Reality Check: Earning and Power

“It’s just a summer job to earn some money.” The young man on the flagging crew knows that his long hot days on the road are not his career. Cheerfully, he filled me in about the university program that will take him to a satisfying career in a few years.
This lad isn’t alone to recognize that attaining a worthwhile long-term goal often involves giving up gratification now in exchange for greater long-term gratification in future.
Among the basic needs that Dr. Glasser lists is one he calls the need for power. I’ve long wished Glasser would have used a different word, like recognition or esteem. But it is Dr. Glasser’s theory and he called it power.
Glasser says that to live satisfied lives, we need to find ways to satisfy our needs. We have choices in how we satisfy them.
I’m sure you are aware of people who satisfy their need for power in destructive ways—by diminishing the power of others. There are folks who bully and intimidate their partners, children or co-workers. Some use a position of authority as a means to dictate what others may or may not do.
But satisfying the power need can also motivate constructive, value-adding activities. For example, create a product or deliver a service that other people want.
These activities can be satisfying in several ways. First is the satisfaction of doing something that you know has value. Next is recognition when someone chooses and pays for what you are offering. Finally, and not to be sneezed at, is the money earned, whether it comes directly from a customer or through the company you work for.
The benefit of learning, earning, and producing goes well beyond the paycheck. Of course, the money has its value. But beyond that, there’s value in knowing you can produce something that others see as useful.
If I wanted to destroy someone’s self-esteem, (I don’t) one way to do so would be to convince them that they have no need to earn. They don’t need to produce. To take it further, one might suggest they don’t have what it takes to earn or produce. I’d convince them that they need to be cared for by others who know what’s best for them. Others can handle your basic needs, your basic income, your living arrangements, your food, etc.
That oughta do it, eh?
An insidious outcome of this approach, especially for young people who haven’t yet figured out their own capabilities, is that some can be convinced that tasks are too difficult for them. For example, too many people are convinced, “I can’t do math.” Even when intended to be protective or helpful, this is an example of setting up a barrier that can diminish opportunities to learn, earn, and produce value.
There are also plenty of ways to be recognized that don’t involve a paycheck. You may excel at volunteer work or at raising your children. Perhaps you care for your forest, your gardens, or for keeping up the spirits of your friends.
The essence is that each of us needs to find ways to satisfy our need for power and recognition. There are constructive ways and destructive ways. We’ve all seen examples of destructive ways. We’re better off when constructive methods are encouraged.
How do you satisfy your need for power?

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