Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Deconstructing Happiness

Ok, we have already discussed a bit about what happiness is (Intro to Happiness) and how it might apply to living the adventure life (Happiness And The Adventure Life), so now maybe it would be a good idea to dig a little deeper.

Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy
Abraham Maslow, a psychologist in the 1940’s developed a theory that humans have an innate hierarchy of needs, and that there is an order in which each of these needs must be met before the next in the hierarchy can be met. Here is a brief rundown of the hierarchy of needs:
  • Physiological - the physical requirements for human survival (air, water, food, clothing, and shelter).
  • Safety - personal and financial security as well as health and well-being (job security, savings account, insurance).
  • Social Belonging - interpersonal feelings of belongingness. This need can become so strong, that it overrides the need for safety. Deficiencies in this area can adversely affect the individual's ability to form and maintain emotionally significant relationships in general.
  • Esteem - the typical human desire to be accepted and valued by others. The "lower" version of esteem is the need for respect from others. The "higher" version manifests itself as the need for self-respect. Deprivation of these needs may lead to an inferiority complex, weakness, and helplessness.
  • Self-Actualization - the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be.

Is it possible that we make satisfying those first two levels so difficult, we set the hurdles so high, that we struggle to get to the next two. In fact we may even convince ourselves that we will reach the next two levels by just achieving more of the first two. The brute-force method.

Was there a time in our lives when we felt like just putting food on the table and a roof over our head wasn’t enough to make us happy?

It also seems possible that when we do start satisfying the next two levels, we begin to perceive our achievements there as self-actualization and call it a successful life. Great, I have the big house, the sweet ride, and the yearly vacation in The Alps - “I have arrived.”

We achieve everything that society tells us we are supposed to achieve to have a successful life, but something is still missing. I think this leaves us unsatisfied and asking ourselves - “is this all there is?”

The motivation of people who go beyond the scope of the
basic needs and strive for constant betterment.

Eastern vs. Western
Eastern philosophy, generally puts the focus on contentedness, being in the moment, and taking life day by day. Wanting what you have, not having what you want. Western philosophy seems to put the emphasis on setting large goals, and devoting your life to achieving them. Don’t be satisfied with what you have, aim higher, achieve more.

Can we truly be content in life if we are not working at making ourselves the best we can be?

Can we be happy if we are always trying to get more?

Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy appears to take both ideas into consideration. Contentment would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to achieve without satisfying the first four levels. And how content can our lives be without something big and important to shoot for.

By closely examining how the needs hierarchy fits in with our own personal lives is the only way we can be sure that we are on the right track in achieving a life of contentment, filled with many moments of excitement and, ultimately, happiness.

I think we can achieve contentment with what we have in life, while not being complacent about who we are to become. Contentment without complacency!

Now go climb something!

Take care and I’ll see you out there!

Further Reading
Flow - The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Stumbling On Happiness - by Dan Gilbert

Motivation And Personality - by Abraham Maslow