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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.

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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

      Heather shares about everyday lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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      Published on October 30, 2020

      11 Essential Philosophy Books That Will Open Your Mind

      11 Essential Philosophy Books That Will Open Your Mind

      There are numerous ways to build your mindset, but none are as profound as reading philosophy books. Through these books, some of the greatest minds around ask questions and delve deep into thought.

      While there isn’t always a clear and distinct answer to the many questions of philosophy, the entire field is a gateway to a higher sense of self. It gets you to think about all manner of things.

      Below, we cover some of the essential philosophy books that are best for those who are just starting or looking to expand their mind.

      How To Choose a Good Philosophy Book

      Before getting to this list, we’ve researched ideal philosophy books to help you expand your mind.

      We’ve found that the best philosophy books excel in the following criteria:

      • Complexity – Philosophy isn’t a subject that you can’t dive into immediately and understand everything. The books that we selected are great for people making the first leap.
      • Viewpoint – With philosophy, in particular, the author’s views are more important than in your standard book. We want to ensure the viewpoints and thoughts being discussed still hold up to this day.
      • Open-mindedness – Philosophy is all about asking perplexing questions and unraveling the answer. You might not reach a conclusion in the end, but these books are designed to get you to think.
      • Culture – The last criterion is culture. A lot of these books come from early philosophers from centuries ago or possibly from recent years. These philosophy books should paint a picture of the culture.

      1. Meditations

        One that you’ll find on many of these types of lists is Meditations and for good reason. It’s the only document of its kind to ever be made. The book focuses on the private thoughts of the world’s most powerful man who advises himself revolving around making good on his responsibilities and the obligations of his position.

        We know enough about Marcus Aurelius to know that he was trained in stoic philosophy and practiced every night on a series of spirituality exercises. These exercises were designed to make him humble, patient, empathetic, generous, and strong in the face of whatever problem he had to face off. And he faced plenty of problems since he was basically the emperor of roughly a third of the planet.

        All of that is poured into this book, and you are bound to remember a line or more that will be applicable in your life. It’s a philosophy book staple.

        Buy Meditations here.

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        2. Letters From a Stoic

          Similar to Marcus Aurelius, Seneca was another powerful man in Rome. He was a brilliant writer at the time and was the kind of guy to give great advice to his most trusted friends. Fortunately, much of his advice comes in letters, and those letters happen to be in this book. The letters themselves provided advice on dealing with grief, wealth, poverty, success, failure, education, and more.

          While Seneca was a stoic, he has a more practical approach and has borrowed from other schools of thought for his advice. As he said when he was alive, “I don’t care about the author if the line is good.” Similar to Meditations, there are several brilliant lines and advice that are still relevant to this day.

          Buy “Letters From a Stoic” here.

          3. Nicomachean Ethics

            Aristotle was a famous Greek philosopher at the time with profound knowledge. He’s named after a form of logic as well called Aristotelian logic. Through this book, Aristotle writes about the root of all Aristotelian ethics. In other words, this book contains the moral ideas that form a base for pretty much all of western civilization.

            Buy “Nicomachean Ethics” here.

            4. Beyond Good & Evil

              Friedrich Nietzsche played a big role in the philosophical world. He was one of the leading philosophers of the existential movement, and it all came through this particular book. He is a brilliant mind. However, the issue with a lot of his work is that it’s all written in German.

              Fortunately, this book is one of the slightly more accessible ones since it’s translated. Within the book, he breaks down the paradoxes of conventional understandings of morality. By doing this, he sets the stage for a lot of the 20th-century thought process that followed.

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              Buy “Beyond Good & Evil” here.

              5. Meditations on First Philosophy

                In Meditations on First Philosophy, René Descartes breaks his book down into six meditations. The book takes a journalistic style that is structured much like a six-day course of meditation. On day one, he gives instructions on discarding all belief in things that are not guaranteed. After that, he tries to establish what can be known for sure. Similar to Meditations, this is a staple and influential philosophical text that you can pick up.

                Buy “Meditations on First Philosophy” here.

                6. Ethics

                  Written by Benedict de Spinoza, this came at a time during the Age of Enlightenment. Enlightenment was a movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries and with that, many schools of thought emerged and were presented through books.

                  Out of the many influential philosophy books published back then, Ethics dominated during this period as it discussed the basis of rationalism. Even though we’ve developed further beyond that, Ethics can introduce new ways of thinking from this particular school of thought.

                  Buy “Ethics” here.

                  7. Critique of Pure Reason

                    Immanuel Kant is another great philosopher who brought together two of history’s biggest opposing schools of thought into a single book. Those schools being rational thought and empirical experiential knowledge—knowledge gained through experience.

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                    In Critique of Pure Reason, Kant explores human reason and then works to establish its illusions and get down to core constituents. Overall, you can learn more about human behavior and thought processes and thus, open your mind more to how you think and process everything around you.

                    Buy “Critique of Pure Reason” here.

                    8. On the Genealogy of Morals

                      Another piece of work from Nietzsche that is accessible to us is On the Genealogy of Morals. According to Nietzsche, the purpose of this book is to call attention to his previous writings. That said, it does more than that so you don’t need to worry so much about reading his other books.

                      In this book, he expands on the cryptic aphorisms that he brings up in Beyond Good and Evil and offers a discussion or morality in a work that is more accessible than a lot of his previous work.

                      Buy “On the Genealogy of Morals” here.

                      9. Everything Is F*cked

                        The only book on this list that’s been written in the past few years, this book by Mark Manson aims to explain why we all need hope while also accepting that hope can often lead us to ruin too.

                        While many of the books on this list are all practical, this one is the most realistic one since not even the greatest of philosophical minds could predict things like technology, Twitter, and how our political world has shaped.

                        Manson delivers a profound book that taps into the minds of our ancestral philosophers, such as Plato, Nietzsche, and Tom Waits, and digs deep into various topics and how all of it is connected—religion and politics, our relationship with money, entertainment, and the internet.

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                        Overall, this book serves as a challenge to all of us—a challenge to be more honest with ourselves and connect with the world in a way we’ve never tried before.

                        Buy “Everything Is F*cked” here.

                        10. Reasons and Persons

                          One of the most challenging philosophy books to read on this list, Reasons and Persons will send you on quite the trip. Through a lot of painstaking logic, Derek Parfit shows us some unique perspectives on self-interest, personhood, and whether our actions are good or evil.

                          Considered by many to be an important psychological text around the 20th century, the arguments made about those topics will open your mind to a brand new way of thinking.

                          Buy “Reasons and Persons” here.

                          11. The Republic of Plato

                            Written by Plato himself, this book is the origin of political science and offers a brilliant critique of government. As you would expect, the critique is still important today. If you’re looking to understand the inner thoughts of Plato, this is one of the best books around.

                            Buy “The Republic of Plato” here.

                            Final Thoughts

                            Philosophy books take a while to digest as they provide profound knowledge and leave you with many questions. With many of these philosophy books, you need to take your time with them, and you might have to read through them a few times as well. And with every read, your mind will only expand.

                            More Books to Open Your Mind

                            Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette via unsplash.com

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