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How to develop what you lack

Photo by @eggcollective

Throughout 2017, I’m exploring how we can reshape our reality through principles-based living. Each month I try my best to live out a different value. Read more in my post “Radical Living: A Year-Long Experiment.”

For the past month of April, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to be more “Radically Self-Reliant.”

Two reasons:

  1. “Radical Self-Reliance” was my focus principle for that month, so yeah, I should be thinking about it.
  2. I had a hard time defining it, and figuring out how to apply it to my daily life.

“What’s so tough about defining self-reliance? Just take care of yourself,” you might be thinking.

Well, what is self-care? Is it having total independence? Being a one-person island? That didn’t feel right, so I started to dig around for clues.

Searching the internet for meaning.

Defining Radical Self-Reliance

I first asked my newsletter readers, “Hey, what would you do if you were trying to take some Radically Self-Reliant Actions this month?”

Here’s what I got back:

That list got me thinking. I liked the idea of spending a month learning how to run my own electrical wiring, make homemade linguine, or beef up my physical strength.

But would that develop me the most as a person? Did I really need to be that independent?

Since this is a project inspired by the 10 Principles of Burning Man, I then turned to the source for their definition of Radical Self-Reliance:

Deep stuff.

Which begs the question: What are “inner resources” exactly?

That fortunately sparked something in my brain about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which turns out is a very useful framework for considering inner resources:

Maslow’s Expanded Hierarchy of Needs. Adapted from http://www.edpsycinteractive.org

In case you don’t remember your grade school lesson about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, here’s what you need to know:

“You will either step forward into growth, or you will step backward into safety” -A. Maslow
  1. Abraham Maslow = Prominent Humanistic Psychologist
  2. Humanistic Psychology = Belief that humans are inherently good and journeying towards self-actualization
  3. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs = A Useful “Self-Actualization Journey” Framework

The simple interpretation of the Hierarchy of Needs is that you can’t progress to the next level until you’ve got the previous (lower) levels all covered.

That felt a little overly strict, and I was glad to find in my extensive Wikipedia research, two additional Maslowian beliefs:

  • Human needs are fluid. One may be developing multiple levels at once.
  • Progressing up the various layers does not guarantee self-actualization.

Radical Self-Reliance x Maslow

So assuming that we’re all on this humanistic journey toward self-actualization, and that we all have different areas we need to be working on…how could Radical Self-Reliance help?

My thought:

  • Objectively assess where we were stronger, and where we were weaker along each level of the pyramid
  • Take specific actions to be more self-reliant — more responsible — within the inner resources domains where we have the greatest room for improvement

I applied this framework to myself, and two areas jumped out: Esteem Needs & Self-Actualization.

Translating Opportunities Into Action

For me, April was a big month. I knew that even going into it.

I had an attractive career opportunity to join a good friend as a cofounder in their start up — one that I cared deeply about, and wanted to support. And I’d had a long-standing goal of launching a company.

So I decided to make my Bigger Action related to joining that opportunity or not. Importantly, I wanted to make sure that it was aligned with my own values.

My smaller action was easier: I wanted to care less about what others think about me, so I decided to practice doing slightly foolish actions every day.

Take-Aways From the Month

1. Radical Self-Reliance in a true growth area = not easy.

Even my small act of attempting to be foolish every day was not easy. I did some fun things, like randomly skipping down Hudson Avenue during rush hour one day, but mostly they did not feel fun, they just felt uncomfortable.

A subset of some of my foolish actions for the month.

2. Taking Responsibility = Empowering

Even though the month wasn’t easy, it was empowering. Especially empowering was making the difficult decision to not take the cofounder role. It was a position I had been seeking for a long time, and the circumstances were positive so it was attractive. But after some true soul searching, I realized for a variety of reasons that it wasn’t for me.

That was difficult. But I felt relieved.

And, unexpectedly, with that decision I realized I didn’t want to be the founder of any true high-growth company (a goal I’ve been working toward for a long time.) While that has been difficult to admit, over the past few weeks, I oddly have felt more empowered than I have in a long time.

Thank you as always for reading!

If you’re in support of what I’m doing, I’d appreciate any support and authentic sharing of this article.💚

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