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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

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      Heather Poole

      Technical writer

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      Last Updated on April 1, 2019

      How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy

      How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy

      When we talk about happiness, we often think about staying happy all the time – every single day, every single minute with zero negativity. Many try to pursue this constant state of “happiness” as their ultimate goal, and avoid anything that may take it away from them.

      But, what is the meaning of this type of “happiness”?

      It’s a lot like your favorite food. The more often you have it isn’t always better. On the contrary, when you only have a chance to eat it sparingly, that’s when you really savor every bite. So is it the food itself that makes you happy, or is it how valuable it is to you when you are eating it?

      Always remember that only by experiencing sadness do we understand what it is to be happy.

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      Video Summary

      Don’t Assume Others Are Always Happy

      Most people see those who have seemingly perfect lives and assume they are happy all the time. Since childhood, we are conditioned to chase the idea of “happily-ever-after” that we see in fairytales. On social media, everyone tends to share only the best looking aspects of their lives. So, it’s very easy to have a distorted view of what “happiness” is around us.

      In reality, there is always something missing, something lacking, or something unpleasant.

      No one has a perfect life. Even the most glamorous celebrities or the richest billionaires have their own set of challenges and problems.

      When we feel negative, we’re only focusing on a small fluctuating curve. As CEO of Lifehack, I’ve had to deal with countless problems, and some of them felt like real setbacks at the time. During those moments, it really seemed like these problems would be the life or death of my company and my life goals. But, I got through them; and, weeks, months and eventually years passed with many more ups and downs.

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      You need to keep your sights on the extended curve.  Looking back now, a lot of those “really big” problems at the time now seem like only small blips in a long line of experiences. Recalling them in my mind now makes me smile!

      Stop Trying to Be Happy–Just Be

      It’s natural to want to be happy as often as possible.

      So what can we do?

      First, throw away the belief that a perfect life means happiness. Personally, I would be miserable if everything was perfect. It’s through experiencing the pains of lifelong challenges that drives us to care for others when they are experiencing similar trials. If life was perfect, you wouldn’t be able to empathize. If life was perfect, you wouldn’t grow.

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      To be truly happy, stop chasing permanent happiness.

      It sounds like a paradox. But, what I mean is to accept that there will be ups and downs throughout life. Gracefully understand that happiness is a fluctuation of positive and negative events.

      Understand the importance of gratitude. Instead of focusing on the unpleasant moment, flash back your memory to when you didn’t have something. I like to think about my career, for example. When I didn’t have a career I was passionate about, I felt lost and demotivated. I felt like everyone was figuring out their lives but me. But, when I found my purpose and started Lifehack, I was deeply happy, even before I realized I would be successful! This memory keeps me going when I hit tough spots. It takes the darkness to make us grateful for the light.

      Happiness and Sadness Exist Together

      What it all comes down to is this: your life will be filled with beautiful, happy and incredible moments–happy tears and joyous shouts and funny stories. But, your life will also be filled with rain and storms that never seem like they will pass while you’re going through them.

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      But, whether your face is warmed by the sunshine, or your heart is dampened by the rain, know that it’s all part of the ebb and flow of life.

      Treasure the happy moments and power through the sad ones. Don’t try to avoid “sad” or “negative” experiences, and blindly chase being “happy”. In the end you will achieve a true level of contentment in your life, based on meaningful experiences and achievements. Being able to create growth and meaning out of both positive and negative events — that is the true meaning of “happiness”.

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