January 15, 2018


By Daniel

I’m so used to balancing good news with bad, that I’ve spent a couple minutes trying to think of bad news.

  • The good news is I’ve made it to 30 in reasonably good health.
  • The good news is I had the best birthday of my life.
  • The good news is we both have stable, well-paying employment.
  • The good news is the bills get paid every month, uneventfully.
  • The good news is I’m working through many issues in my life and I feel like I’m making good progress everywhere.

Now, here’s a thing.

  • The good news is I don’t have a plan at this point.

I really had no plan for what I should be doing at 30. Everything kind of led up to age 29 and stopped. This is a good thing. I’m left with the ability to write my own script, and it’s a feeling I’ve never really had before. I can set my own priorities, set my own goals, and it’s more than that. I can explore the things I’m passionate about, or things I think I would be passionate about if I gave them a try.

Astute readers may point out that I could do that whenever I wanted. I’d argue that’s not true though; there are expectations placed on you from every direction. Right now I think I am meeting or exceeding those remaining expectations from work and home.

There’s a psychological theory called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I don’t recall where I first heard about it, but the idea is that certain needs are more important than others, and as those needs are met, like a pyramid, loftier goals at the top become feasible to work on. The base is physiological needs: Food, Water, Shelter, Clothing. Then you have safety: Personal Security, Financial Security, Health, and what I’d round up as Insurance. At the middle of the pyramid is social belonging: Friendships, Intimacy and Family. Above that is esteem or respect, with self-respect considered more important than respect from others.

Once all of those things are met, you’re left with two related needs at the top. Self-actualization, the idea that what a man can be, he must be. This gets into self-improvement, bettering yourself in whatever ways seem best to you. It also manifests as a creative spirit, to make your best self through effort and creating.

For thirty years of the hierarchy’s existence, that was the top. But Maslow revised his work in the ’70s and decided there was something more accurate to place at the top of the pyramid, and that was the idea of self-transcendence. Now you’re getting into turning yourself into a force for good, through volunteering or other altruistic efforts. It represents, to him, the pinnacle of human nature, and it is only sustainable once all those things below are met and satisfied.

Right now, I’d put myself, pretty solidly, in the self-actualization camp. My resolutions this year all revolve around that category. To be more athletic by losing weight, to write more, to cook new foods, to read more. It’s all a part of a concept of expanding myself, to become the best version of myself, through incremental progress. I think that last bit, incremental progress, is something I didn’t always have sight of. Particularly in my late teens and early 20s, I was altogether too likely to abandon something when I didn’t master it immediately. Age has brought a little wisdom, and a lot more patience.

So, not having a plan in the strictest sense of the word isn’t really a bad thing. Living seems to be a bit too free-form of a thing to try to impose an over-regimented structure to it. I need a little more than I’ve got right now, and finding that balance will be useful, but if I can manage that concept of “get a little better every day,” I think I’ll end up doing much better than I had in the past.