The basic needs of movement, rest, fuel and engaging your mind have been around for all of time. No person in the history of time can survive for very long without these basics. And yet, there are so many ways to think about *how* to get those needs met. So many belief systems or mindsets that we, as the human race, have evolved around getting our needs met. I’ve been focusing on two.
The first mindset is what this blog is all about. I call it Inside Out, or the Care and Feeding model. The idea is that you put your basic needs first, and that you are responsible for both making sure your needs are met, and for trusting that they will be met in the future. This may mean other people actually meeting the need, or it might mean you meeting it yourself, but if it’s not working, then it’s your job to do what it takes to get it working.
The second, I’ve been calling Rise the Ranks, or Hierarchy mindset. In this system, everything is ranked, whether it’s salary, job title, academic grades, clout, authority, success, personal preferences, social ladders, or how hard you’re trying… It’s all ranked. I see each ‘thing’ as a ladder, and then as a person, you choose which ladder(s) you want to define your identity, and you try to rise. Rising is good, and staying still is acceptable, but falling lower is shameful. And because shame is a social construct, image is really important – more than your actual position on the ladder, it’s about where others perceive you to be.
I call them mindsets, because which mindset you’re using colors how you see everything. This article sums that concept up nicely. The way you do anything is the way you do everything. It’s a kind of a limbic imprint.
We are very familiar with establishing the basic settings in our TVs, cameras and other devices. Imagine setting the tint of your television to maximum green. No matter what appears on the screen, everything will have a greenish cast. Similarly, if the brightness is set on dim, your screen will show an unusually dark picture. A similar mechanism is at work in our brains. This mechanism, called a limbic imprint, has been deliberately used for thousands of years to train animals, everything from dogs and horses to elephants and circus bears. For example, baby elephants are routinely chained to a small stake in the ground early in life. The elephant rages against the stake with all his might for a few days, until he finally stops. When he grows up and has enough strength to pull this stick right out, he doesn’t ever try.
In each mindset, you have needs, you have rewards – what you expect to get once your needs are met, and you have tools that you use to get your needs met. And in each, there are things to avoid, as they will make life harder.
In the Care and Feeding mindset, your primary needs are the basics – Movement, Fuel, Rest, and Engage your Mind. By meeting those needs in a social environment, you meet your need for Connection. When your needs are met, you have organically found an identity and you know who you are. You are more empathetic and generous. That is your reward.
In the Hierarchy mindset, your primary needs are your Identity, and to Rise. The idea is that if you are successful enough, if you play the game well enough, your basic needs and your need for connection will be taken care of. Being taken care of is your reward.
It has been an interesting exercise to take different things and try them on in each mindset. Listening, for example. In Care and Feeding mindset, listening is a useful skill, that leads to more connection and helps everyone rest. It is very powerful for improving life for everyone – If I can listen to you, you can process and rest. You can then use your energy for meeting other needs more efficiently, AND we’ve connected. And maybe as you’re meeting your needs more efficiently, I can benefit. Or maybe I can’t, but someone else can. Once your needs are met, you are free to be generous with others. In Hierarchy mindset though, it’s a different story. If I listen to you, then I’m helping YOU and hurting myself. It’s all a competition. By boosting you, I’m endangering me. It’s like grading on a bell curve in school – if there are only so many A’s, then it’s not in my best interest to help anyone else learn the material. Or maybe I listen to you and it hits too close to home and now I need to spend energy thinking about it instead of rising the ranks. Or maybe you listen to me and now, horrors, you see that I’m not the image that I’m projecting. Ooooohhhh that’s shameful. I’m not as good as you thought I was. And now I won’t be taken care of.
Similar thought patterns could go into the concept of generosity. In Care and Feeding mindset, generosity is great. You’re fulfilled, the other is helped, everyone’s happy. In Hierarchy mindset, the primary motivator is to show how high up the ranks you are. Which can also make it shameful to be the *receiver* of generosity. Or maybe you’re grateful for the generosity, but only so far. Once you’re out of your hole, you’d better be the one giving.
How about judging other people? In Care and Feeding mindset, there’s no point. Oh, you’re dirty and hungry? Here, use my shower and eat my food. You’re struggling? I’ll listen and help you brainstorm. You did WHAT!? I’m going to watch and see if I can learn something new. In Hierarchy mindset, it’s a super powerful tool. About as useful as listening is to Care and Feeding mindset. Oh, you’re dirty and hungry? Well I’m clean and fed, I’m better than you! You’re struggling? I’m glad *I’m* not in your shoes. You did WHAT!? I am clearly higher up the ladder than you, that’s nonsense.
Shame is really useful in the Hierarchy mindset because it reinforces the ladder, and motivates rising. And really, if what you’re doing *isn’t* rising the ranks, then I don’t want to be associated with you because you’re likely going to bring me down with you. The bottom is a shameful place to be. Falling is even more shameful. If you’re important to me and I see you falling, I’m going to shame you to remind you of where you’re headed! Stay on track! Our lives depend on it! We won’t eat! I picture ancient agrigarian cultures who had to work so hard just to survive, there was no room for the bottom of the ladder, you really would die and bring the whole family down with you.
I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. -Brene Brown
It’s interesting to note that the tools that are so useful to Care and Feeding mindset pretty much sabotage Hierarchy mindset and vice versa. Care and feeding thrives on listening, curiosity, and collaboration. Hierarchy mindset thrives on shame, judgement, and authority.