It seems almost a mark of hubris to try to “improve” upon a classic paradigm such as Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs”, but I’m saved slightly by the fact that I’m not actually trying to improve upon it, I’m trying to adapt it to improve visualization of my own personal development in the next year. A fine-line distinction perhaps, but an important distinction nevertheless.
Maslow, of course, had five levels, and you had to achieve each level before you could advance to the higher levels. One version of his pyramid has the levels as:
- Physiological – breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, excretion;
- Safety – security of body, employment, resources, morality, the family, health, property;
- Love/belonging – friendship, family, sexual intimacy;
- Esteem – self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others; and,
- Self-actualization – morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts.
Of course, that last one is not unique to Maslow – it looks like the basic mantra of many approaches to achieving “zen” too.
There also exists a different use of the hierarchy model as guides to various types of development, such as economic development. In some instances, there would be foundational pieces, equivalent to the physiological – establishment of a national currency, for example. These are earlier on, fundamental “up-stream” activities. However, some downstream activities from that, i.e. some that come later, might be specific private sector development initiatives, or even further out, some trade initiatives. Some theorists have treated it more like concentric circles, ripples in a brook after you toss in a “fundamental economic stone” – the first waves start rippling out from the fundamental but additional waves move out too, generating a series of concentric circles where the cornerstones of economic development are close to the origin point while those farther out are able to be addressed once the core is dealt with, i.e. capacity built.
These models are all variations on a theme that there are some developmental aspects which are fundamental and come “before” the others in terms of linear development, while others build upon the foundations and are more like little tentacles of development “shooting out” to sprout a new arm of development, hoping it can take (and keep) hold. Military people use a similar metaphor for their front lines, supply chains, and the ability to establish beachheads/footholds into enemy territory – small strategic thrusts to leap forward in weak or key areas.
What does this have to do with me?
I’ve been playing with my own personal development model on and off for some time. Each year, I tweak it a little, hoping for a slightly different emphasis or nuance that will help me maintain momentum throughout the year. In some ways, it is just a visible representation for me and me alone, a core way of communicating my various personal commitments to myself for the year. A visualization, if you will, of what I’m trying to achieve and how the various pieces fit together as a cohesive whole rather than a laundry list of to-do items. However, the “single category” or single point of origin isn’t a viable model for me. I still prefer the four “colour” wheel of Blue (analytical), Green (emotion), Yellow (Social) and Red (Physical / Action).
Mapping this out, I think I have the following working table of categories / items / issues / questions. I think I only will do three levels though, not the five.
|Blue (Intellect, analytical, learning, organization)||Essential cognitive skills|
Ability to communicate
|Respect of others|
|Green (Connections, emotion, family)||Family|
|Respect by others|
Lack of prejudice
Acceptance of facts
|Yellow (Expression, social, creativity)||Friendship|
|Red (Expansion, physiological, action-oriented, work)||Food|
As you can see, some “issues” appear in all three columns (Order, Routine, Stability) as a logical progression; others such as communication and language skills only appear in the first two presently…I don’t want to be a slave to having perfect chains at all three levels, and some may only exist at one level, although I suspect in some cases that is likely to be a granularity issue.
I haven`t quite figured out what to do with some basic areas that don’t seem to fit “neatly” into the above table…
- Environment — part of the “community” in green, or separate? And should community be farther out?
- What is beyond the self-fulfillment column — purpose? meaning? vision? goodness? justice? leadership? transcendence to help others?
- Are achievements a separate category or just part of each of the other bullets in a sense?
- Should I add curiosity, exploration, and competence as a stream? Is that cognitive blue or action red?
- Where would I put things that I simply “enjoy” for relaxation (reading, watching TV, movies, games) — are they a level one version of reflection/calm/meditation/stress relief?
- Is exercise derivative of other bullets within the red or is it a stand-alone area?
- Is travel for blue learning, green community, yellow social or red action?
Once I figure out a reasonably coherent model, I’ll move on to actually working on my goal-setting for the year. In the meantime, all views gratefully accepted.