Life, I now think, is really a search for our own identity. Sad is he or she who dies without knowing who they really are, or of what they are really capable. As we move through life we climb a sort of ladder of identity, gradually proving and discovering ourselves. The psychologist Abe Maslow called it a hierarchy of needs. To me it is more like a ladder. The first rung is that of survival. Can we fly by ourselves, once we leave the nest? Can we earn a living, raise a family, keep a job or get a qualification? Then, survival no longer in doubt, we need to express ourselves, to stand out in some way, from the others, and so to establish an independent identity. For most of us, success in midlife means reaching this rung on the ladder. But the ladder does not stop there. We still yearn to leave our mark on the world, to make an imprint and to leave it a little different because we lived, for good or ill. The last rung on that ladder, therefore, is that of ‘contribution’, to something bigger than ourselves, our private bid for immortality, for some lasting memorial.
– Charles Handy