The first time I learned about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,  was at Yale. His theory of human motivation has been useful in my career as a storyteller, marketer and change management consultant. I was, however, struck when the professor made the off-handed comment that,

“Some people’s pyramids are flipped.”

I wanted to stand up and pump my fist! “yes!” who cares about food, shelter, sex or money when you could go for “self-actualization.” Who didn’t want to create their dreams and make the world a better place? I suspect that most creative people and artists are wired similarly. Of course, surrounded by my more serious classmates, future financiers, and business process consultants, I kept my seat.

I did not, however, forget my lesson. Years later, while studying for my yoga teacher certification, I noted the similarity between Maslow’s pyramid and the seven energy chakras. After much meditation and considered in the context of human development, I think of these needs ranking different. Specifically,

It’s not a hierarchy. It’s a perspective.

In the context of career and life design, focusing on base needs is limiting. Instead, I encourage people to considered their from a human-centered or heart-centered place. The most successful people I know have had the good fortune of being able to lean into their interests, joy, strengths, and empathy. It’s lead me to conclude,

Happiness is a competitive advantage

Everything flows from the heart, it is the balance between your history and potential – the source of your energy. Doing heart-centered works leads to purpose-aligned confidence and communication (Chakras 3 and 5). It creates the momentum and courage to create and see the world (Chakras 2 and 6). That courage and strength allows for the vulnerability and compassion necessary to connect with one’s tribe and humanity (Chakras 1 and 7)

We are not building a life from the bottom up, rooted into the past.
We are learning to create balance so that we can fly into future possibilities.

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