Finding Enthusiasm in your daily life

by Bruce W. Lynch

Many of us ask ourselves life's key questions like:

  How can I find purpose in my life?
  What is the meaning of life?
  What career would I really like?
  What job is right for me?

The answers to those questions can each be found by answering, "what really motivates me?"

Understanding what motivates human beings was the life work of professor Abraham Maslow. He studied the subject of motivation deeply for his entire adult life while teaching at Brandeis University. He taught of the hierarchy of need, hierarchy of values with basic survival at the core and less fundamental issues building on that as if in the shape of a pyramid. At the top of that pyramid are the most subtle of motivations, called being values, "B-values" or meta motivations, those motivations that allow and make possible self actualization.

Subtle means that such Being Value Motivations are displaced when a need lower in the hierarchy becomes active. One example: If you have not eaten for a long time, you are likely to be motivated by lower needs like Safety if not Survival.  How do you act when “your back is against the wall?”

Understanding which of these fifteen B-values is very important to can help you to find your calling, to develop an every day life that is highly satisfying and fulfilling. Try to determine what two or three are your own personal meta motivations.

Feel free to print this table, a list of Maslow's Being Value. You might prefer this version.



Maslow's list of being values, and meta motivations


Aliveness: process; not deadness; spontaneity; self regulation; full functioning; not monotony, not bored; not calm down; not take it easy


Beauty: rightness; form; aliveness; simplicity; richness; wholeness; perfection; completion; uniqueness; honesty; not bleak, ugly, vulgar


Completion: ending; finality; justice; it is finished; fulfillment;  destiny; fate; seeing it through to the end; not dropping in the middle


Effortlessness: ease; lack of strain, striving or difficulty; grace; perfect, beautiful functioning; getting more done with the same amount of time; not unnecessary steps; not because we always do it this way 


Goodness: rightness; desirability; oughtness; justice; benevolence; honesty; not a lie; not cheap or easy


Justice: fairness; orderliness; lawfulness; oughtness; not ignored because unimportant; not discriminated against 


Perfection: necessity; just right ness; just so ness; inevitability; suitability; justice; completeness; oughtness; not sloppy; not the short cut or the easy way


Playfulness: fun; joy; amusement; gaiety; humor; exuberance; effortlessness; not drudgery


Richness: differentiation, complexity; intricacy; the situations in all of its aspects, all of the ramifications; meaning on all of the levels


Self determining: environment transcendence; separateness; living by its own laws.


Self-sufficiency: autonomy; independence; totally self contained; not needing other than itself in order to be itself; not dependent


Simplicity: honesty; nakedness; essentiality; abstract, essential, skeletal structure; the essential portion; eliminating clutter


Truth: honesty; reality; nakedness; simplicity; richness; oughtness; beauty; pure, clean and unadulterated; completeness; essentiality. 


Uniqueness: idiosyncrasy; individuality; non-comparability; novelty; 


Wholeness: unity; integration; tendency to one-ness; interconnectedness; simplicity; organization; structure; dichotomy-transcendence; order; 

[Please note that the author acknowledges that this page is only a simple draft.
The following is an overly simplistic prescription and description.]


Understand your own personal meta motivations.

Doing so is an important key to success, a key to developing a satisfying life, a life that feels filled with purpose.

1. Examine the Hierarchy of Needs. Consider your life structure. What patterns repeat that cause you to be triggered by motivations lower in the hierarchy? What can you do to change your life structure so that the triggers no longer occur?

2. Roughly Rank your own personal motivations at the self-actualization level. Ponder the Being Values and identify those two or three that are likely to be very important to who you are. Set aside those that seem not very relevant to you. You may want to look at the above list, print it and write H for probably High Rank, L for Low and M for Medium.

3. Refine your rough Rankings. Once you know what is High, go back to just those and consider them more carefully. Look at the Motivation side of the subject, like "when I am with beauty I feel more open and alive, even joyful." Then look at the Deprivation side, like "when there is no beauty in my life for several days, I start to feel discouraged or depressed." Substitute your High Ranked values in these and similar sentences. What registers with enthusiasm in you?

4. Consider your daily life in light of your top 2 or 3 b-values. Consider how  (one of your B-Values) is affected for you by the way you spend your day.

5. Be patient with yourself. Remember that you need to keep your lower order needs satisfied: starting with the strongest, the physiological needs of your body, moving next to safety, then on to feeling liked, then to the more subtle esteem for one self, and finally to the most subtle level
self-actualization. And know that self-actualization is perhaps more a process than a destination or a state of being.

As Maslow said:

"What seems to distinguish those individuals I have called self-actualizing people, is that in them these episodes seem to come far more frequently, and intensely and perfectly than in average people. This makes self-actualization a matter of degree and of frequency rather than an all-or-none affair."

-- from "Towards a Psychology of Being", Page 97

Further Reading

The Wiki entry describes Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

The Design Hierarchy of Needs is helpful and adds a discussion of the limitations to Maslow’s Hierarchy.

Here is Pettifor's overview of Maslow's teachings; and another overview. "The True Religion" by Eric Pettifor. This well written article shows the common themes among religions and describes the traits or a self actualizing person.

Maslow's List of B(eing)-Values quoted verbatim from page 83 of "Towards a Psychology of Being" (2nd ed., 1968)

Pettifor's site provides, online, several of Maslow's writings for those who want to dig in immediately. It starts with this quote from Maslow:

Human life will never be understood unless its highest aspirations are taken into account. Growth, self-actualization, the striving toward health, the quest for identity and autonomy, the yearning for excellence (and other ways of phrasing the striving "upward") must by now be accepted beyond question as a widespread and perhaps universal human tendency.

And yet there are also other regressive, fearful, self-diminishing tendencies as well, and it is very easy to forget them in our intoxication with "personal growth," especially for inexperienced youngsters. .... We must appreciate that many people choose the worse rather than the better, that growth is often a painful process ....

from Abraham Maslow's "Motivation and Personality"

The official Maslow publications site with a list of books by Abraham H. Maslow both in print and out of print.

"Behaviors leading to self-actualization" from Dr. Milbourn's General Management Slides.

Existentialism and Abraham Maslow by Katharena Eiermann.

"The Enlightened Manager's Guidebook", a review a book by Abraham Maslow released in October 1998. Editor's Intro: "Thirty-six years ago renowned psychologist Abraham H. Maslow spent the summer at a small technology company, observing his ideas about motivation being put to the test."

All contents Copyright © 1999 Bruce W. Lynch, Exxel International

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