On Choosing Values
There's a lot of crud psychology in the world. Psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and especially a lot of pop psychology, are outdated, fabricated, or both.
Psychology has changes so much since work in the 80s and 90s. Modern psychology is robust, empirical, and comprehensive.
Modern psychology needs more recognition. Let's get into it.
Scott Barry Kaufman
Kaufman is extremely reputable. I am very skeptical of true "progress" in softer sciences, but Kaufman demonstrates a dedication to empiricism, and a high-degree of fact checking any previous "work" done in psychology
He is a rockstar of psychology in 2020. He's the Skinner or Freud of today, but much closer to being correct, and useful.
You might've heard of Maslow's Heirarchy of needs. Kaufman kept everything about Maslow's heirarchy that worked, and made some necessary improvements.
Kaufman published a book in April 2020 titled "Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization". In it, he outlines his theory of human needs.
Here it is:
- Survival Needs
- Security: physical & mental safety, food & water, humanly attachment
- Connection: group belonging, intimacy with others
- Self-Esteem: self-worth, ability to reach goals
- Growth Needs
- Exploration: discovering new things, new experiences, creative drive
- Love: being loved, but more importantly loving others
- Purpose: sense of meaning, importance, and dedication to life
Human needs are too complex to shoehorn into a pyramid, or even a hierarchy. Kaufman's favorite analogy is, a sailboat.
Human needs can be divided into two categories: survival needs, and growth needs. These two are the hull and the sail of a sailboat, respectively.
Any boat needs to have a hull in a good condition, otherwise the boat will sink. If a hull is seriously messed up, this poses an existential threat to the boat. A stronger hull means the boat is more apt to weather storms and dangerous conditions.
Your survival needs are much the same way. If you lack physical security, access to human connection, or a good self-image, you risk severely damaging your mental/physical health. If you have your survival needs mostly met, you are ready to pass through the lows of everyday life relativly unscathed. However, if you're security needs are unmet, dealing with life's problems becomes more difficult and dangerous.
The whole point of a boat is it's ability to sail the seven seas. A boat that has a good hull and doesn't sink wouldn't be much of a boat if it didn't move. That's what sails are for. Good sails help the boat move faster and faster. The boat can go find much more buried treasure, beautiful mermaids, and even famous shipwrights, who are able to rebuild and reinforce the ship's hull much faster than otherwise.
Your growth needs are the same way. Although not necessarily required for a healthy emotional state, growth vastly improves the self-percieved quality of a person's life. Persuing growth needs in turn improves survival more effectively than simply persuing survival needs. Being open to new experiences, to loving new people, and to help others makes you feel a satisfaction and joy in your life that couldn't be achieved through fufilling only survival needs.
It's important to remember that people that don't have one of their survival needs filled become biased, and totally fixated on filling such lacking need. Someone living in a warzone only thinks about getting somewhere safe. Someone stuck at home alone during quarentine suddenly has a life goal of making many friends and having meaningful relationships. Someone with a terrible body-image thinks only about working out and losing weight, even if it means eating disorder.
Growth & Values
Kaufman's Self-Actualization Sailboat is pleasantly easy to actionalize.
Whenever you feel frantic about something that is missing, think instead about how you can grow.
For instance, "be well liked by others" is motivated by missing respect from others. In it's place, "be accepted for who I am", is a goal much more growth oriented.
So, what values should we choose in our life?
Is freedom important? What about caring about others? What about money? Success? Friends? Goals? Adventure?
If your values are associated with growth, they are good values. If they are associated with something missing, they are bad goals.
It's common sense and cliche that money isn't the best value. No one wants money: people want the monetary freedom to do things they want.
Some are a little more difficult to reason about. No one wants to make many friends: people want to feel part of a group, and feel connected.
Most values might be very hard to group into "survival" or "growth". You'll have to think long and hard about these values yourself.