Last week I received an email from a relative, bearing the sad news that he and his wife of nearly 20 years were separating. He said that when they got married, he had “hoped to make her happy”, but admitted that “over the years I have failed.”
And then, Ex-Mozilla user experience intern Wei Zhou blogged about how to find fulfilment and satisfaction. She gives five possible primary motivations, based on which of the following you find more important: power, status, pleasure, creation, or quality.
- The Autocrat seeks power and control
- The Narcissist seeks attention, status and fame
- The Hedonist seeks pleasure and enjoyment of material goods
- The Architect seeks to create and shape the world
- The Craftsman seeks to enjoy their work by producing quality
This made me think about where true happiness and fulfilment is found. My relative took upon himself the burden of making someone happy – and that is a crushing burden. His wife looked to him to make her happy – and this will inevitably lead to disappointment.
Wei concludes that “not all of these [five] primary motivations lead to a lasting sense of personal satisfaction and fulfillment”, but argues that being a Craftsman – being concerned with quality – gives one the best shot at finding “personal satisfaction and fulfillment”. She wisely notes that “it frees us from the perception that our self-worth depends on [power, status, pleasure, or world-changing achievement]”.
But I don’t think being a Craftsman is the answer either – if you are a craftsman, there will always be levels of skill you cannot attain – and most skills, after a certain point, decline with age. As one of her commenters points out, “your execution will always be flawed”. If your self-worth depends on the quality of your work, you are also going to be disappointed.
So how can one find true fulfilment? I think she has missed a primary motivation:
#6: The Christian
The Christian’s primary motivation is love of God and a desire to obey His commands. Common behaviors include “love your neighbour as yourself“, “take up your cross daily” and “go and make disciples of all nations“. They are those who have learned to “be content whatever the situation.“ Examples: missionaries like David Brainerd (missionary to the Native Americans; died at 29), William Wilberforce (anti-slavery campaigner), and millions upon millions of ordinary people.
Christians do not obsess about controlling others like the Autocrat, because they know God is in control, and works all things for their good. They do not seek attention, status and fame like the Narcissist, because they know their value is in being a child of God, not in the approval of others. They do not make an idol of pleasure, like the Hedonist, because at God’s right hand are pleasures forevermore, and it is through him that true and lasting happiness is found. They do not create their own vision of what the world should look like as the Architect does, because they know that God’s vision is the best one, and they should pursue that. They do enjoy their work, like the Craftsman, but it is a subsidiary goal to that of pleasing God in all things.
People do make a choice “about what they’re ultimately working for”. But it depends what you mean by “ultimate”. In the long run, as the saying goes, we’re all dead – and the ultimate question is “what happens next?”
 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13)