Alfred Adler Institutes of San Francisco and Northwestern Washington

Five Fields of Striving for Significance

Developed by Henry T. Stein, Ph.D.
Based on the Original Concepts of Anthony Bruck

Copyrighted 1997, Reproduction Prohibited Without Permission


  • One of the central ideas in Adlerian Psychology is the individual's striving from a feeling of inferiority toward a feeling of significance.
  • The feeling of inferiority can be used as a stimulus for striving or as a felt blockade and an excuse for not striving.
  • An individual who feels blocked from achievement in one field may cross over to another field and compensate or over-compensate for his feeling of inferiority.
  • This graphic offers a broad simplification of the feeling of inferiority and striving for significance. More detailed information can be found in the distance training courses Basic Theory and Intermediate Theory: Part I
  • For a comprehensive overview of Adlerian psychology, read Classical Adlerian Theory and Practice.
Physical Organ Deficiencies, Physical Handicaps, Deformity, Ugliness, Weakness, Abnormal Height or Weight, Sickness, Severe Hunger or Thirst, Sexual Frustration Strength, Beauty, Athletic Ability, Good Health, Sensory Pleasure, Sexual Gratification, Physical Closeness
Intellectual Ignorance, Illiteracy, Feeling Stupid, Lack of Skill, Difficulty in Learning, Boredom Knowledge, Understanding, Skill, Artistic Ability, Academic Success, Enjoyment of Music, Art, Drama, and Literature
Psychological Negative Character Traits (Real or Imagined), Feeling or Acting Crazy, Disliked or Hated, Ashamed of Oneself, Feeling Bad or Guilty Positive Character traits, Proud of Oneself, Liked by Others, Admired by Others, Loved by Someone, Self-Actualizing
Social Being Alone, Isolated, Being Excluded, Not Invited, Abandoned, Socially Awkward Contact With Others, Membership in Organizations, Identifying With Group, Socially Adept, Social Acceptance & Approval
Economic Poverty, Financial Distress, Underpaid for Work, Loss of Job, Not Keeping Up With Norm, Losing Money Good Income, Paid Well for Work, Financial Security, Wealth, Getting a Raise in Salary, Winning the Lottery

(In an attempt to create a clear, simple table, much detail must be excluded. This is a work in progress, and any feedback or suggestions for refinement would be appreciated. Please e-mail your comments to: Henry T. Stein, Ph.D., ).

Back to Adler Institute Home Page: