Reality Check: Building Purpose

Some building materials are in scarce supply at the moment. Rumour has it that’s because there are a lot of home improvement projects going on. With schedules disrupted during the pandemic, it seems like everyone and their dog is using this time to build. This strikes me as a constructive response, so to speak.
Farther afield, you may have observed that there is a lot of anger and resentment in some groups of society. There are also plenty of smart people talking about why this is, whose fault it is, and what “we” can do about it.
Dr. Glasser’s Choice Theory suggests that there are five basic human needs. I return to this idea over and over, as it helps me understand so much about human behaviour.
One of those basic human needs is power, which I often refer to as recognition or esteem, simply because power can be interpreted in an unhelpful way.
How does it feel when we perceive that we are powerless? If we believe we have no control over important parts of our lives and we see nothing but uncertainty in our future; how do we respond?
If we perceive that we are not in charge of our lives, there’s a possibility that we might respond with anger and resentment. There are certainly demonstrations of anger and resentment happening.
Glasser suggests that it’s essential to satisfy our basic needs, including that power need. How might people who feel quite powerless, young or old, satisfy that need and take charge of their lives?
Both destructive and constructive choices exist, don’t they? One way to satisfy the need is by attempting to control and exercise power over others. This route will only lead to more misery.
A more challenging, but more productive question is, “How can we constructively satisfy our need for recognition and esteem?”
Personally, I’m a proponent of learning, especially learning that enables one to do practical things. While I appreciate many types of education, the training that helps people develop useful skills, skills that others want to pay you for, is a fine way to develop esteem. Capability is need-satisfying.
The folks who built your apartment, who fixed your lawnmower, who grew your apples, who made your tires, who installed your toilet; they are all skilled, whether or not the skills came from a formal training program.
When someone learns to wire an electrical panel so the lights work, or to calculate the forces on a bridge so we can walk safely across it, they gain more than just technical skills. When you’re competent, it feels good. It feels powerful. It feels like you’re taking charge of your life.
This probably sounds like a pitch for disenchanted youth—or anyone—to consider trades, technical, manufacturing, or engineering training. I guess that’s what it is.
But my pitch is not so much to promote vocational training (although I am partial to that) but to promote the idea that if you feel lost, victimized, resentful, or purposeless, one way to change that is to develop useful skills.
There’s satisfaction in being able to do things that you can see, touch, and know have value. Everybody who is working on their home improvements knows what I’m talking about.
I have no solution to offer for big societal problems. Personally, I’ve found that anything helpful and effective that I’ve done tends to be on a small scale—with individuals. Each of us has our own strengths, skills, worries and hopes. It’s with individuals that I can sometimes come up with a helpful suggestion or promote a skill that proves beneficial.
While it may be a long road, opportunities exist for anyone to learn and earn that kind of self-esteem and satisfaction.

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