Most of us were raised with a survival mindset.
The focus was on meeting basic physical needs, and setting ourselves up to continue meeting those needs successfully in the future.
That requires a specific set of skills and beliefs. Optimizing for survival means:
That set of beliefs and strategies is extremely effective. It’s what’s kept the human species alive for all these generations. These are all positive, well-adapted strategies in environments where basic physical needs are in jeopardy. We’re talking about life near the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy here.
But once those basic needs are met predictably, we naturally want to move higher up on the hierarchy. Feelings of connection, creativity, purpose, and self-expression become increasingly important and sought-after. I’ll call this the self-actualization mindset.
The self-actualization mindset also requires a specific set of skills and beliefs. Optimizing for self-actualization means:
That mindset is absolutely necessary when growing, trying something new, or tapping into creativity and innovation.
Demonizing either mindset – survival or self-actualization – doesn’t make any sense. Instead, I think about it in terms of evolutionary adaptation, like animals fine-tuned to survive in very different climates. Both mindsets are useful, in the right ecosystem.
The problem for our generation, is that the ecosystem has changed dramatically within our lifetimes.
The mindset and strategies that kept humanity alive all this time aren’t working anymore. Compared to our forebears, the demands of the current moment – culturally, economically, ecologically, politically, emotionally, personally – are dramatically different.
Without deliberate intervention, our internalized beliefs and coping mechanisms take multiple generations to shift. But our generation is being called to rewire almost overnight.
So, many of us are caught in the messy middle – where the strategies we internalized from our upbringing are out of sync with the current world around us.
I work with a lot of people who were raised with the survival mindset, are now striving for self-actualization, and as a result are torn and confused as hell. The survival mindset is no longer working in their current life context.
Here’s a sampling of what I often hear from clients:
The worst part? Every one of them is down on themselves for not being able to rectify the disconnect.
The first, most important step is to realize the contextual reason WHY this disconnect exists in the first place.
You’re not lazy, crazy, or dumb. It’s because you were trained to use an antiquated set of tools that are, now, often irrelevant. You just need more modern tools that are adapted to your current ecosystem.
Start by asking yourself:
Taking inventory will help identify where the old, inherited beliefs and strategies are out of sync and need a refresh to be more in line with your present-day reality.