Alfred Adler coined the term “style of life” to describe an individual’s approach to or avoidance of life’s primary tasks. This approach often stems from childhood patterns and remains unchanged throughout a person’s lifetime unless altered through intensive psychotherapy.
According to Adler (1929a), people’s lifestyles are determined by their feelings of inferiority and superiority, security in relationships, and aspiration towards a goal. Just like trees grow differently when planted in different environments (Adler, 1929a), one’s character is moulded by its environment (Adler).
Adler believed that all humans experience hardships in their lives. People respond differently depending on the culture and environment they live in, from physical health issues to mental afflictions; but ultimately all strive to find a way of overcoming these difficulties.
According to Adler, striving is an integral part of human existence. It arises as a reaction to an environment with varying social pressures and expectations as well as diverse cultures, languages, and traditions.
Healthy individuals do not feel inferior or superior to others, but instead strive to improve themselves and their environment. On the contrary, those living a dysfunctional lifestyle do not strive for self-improvement but instead attempt to avoid or alleviate discomforts they perceive in their environment (Adler, 1913a/1963).
Style of life can be a reflection of an individual’s sense of self-worth and morality. This can be either conscious or unconscious, and is formed through children’s early experiences (Adler, 1914/1963).
The final goal is the most crucial aspect of an individual’s style of living. This ideal is something they strive for and serves as inspiration when creating their lifestyle (Adler, 1928).
Finite finalism, for instance, has no real significance and should not be mistaken with the false belief that one is superior. This type of delusion is commonly experienced by pampered children who have never learned how to manage life’s challenges effectively.
Fictive finalism, also known as the belief in one’s actual organ inferiority, can cause great distress. While this is not unheard-of, it becomes particularly challenging if the individual believes they possess greater intellectual faculties than others (Lundin, 1989).
Fictive inferiority is the belief that one is less than another, often due to an actual medical issue or traumatic experience from childhood. This can have severe repercussions for an individual’s wellbeing and ability to function in society.
A person living a healthy lifestyle is usually able to overcome their limitations and pursue their aspirations. Unfortunately, those leading an unhealthy lifestyle will likely become profoundly dissatisfied with both their lives and selves, leading to deep-seated feelings of hopelessness or even depression.