My Fulfillment

October 9, 2012

On the Authentic Road

According to Susan Krauss Whitbourne, The Search for Fulfillment: revolutionary new research that reveals the secret to long-term happiness (2010).

I bought this book to give away in a fund-raiser but stopped to examine it before it was out of my hands. When a young academic in psychology, Whitbourne adopted a bit of guidance for herself: Live live when young as if looking back on it when you’re old. Influenced by the work of Erik Erikson who focused on adult development through the lifespan, she began to test his theories by also studying people over time, mapping their changes, and discovering the effects of early decisions.

Can people find fulfillment at any age? After forty years of following 182 subjects, she gives her answer, albeit influenced by Erikson’s recognition of the forces of development and change in human lives. Because of human variation, people tend to follow one of five life paths into which Whitbourne grouped her subjects. Yes/no answers to a set of Eriksonian questions provide the bases for these groupings. Honest answers will fit all five points of one particular path The five pathways are Meandering Way, Straight and Narrow Way, Downward Slope, Triumphant Trail, Authentic Road.

I am of the latter. The Authentic Road is the path of those who continuously examine their life’s direction and force themselves to take a bold and honest look a whether it is truly satisfying (p.56). It’s a process of identity achievement by willing examination of alternatives without rigidity or fear of change. The result is enhanced feelings of inner authenticity that turn into generativity and ego integrity in the middle years and into later life.

In other words, as I have gotten older I think that I have become more like my true self. I focus on what has worked out well for me. And I continue considering options in my life in order to continue becoming more fulfilled. This year, I have spent major portions of time on the cause of defeating the marriage amendment in Minnesota, largely within my congregation and through the Minnesota division of the American Association of University Women. This I have done because equality, concern for the neighbor, and civil conversation are all values I prize. Nevertheless, I vow that this is my last major contribution of a civic nature. From now on I vow to intentionally focus on my reading and writing.

Being an INTJ has meant being an introspective, self-examining, rational pursuer of beneficial change.  (See My INTJ.) I did not know of these pathways, though I have read Erikson in the past. I am glad to find one more confirmation of my type that bolsters my sense of reaching out and of desire for holism.

I am not saying that at this point I am completely and finally fulfilled. But I have a very clear idea of what I want to achieve and a new reservoir of confidence to obtain at least some of it.

Copyright  2012 by Roger Sween.

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