Satisfiers Versus Strivers

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Dividing people into categories seems to be a popular thing to do at the moment, so here I’d like to pose to you another method of categorization that my family and I have speculated over for quite some time. Assuming that we as individuals decide what motivates us to live a certain lifestyle, we can put people on a scale where there are two categories at polar ends to one another when it comes to lifestyle motivation. To sum up the two categories let’s call them ‘satisfiers’ and “strivers”. Now let me preface this by saying no category is better than the other as they both have their pros and cons, hence my hesitancy to use these terms, however, these seem to summarise the two categories rather succinctly.

Let us start with defining these two polar terms. A satisfier is someone who sets out their life goals based on the emotion of comfort and security. Their happiness is based on avoiding struggle and seeking comfort. They are willing to undergo discomfort if it aligns with their initial image of when they’ve ‘made it’ but they will not undergo any initial suffering that lies outside of their initial image of success. Here, their motivation doesn’t lie in the process of achieving that level of comfort, but in attaining the goal of happiness across all aspects of life. For this group of people, money isn’t an end goal but simply a tool. A means to provide them with the comfort they seek and that which they can gift to their friends and family.

A striver is the opposite of their comfort-seeking counterpart. These people thrive on stress and love the next challenge. Being idle feels like a failure to them. By seeking to ‘optimise’ all areas of their life by definition they can never be satisfied. Of course, many of us will fall between these two categories, however, we can usually identify more with one category than the other. If we consider this to be a spectrum, let us call it the ‘life satisfaction scale’, a true striver will pride themselves on attaining status with their strong high intrinsic motivation. This kind of motivation is usually only seen in someone who has high levels of conscientiousness and considers money to be a status symbol. Commonly, those high in conscientiousness will be lower in openness as they have the ability to focus solely on one task for long periods without the desire to be distracted by novelty. Let us put a face to a real striver, we can imagine that the characters right and immerse themselves in their chosen pursuits and by nature simply strive for better, regardless of how much wealth or status they have already attained.

Using the model of the big 5 personality traits, we can break down the traits and consider their potential contributory and negative correlations with the ‘lifestyle satisfaction scale’ and theorise to what degree they may affect someone’s tendencies to be more of a satisfier of a striver.
Let us begin with what I have surmised to be the two most important traits; conscientiousness and neuroticism. If we factor in neuroticism alongside conscientiousness, we can see that this would tip the scale either way depending on on whether or not the person was high in the trait conscientiousness. Someone high in neuroticism is typically anxious and prone to low moods, if one was also low in consciousness we could summarise that it would be likely that they would become a satisfier as to seek to negate their low moods and avoid the difficulties and anxiety that we can associate with a highly competitive working environment and constant pressure. Equally, we can assume that someone high in conscientiousness and neurotic is a person who is acutely aware of how others perceive them thus they would be likely to always want to strive for more and to involve themselves deeply in work finding satisfaction in achievement and constant attainment. If we apply this type of character to day-to-day life we can easily see this sort of person online, namely the ‘boss girl’ title. Typically, a woman or someone with a high level of femineity, this is a person who loves to show off their attainments in the hopes of gaining praise, whilst never actually finding any long-term satisfaction.

The last trait that I consider to be of high importance to the scale would be openness. Again, we can see how this could easily maneuver someone’s position up or down the scale. Openness is defined as ‘how open-minded, imaginative, creative and insightful a person is or can be’. Now, if you are someone who seeks variety and excitement, this would typically pull someone more towards the ‘satisfier’ end of the scale if they are also low in consciousness and neuroticism. As the satisfier enjoys indulging in their life and seeks comfort, we can assume that they would base their lifestyle around their social and family comfort. This would be because they are motivated by opportunities that bring them emotional stimulation and experiences over tangible wealth or social status. As we can assume that the opposite is true for those low in openness and high in conscientiousness, let us explore the dynamic of someone who is high in conscientiousness and high in openness. This person would typically be someone to naturally fall centre of the scale, with social pressures influencing their resulting placement on the scale due to this individual’s malleable nature. As we consider someone high in conscientiousness to be highly organized and disciplined, their openness to experience and emotional drive will often be at odds with their functionally rational self. Based on my own experience, it would be highly dependable on one’s own self-growth journey which decides how much of an influence others play in their outlook on life. Should they find satisfaction through utilising their strong work ethic this may become grounded in fun weekends away or by using their earnings to party hard at the weekend with carefully accounted for money. It is this combination that I feel is most heavily impacted by social pressures and external influences thus we shall continue to discuss.

If we continue to explore the combination of someone high in openness and conscientiousness with the added factor of social influence, we can start to see how these external pressures can have an influence. To use myself as an example, both my parents are very high in conscientiousness, but, much lower in openness than myself. Their passions lie in money-saving, physics, engineering and basically anything with a definitive value that can be tangibly measured. As I’m sure you can imagine, being a child who loved to create, draw, and write stories, my values seemed very alien to them and for a long time put me at odds with myself. Now here is the good part. Although I had a strong desire to explore my creative outlets, my desire to please my family and produce something concrete pushed me to push my openness to the side and to dedicate myself to studying and attaining some tangible measures of success. My own value system was distorted by my desire to conform and please those closest to me. Whilst I certainly don’t regret any of these decisions, it has allowed me to see now that perhaps this scale is not a one-stop shop. With my realisation that I have to act in a way that feels right to me, I have forcefully moved up and down this scale unconsciously throughout my life as a result of my own willpower and family pressure.

Whilst it’s all fun and games to theorize and to speculate, I see no point in all this speculation without bringing you a clear message that will assist you in your decision-making. Should you currently feel unhappy with the direction your life is taking, or perhaps you feel something is missing? I’d like you to first consider your current position on this scale. Are you perhaps falling more towards one end than another?

I write with purpose and to bring awareness to the possibility that we can change our position on this ‘lifestyle satisfaction’ scale. Now perhaps this is the openness trait coming out in me, but I do believe that for the vast majority of us, where we will feel fulfilled and meaningful must lie somewhere in the centre of this scale. Being stagnant leads to feelings of inadequacy and anxiety brought about by the goal of avoiding discomfort. Equally, constantly being in discomfort and sacrificing other areas of your life in pursuit of a never-ending goal is probably not healthy or purposeful for most of us. To me, becoming more flexible on the scale involves having to go through some hard truths with yourself. You must consider whether or not you are currently acting out of purpose or are simply buying time and trying to fill your life with materialistic goods to avoid the discomfort of real change. Real accomplishment demands real sacrifice. More often than not these sacrifices are deeply emotionally engrained within us. When we give a voice to our unseen shadows, it can feel like an identity crisis is upon us, it’s tough, but for me, it’s about choosing integrity and doing the right thing. Suffering with a purpose is tough, but not nearly as tough as living a life filled with meaningless sufferance forced upon you.