needs that are ongoing, and that we, internally and externally, seek to have those needs satisfied. We all, therefore, are seeking that oasis where we can regroup and renew our attempts to reach self-actualization.
Ironically, as we near the self-actualization level, our concerns begin to focus more on our role in the world around us, and our perceived needs begin to give way to the needs of others. Social responsibility becomes one of those integral elements in self-fulfilment.
Many people, altruistically, place others well ahead of themselves. My mother, for instance, would sit up into the wee hours of the morning from September to December, making presents for children who needed to have a Christmas gift. She ached to provide for “those people who are less fortunate.” However, she failed to consider herself to be one of those less fortunate, even though our household income never exceeded $3,000 in a year, our 450-square foot home sheltered six family members, one of the rooms in the house had no floor, and she was dying of cancer. Others came first, for her. Most of the year, she lived an embittered existence, but, as Christmas approached, she found her oasis.
As I was preparing this article on motivation and self-development, I took time to view a documentary on Harry Belafonte. I was in the midst of writing about achieving self-satisfaction. But the documentary changed that focus, dramatically.
In one scene, a starving child lay passively, as flies crawled over his gaping, listless eyes. And I was thinking of how we should seek out tranquillity?
In another clip, Belafonte and Martin Luther King struggle to make the Kennedys understand how unjust the treatment of blacks in America was at that time. And I was considering ways to escape from the world around us, to alleviate the angst and stress?
Neither Belafonte or King reached the point where they could say that they were satisfied. King never saw the progress that he stimulated. Belafonte has never been satisfied to say that he has done enough. Yet, each reached a point in their lives that very few of us ever even strive to reach.
Finding your oasis, consequently, should not be about finding a level where one can be at perpetual rest. It is not human nature. Finding your oasis must be as much about enduring the travails of the desert, so that one can pause, look around for a few moments and say, “I’m ready to continue my journey of being a better person.” Without satisfying those higher-level human needs, we are doomed to continually attempt to slake our human thirst to be better by turning to our more base, self-serving needs. That, in turn, makes us no better than the animals around us. Our oasis can only be found when our focus is on being a better person, and a better part of humanity.