Ever noticed how certain structures in place within our world create a strong desire to get to the next level? Customer rewards programs, employment and even computer games, like World of Warcraft. It seems that a desire to get to the next level is one that is wired up deep within us.
But what if our energies were being directed at the wrong things? What if we are spending too much time and energy getting to the next level for the wrong reasons?
The saying “Keeping up with the Joneses” is a great illustration of this – there is a difference between collecting material goods that we need and collecting material goods so that we can prove we as good as or better than others.
Where would someone direct their energies instead?
If you haven’t heard of it already, consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This concept theorises that a person has certain basic needs. If basic (or “lower level”) needs are not met, that person will not feel the desire to address any higher level needs.
It kind of makes sense, right? If you food and water are scare in your life, chances are you won’t be looking to stay safe, look for a job or accumulate resources.
At the opposite end, however, we have self-actualization, which can be described as “becoming all that you can be” or “reaching your full potential”. Once our lower level needs are met, we can puruse things like morality and creativity.
So why is this worth pursuing?
Well, what if you have the potential to do great things? What if you could be more successful than you had ever imagined before? What if you had the power to influence millions of lives?
Critics have argued that this model is flawed because it is possible to satisfy higher level needs when certain lower level needs aren’t met. I don’t believe that this means we can’t learn something from this model, however. In fact, this very flaw means that even if you haven’t been able to satisfy certain lower level needs you can still work on the higher needs while the lower ones work themselves out.
What have you got to lose by becoming the best you can be?