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Values, History and Folklore, are the core elements of culture at a point in time. They are our link to our personal past…handed down to us by all those who came before us. This is true of our ethnic culture, our tribal culture, our national culture, our religious culture, and our personal culture, to name just a few. Since we are the link to our past, we are caretakers of something precious as we hand it down to future generations. Since culture is a living thing, it does change over time, but ever so slowly. Just think about it; there is some behavioral mannerism, belief, perception that you got from an ancestor who lived a hundred or many hundreds of years ago. To use a modern expression, “You are Connected”. There really is nothing new under the sun, other than our choice of what we will do with our cultural inheritance. Since culture is a living phenomenon, we will make our choices and then pass the culture on to future generations, along with our contributions. That is the way it is and that is the way it will continue to be.
Image 1: DeMarco Culture Model
© 2003 Dr. Bill DeMarco
All of this gets us back to our discussion of Values. I described Values as “the unique blend of perceived Needs, Beliefs, and Attitudes that live in the behaviour of most members of a society”. Needs are one of three segments of the Values element of my Culture Model (Image 1). Needs, along with Beliefs and Attitudes, taken separately and in their interaction, make up our unique Values proposition.
Within a cultural context, Needs are similar to what Abraham Maslow (Image 2) describes as the fundamental requirements for survival, safety and belonging. They have everything to do with the necessities of the human condition, and nothing to do with a luxury car in the garage, a kitchen with granite counter tops, and two weeks in Saint Kitts! The latter, at the extreme end, has more to do with our image of “Esteem”.
Image 2: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow’s work linked Needs to motivation. While his groundbreaking work is still challenged by some, I find his conclusions compelling. Satisfying individual and group needs at the three basic levels in the above image greatly facilitates our ability to incorporate our Beliefs into our Values system. Remember I wrote earlier that if we want to know what our real values are, look at our behaviour and not our words. There is a strong link between our ability to survive and our ability to put our Beliefs into action.
Here is a simple exercise that can help identify our real personal needs. It involves reading and reflecting on the bottom three categories of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Image 2). Then make a list of what those Needs look like in your life. Put that under a category labeled “Needs”. Everything else that comes to mind, put under a category labeled “Wants”. There is nothing wrong with “Wants”…Just don’t confuse the two!
Dr. Bill DeMarco