The self-concept may be described roughly as the elaboration of such statements as, “I am this sort of a person. These are my strengths and my weaknesses. These are the things I like to do.”
Although a self-concept is far from being a life goal, it is a very important factor in the choice of a life goal. Self-realisation is becoming what one wants to be, and what one wants to be should take into consideration what one is—the present self-concept.
A life goal, however, is far broader and more comprehensive than the image of what one is now. The selection of an impelling life goal often serves to eliminate weaknesses and to utilise strengths not apparent to the individual; in short, it provides motivation.
In the two-way classification of occupations described by Roe, it can easily be seen how a clear life goal might help in the realistic choice of one of the occupational groups, but it would be of even greater significance in the choice of a level of work.
The relationship of the self-concept to the life goal is an instrumental one because, while the life goal should underlie and be basic to any valid occupational choice, the self-concept governs the selection of the Best Avenue or channel for attaining it.
There is real danger that the use of the self-concept may be restricted to the selection of an occupation. To be of maximum value it should include a clarification of factors and traits which may not be closely related to what is called “success on the job” but which are definitely essential to a successful life.
Guidance should help an individual relate his self-concept to his goals in such a way that he achieves “peace of mind” or “serenity of spirit”.
Because a life goal brings together all the forces of the individual upon a single objective, it exerts a tremendous influence on the accomplishment of the objective chosen.
The result may be useful or disastrous to the individual himself or to society. History is full of examples of both.
Without question the life goal that has had the greatest influence for good is that of service to others. Sendee is the keystone on which any stable and enduring government is built.
In human history civilisation after civilisation has fallen because it has placed the selfish interest of the rulers above service to its people. Nearly every world religion is based on the concept of a supreme being and the obligation to serve one another.
Certain occupations, such as medicine, nursing, law, teaching, social work, and the ministry, are based directly upon service to others. And all have been of great benefit to society.
There are many organisations like Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, and optimists which are distinctly service agencies devoted to high standards of professional, business, and civic life, to good citizenship, and to mutual assistance to fellow members. Many of these service clubs have direct connections with young people in school and college.
Satisfaction is a state of mind or an emotion that normally results from the successful attempt to reach a goal or satisfy a felt need.
It is an essential element in a successful life and an invaluable asset in learning. It is imperative for every individual to have satisfaction somewhere in his life.
Satisfaction may also come from the effort to attain the goal even when the goal is not reached or the need satisfied. The very difficulty of attaining the goal becomes a challenge which may have value. As Ram said, “Keep the quality of effort alive within you by doing some gratuitous exercises every day”.
Satisfaction in itself, however, cannot be a safe guide to the choice of an occupation or any other goal. Unfortunately satisfaction may also come from the effort to attain a harmful or undesirable goal.
Theft, rape, murder, oppression, cruelty give satisfaction to some people. It is the goal that is important, not the satisfaction in achieving it.
But within the group of useful and desirable occupations that are suited to the needs and abilities of the individual, the possible satisfactions are very important in determining choice.
Some occupations give opportunity for pride and satisfaction in the quality of the product and by the contribution that the worker makes to it.
In some others, however, the worker never sees the finished product but merely feeds an automatic machine that makes only a small part of it.
In such situations whatever satisfaction the worker gets is from the wages received and, possibly, from his friendly relations with other workers.
The present tendency is to increase the proportion of occupations that involve complicated machinery.
Thus the professions now give the greatest opportunity for satisfaction in work. As already pointed out, although satisfaction alone is not a safe guide for the choice of an occupation, it may be a real help in such a choice.
The types of activity which give satisfaction vary with different individuals. Some get their satisfaction in the production of articles made out of cloth, wood, metal, or plastic.
Others get satisfaction from gardening, horticulture, farming, or forestry; and others, from working with people in such occupations as teaching, nursing, medicine, the law, and social work.
The hope of satisfaction may serve as a guide in choosing an occupation by permitting a comparison of the activities that give the individual satisfaction with those that are involved in various occupations.
The selection of a life goal is often very difficult for youth. It is hard to choose one which is suited to the abilities, needs, and interests of the individual and which has a reasonable promise of attainment.
Youth’s limited experience does not provide sufficient background for a wise choice. Parents, teachers, and counsellors can help by suggesting types of life goals for consideration.