That said, I’ve buried the top-line point of all those elements of a well-lived life in other essays, so I guess now it’s time to get straight down to the business of identifying the baseline raison d’être of the human collective. Okay, okay … there’s two, total. You ready?
Satisfaction and belonging. These are humans’ primary and most elemental desires above mere survival. They drive all goal-directed behavior and they’re the core tenets of our both self-interest and altruism.
Satisfaction is a sense of “enough.” I’ve done enough, well enough. I have enough. I’ve eaten enough. I am enough.
Belonging is a sense of “home.” I feel at home here, or with you, in this space, or doing these things, with these people, etc.
Everything we do — good and evil, food and sex, growth and suppression — are aimed at moving the needle along the continuums of satisfaction and belonging, either for ourselves or for others. Even the maladaptive things we do. Really.
Same with everything we feel — love and hate, security and fear, joy, and melancholy. They’re data points along these same continuums. They’re scatter-plots along the axes of satisfaction and belonging.
We find satisfaction and belonging when we feel mostly safe, and occasionally thrilled. If you think of all great relationships — friendships, working relationships, domestic partnerships, life-long loves — we feel safe around them, and occasionally thrilled to be in their company. If you think of all the great places we visit and long for, they satisfy us and we feel like we belong there.
People generally just want to feel like to feel good about themselves, and feel like they’re seen, safe, and supported. Everything else — health, joy, peace, love, security, equality, purpose, truth, freedom — ladders up, in some way, to satisfaction and belonging.
Moreover, satisfaction and belonging overlap in points and affect each other. When we belong, we feel a bit more satisfied. When we’re satisfied, we feel a bit more like we belong.