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Achievement - A New Perspective

Photo by Ev on Unsplash

On January 15 of 2023 I wrote a blog about a homeless man whom we gave some food.  He shared part of his food with his friend, a woman with cancer, who was standing on another corner of a busy intersection.  In my blog I said that this man was interdependently actualized, he was an active part of an ecological framework and was able to both give and receive. 

I thought about how many of the identified needs in The Matrix of Needs™ he had met, and was able to identify that all of them seemed to be met or in the process of being met, except for the need for Achievement.  Attempts to meet the Need for Achievement are seen early on in children who push a parent away and say “I do it.”  It is seen in the child or youth or adult who brings something to another persona and says “look what I did.” 

As I was asking what this man had achieved, I realized I was judging him from my perspective of privilege.  I own two cars, a house, have many fulfilling roles in the work I have chosen to do, and when I questioned what this man had achieved I was dehumanizing this man. 

I have no idea what this man achieved before our brief interaction.  But now I know that the question I should ask is “what is he achieving now?”, not what has he achieved in his life, and the answer is “many, many things.  David Wechsler, considered to the guru of intelligence testing, said that intelligence was the “global capacity to act purposefully, think rationally, and interact effectively with the environment.”  This man was able to act with purpose, choosing where and when to stand to maximize his ability to raise money.  He was able to think rationally, as evidenced by the way he responded to my interactions and questions, and he was able to interact effectively with his environment, which includes the people he interacts with. 

His achievements are the same as mine.  Sure, I may have flowery names and titles for what I do, and my roles are socially validated by people when I tell them what I do.  In many ways, my achievements define not only what I do, but who I am.  This man has no such pretenses.  Who he is and what he does are two different things.   Looking at it this way, he has definitely met his need for achievement.  I have stopped to talk with him several times since that first encounter, I think I will look him up again.

Bob Bowen


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