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The Need for Transcendence


Explanations > Needs > The Need for Transcendence

Need | Example | Related to | Discussion |  So what?




To go beyond oneself. To reach for heaven, nirvana, the stars. To feel connected to others, to God and the universe.

At a more mundane level, transcendence include doing things that we have not done before, transcending our everyday lives, perhaps in smaller ways.


A person achieves much, yet feels dissatisfied with life. They take a year off to live a contemplative life. In this, they find contentment with their fleeting place in the universe.

A person is stuck in a business role that they do not particularly enjoy. They study a new discipline and change their career, going beyond the work they were doing previously.

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One of our fundamental needs is for a sense of identity, of knowing who we are. A deep fear that arises from this is a fear of extinction, of ceasing to exist, of our identity disappearing forever. Transcendence says there is something else out there, that we can step beyond our selves and yet not lose our selves.

A paradox of transcendence is that it requires both letting go of our selves and yet it also enlarges the self. This can be seen in crowds at sports and music events, where everyone gets swept up in a joint euphoria.

Transcendence often requires courage as we leave behind the known and familiar and reach out to explore and discover. In everyday life, this happens when we take a new job, not just for more money but to find out more about other places and other possibilities within ourselves.

Views of what exactly transcendence is varies with belief. Psychologists, for example, might view it as an altered mental state, while mystics may consider it as an out-of-body experience.

So what?

Be brave. Go out beyond your comfort zone and find out what is out there. Try new ways of doing things. Apply for different jobs that you do not know if you can do. Read widely. Travel. Meet new people. It is amazing how much fun all this can be and how much you will learn about yourself.

If you would lead others, offer them new challenges and visions by which they may transform themselves. Inspire them with possibilities. Lead them to places they would not go alone.

See also

Self-Knowledge, Self-actualization, Transformational Leadership

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