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Last Updated on August 15, 2018

What If All the Choices You Make Every Day Aren’t What You Need Most?

What If All the Choices You Make Every Day Aren’t What You Need Most?

When you are going to school, the question everyone asks is, “so, what do you want to do?” Usually you can get away with a quick summation of your major, or explain every tedious detail of your wildest hopes and dreams. No matter what you say though, even if you’re prepared with an answer, that question can feel ominous. What do you want to do? How can we know what we should do, and more, how are we supposed to know if it’s what we need to do? This question far surpasses our education.

We are forced to make choices every day. Some are simple and some feel impossible. But with every choice we make, we are determining what we view as something we want vs. something we need.

Video Summary

There’s a way to know if the choices you make every day are best for you.

In 1943, Abraham Maslow created what would be known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.[1] Maslow theorized that the human brain, being a complex system filled with ever-changing processes and priorities, was constantly motivated by various levels of needs. The Hierarchy would be illustrated in a pyramid shape to easily portray what we needed most and what motivated us the least.

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    Today, the Hierarchy remains a useful framework for sociology research, management training and psychology.

    To make the right choices, identify what you need most first.

    The pyramid suggests that we need all the elements listed, but someare primitive needs (think: physiology and safety) while others have only just become important to the human race (think: social and ego).[2]

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    To break down the needs in the pyramid, the following list will break out the sub categories of each, beginning with the most important and ending with the least important.

    • Physiological: Breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, excretion.
    • Safety: Security of body, employment, resources, morality, family, health and property.
    • Love/Belonging: Friendship, family, sexual intimacy.
    • Esteem: Self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others.
    • Self-Actualization: Morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem-solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts.

    The Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging and Esteem levels of the pyramid are known as ‘deficiency needs.’ If these needs aren’t met, such as eating, drinking and sleeping, then we can’t feel safe physically or mentally. This ultimately impacts our ability to meet the needs we have for friendship and social existence which all leads to a severe blow to our self-esteem. But if we can meet those deficiency needs, then we can begin to conquer self-actualization.

    Not surprisingly, only some people are able to meet these self-actualization needs, as they require honesty, independence, awareness, objectivity and originality. These traits can be challenging to acquire.

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    And what you need most may change throughout your life.

    The five stages presented by Maslow do not all have to happen simultaneously, or even in the same year. In fact, the five stages usually happen throughout the span of someone’s life. For instance, if you are trying to pay off a credit card, but a medical emergency causes you to go into debt, you’ve lost your financial safety, essentially starting you over from the base of the pyramid. But the reverse is true, too.

    People who have not had their needs met in one area might also have their needs from another stage sufficiently met. For example, a person in poor health who has little financial security may be part of a community, have an intimate partner, and maintain close relationships with family and friends. Thus, the person’s safety needs are not adequately met, but community and belonging needs are.[3]

    Maslow created the theory in order to track growth and development in human beings. He started with infants, as it stands to reason their most basic needs are met (food, water, shelter, cleanliness). But Maslow determined the other stages by examining people in all walks and stages of life. He even added a couple more stages later in his life: Cognitive and aesthetic. Finally, Viktor Frankl, a psychologist in the 20th century, added self-transencdence to the hierarchy. This brought the final count to 8.

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      Though we have always made decisions based on needs, whether we considered Maslow or not, knowing more about the Hierarchy can be immensely helpful. Maslow himself assured people that failure to meet certain needs at various stages of life and development could lead to mental health issues and even physical illness. If this sounds dramatic to you, think about it: If you don’t feel safe, you can become anxious and paranoid. If you don’t feel loved or as if you belong, you can become depressed. Lack of self-esteem can lead to the inability to self-actualize and even become suicidal.

      When you understand how needs work, you know how to motivate yourself and others.

      Because the Hierarchy is all about motivation by needs, understanding how it works can help you, not only in your own life, but at work.

      If you are doing a group project or involved in a team or small staff at work, understanding how those around you are motivated can help you understand how to properly communicate with them. The model can help you gain a better understanding of what motivates those around you. This can be helpful in devising a plan to keep your team happy. Remember, assuming everyone is motivated by money is not always the best way to approach something. If economically times are hard, money may not be flowing the way it usually does. In that scenario, it’s important to know how else to keep your team motivated.[4]

      • Provide Resources. If you’re a manager, consider allowing your employees to cross-train, or receive special projects and assignments. If an employee feels especially important, it helps meet their esteem needs.[5]
      • Provide Security. Simple gestures like ensuring an employee has business cards and a meaningful job title can also work wonders when it comes to esteem.
      • Avoid a secretive work place. If an employee feels like they aren’t allowed to know certain aspects about the company or its plans, it can take away their feeling of security. While it is not always a possibility to let your employees know every single detail, try to be open about what you can, and if it’s confidential for a reason, let them know that, too.
      • Be social. Whether you’re a manager or a coworker, don’t act as if no one can speak to you. While a workplace should be professional and not treated as a time for socializing only, it is still important to create a welcoming environment in which employees can speak to each other. This fulfills the social need.
      • Be aware of the choices you make. Every time you make a decision, you are fulfilling some kind of need. Make a note on your smartphone or in you planner of big and small decisions and see where you fit on the Hierarchy. Are you doing things to give yourself financial security? Social? As you become more self-aware, decision making will become easier and also more meaningful.

      So what do you think? Does the Hierarchy make sense to you, or is decision making purely based on your opinions, rather than your needs?

      Reference

      More by this author

      Heather Poole

      Technical writer

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      Published on November 28, 2018

      How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind

      How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind

      The woman in yoga pants sitting in a lotus position atop a rocky cliff, overlooking a valley draped in fog — this is the glamorized version of meditation you’ll come across as you search. Yet if you’re seeking meditation to calm your mind, a fantastic setting with no distractions is rarely available.

      So how to do meditation?

      The truth about meditation is it’s an everyday practice for anybody. You could be a mountain climber or you could be an accountant — either way, your home is just as good a place for meditation as any.

      Are you seeking to corral your racing thoughts and relieve a sense of unease, awkwardness, or uncertainty? Look to home meditation to cultivate a laid-back, creative, confident, and organized frame of mind. According to extensive scientific research, meditation relieves stress and anxiety, decreases blood pressure, improves sleep, and improves your ability to pay attention. [1]

      From start to finish, this article will give you quick, easy steps to follow so that you can meditate at home regularly. You’ll begin by assessing, identifying and altering things that need to change in your home environment. You’ll end by understanding the basics of meditation so that you can let yourself do what you already know how to do deep down in the hidden reality of your mind.

      You’re ready to let your mind be, and just be, in your own home — let’s begin.

      1. Find the Right Space in Your Home

      Where is your right space for meditation at home? Is it in your basement, your bedroom, your living room, or your study?

      The right space will be one with the least distractions built in to its purpose. In that case, it may be your bedroom. If you’ve set up your bedroom to be a place for sleep and only sleep, it will lend itself well to meditation.

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      The right space will also be a reasonably spacious one. Although comfort is not your goal, you need room to sit. Choose a space that is private, spacious, and quiet. If you don’t have a space in your home like this, create one. Free it from clutter and get it ready for you to meditate there any time.

      Ultimately, your right space is one you feel comfortable meditating in, the space you can enter with no other expectations.

      2. Improve the Feng Shui in Your Home and Meditation Space

      Feng shui means “wind and water.” It’s the ancient Chinese art of placement.[2]

      Feng shui improves harmony with nature. Adherents to the principles of feng shui believe all things have energy (chi). The focus of feng shui is to send negative chi (sha) out of the space and attract positive chi (yun).

      Here’s the truth about feng shui: it’s not complicated or hard. The following will influence feng shui positively in your home and meditation space:

      • Living things, such as plants
      • Beautiful objects, such as sculptures or even a well-polished piece of driftwood
      • Mirrors in symmetrical placement with the lines in a room
      • Mellifluous sounds, such as trickling water or wind chimes
      • Furniture away from walls
      • A centerpiece, such as a small table with books or an ornate lamp on it
      • Incense or something else that smells good
      • A lack of clutter and an attention to organization that emphasizes the usefulness, purpose, and essential being of each item in your house

      Given that feng shui is connected to Taoism and Buddhism, it will complement the meditative atmosphere you want to cultivate in your home.

      3. Eliminate Pervasive Distractions That Can Harm Your Wellbeing

      In part, meditation is about accepting the existence of distractions. When you meditate, you don’t judge and assign a positive or a negative value to distractions — the ticking of a clock, an itch, the barking of a dog — you let them occur and let them dissipate like waves.

      However, in the same way that feng shui removes objects that attract negative chi, there are certain types of distractions that don’t belong in your meditative space. You must remove them.

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      In a survey of 1,700 people who visited social media sites at least 30 times per week, 30 percent reported high levels of sleep disturbance and 25 percent presented symptoms of depression. [3]

      Those individuals who experience sleep disturbances or mental health issues due to social media are not setting boundaries between themselves and their connected devices.

      Part of learning how to meditate at home is learning how and when to set boundaries between yourself and your connected devices and social media accounts. If you need your phone for a timed meditation practice, but you normally receive social media notifications on your phone, set it on Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode during your meditation time.

      4. Flow into Meditation Through Time

      Next, set aside a time for meditation each day. It’s right to be structured and disciplined about your meditation time.

      Buddhist monks whose lives revolve around meditation are very structured and organized with their tasks each day. Structure provides the balance your being needs. Once you are meditating, your mind has no need for time. Outside of your given meditation time, you are completing tasks essential to the wellbeing of yourself and your home.

      Consider meditating as the sun rises. This is a quiet and contemplative time of the day when it is natural to set your day’s balance through meditation.

      5. Recognize the Rightness of Doing Nothing

      At home, you’re probably used to always doing something. When you do meditation at home, you are being, which is doing something and nothing simultaneously.

      Maryville University points out that successful people unplug by doing nothing. [4] Not only this, but they set the right expectations for the time during which they will do nothing.

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      We oftentimes look forward to the future by expecting something to happen and by expecting something of ourselves. To meditate from home, look to that time and that space by expecting nothing. You will not do any chores. You will not catch up on work. You will do nothing but meditate for a certain amount of time each day.

      This might sound crazy, but in taking on meditation from home, you’re not expecting yourself to improve and become a better person. As Ram Dass put it, you are expecting yourself to be here now.

      6. Choose from the Incredible Variety of Meditative Practices

      As I outlined in my post on types of meditation, there are many different and not-so-different types of meditation from which to choose.

      Many beginners find it right to choose guided meditation, for which there are apps, videos, and audio tapes available.

      If you are not necessarily a beginner but are merely moving your meditative practice into the home, you can facilitate a practice such as Nada Yoga — sound meditation — by placing a fountain in your space or listening to ambient alpha wave music.

      If you’re used to meditating outside of your home — perhaps you are drawn to the outdoors because of the sounds of nature — a practice like Nada Yoga can help you transition into your home space.

      7. Understand You Can Meditate Any Time at Home

      What if I told you to throw out all of the tips that came before this? Sounds crazy but that is how radical mindfulness meditation really is. We don’t think of it as radical because it is now ingrained in our popular discourse.

      Mindfulness meditation does start as a sitting meditation practice. It goes like this:

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      1. Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
      2. Focus on breathing. Inhale through your nose slowly and exhale slowly.
      3. As distracting thoughts arise, don’t judge them and don’t hang onto them. Let each thought go as you focus on breathing.
      4. Treat all physical sensations and feelings in the same way you do thoughts: register them, then let them go, returning to breathing.
      5. Extend this practice to everyday activity, remaining “in the moment” of the body’s activity with each new breath.

      As you practice mindfulness around your home, note the physical characteristics of the things in themselves. Note physical sensations: sounds, smells, textures, appearances, tastes. Stop now and then and do a body scan from head to toe, noting what each section is doing and how it’s feeling.

      Note thoughts that come and the emotions attached to them: let them go. Concentrate on the breath and the physical activities — including the details of the objects with which you’re interacting.

      You’ll notice that your home will lend itself to a meditative state when things are in order. This is where true feng shui originates. You will naturally sense how the arrangement of things affects the energy in a room.

      Clutter will disappear because mindfulness tells you to dispose of unnecessary things. Plants will bloom. Birds will make their nests in your backyard. Your home will smell pleasing and people will naturally be attracted to it and your presence.

      You’ve Reached the Beginning and the End

      Once you are able to do mindfulness meditation even as you are attending to the normal and abnormal requirements of your home, the mundane and the unusual, you are at both the beginning and the end.

      You are at the beginning because meditation never ends. Continue setting aside time each day to do sitting meditation in the space you’ve set aside. Continue practicing mindfulness as you attend to the energy of your house, your own energy, and the energy of those around you.

      You are at the end because you grasped what it means to do meditation at home: it means letting go of cares and concerns and being in your home as you attend to the right tasks. The right tasks are those necessary for being in your home.

      As you sit in your home, rise, open the door and you leave, you are calm in your mind because you are home.

      Featured photo credit: Simon Rae via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1]Healthline: 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation
      [2]Marquette University: Feng Shui: The Wind and Water
      [3]Rutgers University: Social Media and Well-Being
      [4]Maryville University: How Successful People Unplug

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