An old funny fellow by the name of Abraham Maslow came up with a “hierarchy of needs”, a system by which people would climb up the ladder on their road to ultimate happiness. Without lots of psychology lingo, you have to fulfill the requirements of the lower levels to proceed to the upper levels. However, if something in the lower level has not been met, it doesn’t mean you cannot progress, but rather, the “deficiency” will disturb you enough for you to reprioritize your goals temporarily.
While the hierarchy of needs is more or less satisfactory, given the fact it isn’t entirely rigid, what we are seeing in this day and age is a shift in paradigms. Although the physiological and security are always critical, in this day and age, a good portion of the Earth’s population don’t really have to worry about those needs – especially if we are ones who live in a consumer based society.
Now that some of the needs are automatically covered, more or less, we tend to immediately focus on the upper-level needs. While in theory this is a good thing, it doesn’t usually pass on as a good idea because the automation process of securing the lower levels means that whatever dependencies you would have otherwise gained from them won’t evolve to help you with the higher ones.
For instance, those of us who live in bigger cities always face a social identity crisis. Either us being expats or just seemingly alienated from the rest, we seek to “belong” to some other group and conform to their ideas and norms.
When this happens, you fulfill the need of belonging by sacrificing the need of individual independence – in other words your desperation to belong somewhere turns you into a no-body.
The problem here is that the highest levels of self-actualization require you to be YOU – that is, it needs you to be spontaneous, creative, self-accepting, accepting of others and of life, moral and ethical independently, and appreciating of yourself, people, life, family, friends, spouse etc.
With our fast paced ways of life, for those of us in the bigger cities anyway, the focal point is always on a bigger piece than we can chew. We tend to achieve the higher levels without thinking about the fulfillment of the lower levels – and then we complain about it.
We focus so much on the high-cognitive abilities and invest so much time “to get rid of everything”, and in the process you get rid of friends, loved ones, social relationships and meaningful sexual intimacies.
So, what does this all mean? Changing your expectations changes your responses. Although I am not saying you should not be ambitious, but you should be accepting of the facts around you – the unchangeable ones and the currently-unchangeable ones – and focus on fulfilling your other lower needs.
Focus on friends, focus on families, focus on building intimacies. If, in some way possible, you are to become the best creative thinker and philosopher in the universe and the wealthiest person alive, how sad will it be if you have no one to share all of this with?
Simplicity and a step-by-step approach are the keys here. The woman in the image is happy because she has what she needs. She has a house, some clothes, married with kids and has lots of friends and supporting family. Why shouldn’t she be happy? She doesn’t have to drive a Maybach to be happy.
The only thing you ultimately take with you to your grave is your smile, and the only thing you leave for the living is a good memory.
PS: I didn’t want to over-elaborate and make this longer than it already is. If you want, I can write up more posts on the topic, you can vote on (check the poll on the right sidebar).