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The Four Stages of Living Well

Posted by Joe Antle on March 27, 2018 7:10 AM EDT
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Taking some inspiration from Abraham Maslow, I thought I would share with our team and readers some thoughts about living well.....

...particularly as we think about the things that motivate people to make meaningful changes, take on new challenges, invest in their futures, help other people excel and generally make the most of their lives.

Why is such a perspective important?  And what differences do the four stages of a life well-lived inform us on how to help people live healthier and more productive lives both as individuals and as it relates to the broader view of improving population health.  

Abraham Maslow made the discovery that all people must serve a continuum of needs before moving on to focusing and valuing higher level wants.  His concept, often called Maslow's hierarchy of needs, has been a foundation and basis for many marketing and other social science solutions for generations.  As life has become more complex, understanding where individuals and groups are in this hierarchy or continuum of needs can play a key role in helping drive improvement on a host of social change initiatives-whether those be collective impact projects on a regional basis or individual changes and influence brought to bear in coaching, training and leadership.

Here's a way to think of how this core concept that has been a basic core philosophy of social science and change may be expressed with new terminology and perspectives.  In our blog group's tradition of trying to break down complex ideas into some simple way to view it, I frame this idea of stages of living well into four "SS" words.

Survival

Whether it is fulfilling the basic needs of food, shelter, safety and health, these needs predominate for many people.  For a large portion of the population, pragmatic solutions that help fulfill these very basic needs is key.  Finding ways to help sustain these needs will often motivate change among people who seek to have the assurance that these needs will be fulfilled now and well into the future.  As we consider the needs of the indigent and the aged, we can understand how this stage of living well is very defined.

Success

Once it is clear that basic human needs are fulfilled and there is an effective mechanism in place to resolve on a sustainable basis, then the motivation to be successful and to overcome obstacles becomes a great motivator.  In part some of this ties to the desire to continue to assure that people will not fall backward and lost some of the sustained fulfillment of basic needs.  And for some, the sheer joy of achieving a big goal brings with it a drive for change and seeking continual or dramatic improvements.

Status

Sucess breeds a desire for continual success.  Once people have discovered solutions that enable them to enjoy ongoing success, then the movement to a more important social status will motivate further change and reasons to accept new ideas.  In this stage of living well, we see substantial consumer spending and accumulation behaviors as people strive to accumulate things, experiences and ways to show how their continual success sets them above the crowd.  For marketers, the opportunities here have clear implications for branding and social marketing concepts.  For those seeking to move population health to higher levels, this crowd may see economic opportunities and ways that these people become engaged because of the prestige that doing so may bring them.

Significance

Ultimately, in the end, many authors such as John Maxwell, believe that living a life of significance and putting others first drives change in behavior and actions for people who have moved through the prior three stages of living well.  In this stage, leaving legacies, inventing solutions that are sustainable and help particular groups of other people or the broader population as a whole become very important.  So, the implications for the non-profit world for fundraising and influential volunteers and leaders is almost self-evident.  For the purpose of making significant strides in the area of population health improvement, this stage is an exciting one.  Beyond simple financial implications and investments acquisition, the personal involvement and investment of time and talent from successful people of influence becomes an enormous tool for collective impact projects and innovative idea for dealing with social, health and recovery efforts of all types.

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