Everyone tends to think that the driving force of every human being is to make money and to strive ceaselessly for wealth and success.
While these are very real pursuits and necessary in today’s capitalist and commerce driven economies, I am of the opinion that this is not how we were built, but rather how we’ve evolved and have been shaped to survive.
I think the fundamental driving force of every human being is to be, and feel useful….to feel like they matter, and to observe their usefulness in society.
Going back to prehistoric times, when there was no money or jobs (in today’s sense of those words), every member of the tribe’s worth was based on how useful he or she was to the survival and continued existence of the tribe. I imagine the women of the tribe derived their purpose and feeling of fulfilment from tending to the general well-being of the tribe or family, and by providing a structured and calming effect to what would otherwise essentially be a testosterone driven chaotic male influenced mess. (yes, I know, pretty much how things are now). The maternal figures in those societies ensured the survival of the group by keeping the new members alive (the kids), by doing everything else that didn’t include “going out with the boys” to hunt for food.
The men get their “reason for being” from going out and facing danger to provide food for the group. They protected their immediate and extended families from predators, and hostile groups who posed a threat. They could see, first hand, the usefulness in their abilities and actions.
DISCLAIMER: I’m basing all of this on a very typical model of how I imagine people have evolved. From the Wikipedia page on personality traits – “men may have evolved to be more risk taking and socially dominant, whereas women may have evolved to be more cautious and nurturing.”
My point being – they didn’t need money or stuff to satisfy their sense of purpose and usefulness.
Fast forward a few thousand years and you see a very different landscape (literally, lol). We find ourselves existing to make money and accumulate “stuff”. Our purpose, as it were, is to get a nicer phone, a fancier car, a bigger house, and amass more money tomorrow than we have today. (that holds true for the upper classes and wealthier individuals among us).
The working class and poorest of us on the planet (the overwhelming majority) are trying to keep the job we have, stay up to date with our rent or bond, have enough food for the week, keep our kids clothed and educated……pretty much just existing. Our purpose, it would seem, and reason for being here, is purely survival.
I’ve become aware of a way to address this issue – Universal Basic Income (UBI)
The premise is this: Everyone on the planet gets a specific amount of money, every month, from the government with no strings attached. No conditions, no need to pay it back, no limitations on how you use it. Essentially, you get a “living wage” just because you’re alive.
There are lots of people who think this is a bad idea, saying that it will make people lazy and take away their will to be productive and useful members of society. Joe Rogan has expressed these concerns in more than one episode of his podcast.
Conversely, there are many high profile proponents of this idea, et al Elon Musk and Andrew Yang (US Presidential candidate), who seem to think that this is just what humanity needs right now.
I think the UBI advocates might be right.
In a Princeton University study it was found that financial stress actually lowers your IQ. . . . . yes….. worrying about paying your bills essentially impedes your cognitive ability to pay those bills.
So here’s the thing: If we all got a “salary” that took care of the minimal cost of being a living human being on this planet in this day and age, (let’s say R5,000 for the sake of simplicity), and we didn’t have to worry about where the money (for just one aspect of our cost of living) was coming from, I think our minds would be more “free”,… free to be creative enough to come up with the rest of the money that makes up our monthly cost of being alive.
Add to that the premise that you’re now not merely “working to exist”, I postulate that we, as social animals, will gravitate toward a more universally beneficial existence of doing things that help, things that improve other things, things that makes us feel useful and needed.
As some of you may or may not know, I’ve been “on my own” for about a year now, having been retrenched from my previous job. So I’ve been giving it my all and putting in the time and effort to make a living and contributing to the financial needs of my household. Suffice it to say, the hustle is all too real.
While I haven’t been completely “striking out” these past 12 months, I haven’t been flourishing either. It started getting more and more difficult to stay positive and upbeat about the situation I find myself in. Long story short – I started noticing a background feeling of being useless and not pulling my weight.
This “useless” feeling, while not very overt or front of mind, was nonetheless there…like an old nagging sports injury that makes itself known every so often. I was acutely aware of how my creativity and vision was taking a hit. I started doubting my abilities as a photographer… “am I as good as I think I am?… am I as good as people keep telling me I am?”
Suffice it to say, the slump in business and ensuing self doubt directly affected my ability to be effective.
But then…. my 17yr old daughter was going through something recently (boy trouble) and I had the rare opportunity to offer her advice… you know, me having been a boy myself a few years ago clearly qualified me for the role . So, in my best supportive daddy way, I helped my child navigate a potentially difficult part of her life. My perspective and insights had a very real and noticeable effect on how she handled herself during that difficult time. I can’t begin to explain to you the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment I felt in the days following our conversations. Seeing her handle herself so well was immensely gratifying to me. It was both weird and fantastic at the same time.
I noticed the return of my creative urges… some flashes of photoshoot ideas… a weight off my shoulders. My honest opinion on why this change occurred is simply due to me feeling needed, being useful in a real way, and seeing the results of my efforts in the real world.
Does my segway make sense now?
So circling back to what I started talking about earlier … if you’re feeling a bit pointless and mentally exhausted, try doing something for reasons other than financial gain or furthering your professional agenda. Do something small, something personal, something that matters.
Be useful in someone’s life, even if it’s just for a short while. Their gratitude and your feeling of accomplishment will be better psychological fuel for your next “big idea” than any accolade or payment could ever be.
What I’m saying is, human beings need to feel useful to survive and flourish.