Understanding our inner ‘drive to become’ helps us to manage stress and self-actualise

A nut germinatesSometimes we are happy with the lives we are living. But sometimes we feel dissatisfied: there is a gap between the person we are being and the person we want to become.

It is this gap that catches hold of us when the American Dream whispers softly in our ear, “You can be anything you want to.” Or when we watch the Hero’s Journey, told and retold in countless television programmes and films. Or when Hamlet speaks Shakespeare’s most famous line:

“To be or not to be, that is the question.”

The reason these external ‘patterns’ captivate us is because they resonate with our own inner will to become: our equivalent of a seed’s yearning to grow into a tree or a caterpillar’s drive to transform into a butterfly. The drive in every living thing to become.

We all know what a seed and caterpillar want to become, but what about a human being? When who we think we are is shaped by the century, country, and family we happen to have been born into, how can we look past these surface symptoms to find out who we really are?

Sigmund Freud taught us that:

Life is love and work.

He said success for a human being is about being able to love and be loved and to find work that we do well.

Psychologist Will Schutz added a third dimension to this: significance. He said we also want to do or to be something or someone that matters: maybe not at a global scale, but we all want to make a difference.

These three factors together are what drive all human beings forward:

  • We want to love and be loved
  • We want to do work that uses our unique talents
  • And we want to matter, to be significant, to someone or something somewhere

We don’t always find ourselves in the perfect conditions to achieve these things. But, like a plant growing through concrete, we strive on anyway.

Once we understand these three fundamental drivers inside us we can use them in two ways:

  • First, when we react emotionally to a stressful situation, we can use them to understand that it is because we are not getting what we most need. This makes it easier to understand what is happening and then manage and reduce our levels of stress.
  • Second, we can use these drivers to work out what we want instead. Then we can choose how we respond, and so shape the person we will become. We can use our understanding of these drivers to self-actualise: become more fully who we truly are.

Inner Leadership gives us the tools to do both.

Are you happy with the life you are currently living or do you feel you need to make a change? Is your happiness or discontent to do with your work, your love, or your significance? What do you want instead?


Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.

You can sign up to daily posts here.


Photo By Maria Keays via StockPholio.com

Leave a Reply