Maslow and Hershey Kisses

by Laura Drake

Some of my best ideas come to me while I’m riding my bicycle.  I had an epiphany during a gorgeous Southern California ride yesterday.  One of those moments when several pieces fall into place for a major “Aha” moment – I love it when that happens!

For anyone who is not familiar with Maslow, here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

In the 1930’s Abraham Maslow put forward his “Hierarchy of Needs” concept to explain behavior.  His theory was that you strive to move toward the top of the list that follows:

  • Self-actualization
  • Esteem needs
  • Belonging needs
  • Safety needs
  • Physiological needs

This is summed up in one of my favorite songs, “Constant Craving” by K.D.Lang.

But I digress.  You can’t move up the ladder until the lower need is met, as anyone who’s been on the lowest rung can attest to (been there myself at one dark period of my life.)

My husband and I were talking the other day on a completely different subject.  We were watching one of those obnoxious “Weight Loss Breakthrough” ads on TV, and he didn’t understand why people were so lazy; why they couldn’t lose weight and keep it off (he has more drive than most – he lost 50 lbs 5 years ago.)

Last piece to the puzzle; I’m a Weight Watchers member, and the talk this week was about creating goals to achieve weight loss. 

Okay, stay with me here, because my theory works for anything you want to achieve, not just weight loss.

We’ve all heard the goal-setting advice; break a large goal into steps, and achieve those, and you’ll finally get to your ultimate goal/need.  Great.  On paper.  But if you’re like me, when you choose a large goal like losing 40 lbs, learning to knit, writing a book, whatever…you have pictured in your head what the ultimate goal will do for you.  You’re standing on stage, holding up the Oscar to the applause and adulation of the crowd.

Okay, I set smaller goals, but ultimately my eyes are on the applause, and my acceptance speech, and the smaller goals aren’t enough to get me excited.  Yeah, I’m making progress, but smaller goals also point out the amount of road I have left to get to my ultimate desire. 

I think this is why we fail.  After awhile, you just burn out.  The effort just doesn’t seem worth it, and we move on to the next thing we want.  But there are two problems with that.  First, the goal you’ve abandoned is the one you want most, or it wouldn’t have been your first effort, right?  Secondly, in spite of excuses you make to others, deep down, you know you’ve failed, and it hurts.  You feel guilty, which lowers your self-esteem and makes the next goal harder to achieve, because you don’t really trust yourself to do it.

After all, you let yourself down before, right?

One of my goals is to get stronger on the bike.  We’re going on a bicycle vacation in Utah this summer, and it involves mountains.  Okay, so I’m riding, trying to figure out how to get consistent with my training – I get lazy when I get home from work, and find other things to do that don’t involve sweat and pain. 

Suddenly, I’m distracted by a mockingbird’s song.  I notice that the temperature is perfect.  I look up, and the rolling hills have changed since the last time I rode this route; tawny grass stretches away forever.  I’m so absorbed by the joy of being alive and being out in nature that I don’t even realize I’ve toiled up a major hill – it didn’t hurt at all!

That’s the Hershey Kiss part.  Is it the high I’ll get on the podium?  No, not even close.  It’s just a moment’s sweetness on the tongue.  Okay, I’m mixing metaphors, but you get the gist – it’s about focus.  You need to really take the time to revel in the small goals.  Wallow in them.  They are the rest spots on the stairs to the podium.  If you don’t, you’re going to burn out and quit.

 Besides, just ask an older actor with an Oscar on their mantel; they’ll tell you the evening was great, but what mattered to them was the journey.  Like Lennon said, “Life is what happens while we make other plans”.

The Hershey Kisses are the joy of life!  Savor them; I wish you many.

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One Response to Maslow and Hershey Kisses

  1. Lynda Jensen says:

    I couldn’t agree more. One thing I would add: don’t doddle along the road to your goal. Too often I have failed to reach my goals due to procrastination, putting off until tomorrow what I ought to do today. The result being that I never reached that bright shining success existing in my imagination.

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