This is essentially a question about motivation. To do any type of action we need to be motivated enough to do so. Motivation comes in two forms, pain and pleasure. As a human, you want to avoid pain and seek out pleasure. That’s why you get out of bed in the morning. Maybe because of seeking that sweet and tasty pleasure of your morning coffee. Maybe of the excitement of making progress on your pet project. Or to avoid your boss yelling at you for being late to the meeting. Pain and pleasure are the needles of our compass.
But is that it?
Why yes, however, there is more to pain and pleasure than the whip and the carrot. Fundamentally, we’re striving towards happiness. A somewhat elusive term and concept, but feelings always are. Naval Ravikant has a wonderfully simple formula for happiness, which I personally like as a basic definition:
Happiness = Wealth + Health + Good Relationships
Wealth doesn’t have to be money. It stands for an abundance of life’s necessary resources. Money is just the one resource that allows you to get almost any other resource in our world.
Health is straightforward since nobody wants to be the richest man in the coffin.
Lastly, and often a bit neglected, are good relationships. You want to spend time and share experiences with people you love and respect deeply. People that enrich your life rather than diminish it.
I haven’t yet come across anyone who had high scores on all of these variables and isn’t happy.
But is that it, then?
No, because happiness isn’t necessarily the end goal. Or better yet, there are more layers to it. Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, thought he discovered a need in every human to self-actualise him or herself. Self-actualization means going beyond your basic needs necessary for happiness and looking for ways to fulfill your whole potential as a human being.
All the trendy topics today like mindfulness, purpose, living your passion, etc. fit largely into this section. With all our most basic needs reasonably met and the comfort of modern life, we have this itch to scratch, the itch for more, for self-actualization.
One could argue that this is a job for a lifetime. Similar to the ancient Sisyphus we might strive towards self-actualization without ever reaching it. This might well be true, I cannot tell because I’m not there yet. However, even though Maslow’s framework is most famous through its depiction as a pyramid, he himself believed that there is no need to fully complete each step before seeking the next. So even though your basic needs might not be fully satisfied, you’re still reaching for more self-actualization. And even if you’re well on your way to self-actualization, you might still want to reach further…
Maslow’s framework ends with self-actualization. However, he got his inspiration from a Native American tribe called the Blackfoot. There the pyramid doesn’t end with the self but flows seamlessly into the desire to actualize the tribe and society. The whole of Maslow’s pyramid can be readily applied to society at large.
The wonderful thing is that once society becomes more and more actualized it will automatically become easier for new members – no matter if born or immigrated – to fulfill their potential too since there are more support structures and mentorship opportunities around.
The last step for the Blackfoot then is also called cultural perpetuity. Once the community is actualized, cultural perpetuity ensures that this continues to be so over generations. Culture is in the end a way to transfer knowledge across time and capturing and transmitting the knowledge of infinite communal actualization.
So there you have it. What do you think? Enough reasons to get out of bed in the morning?