My deeper, underlying, fundamental values and wants. My philosophy of life. My sense of purpose, vision, and meaning.
What is life about?
To me, it seems to be about maximizing human potential. One way to look at this is the difference between the accomplishment and satisfaction achieved at the beginning and the end of one’s life. Specifically, I would look at the potential one is born with, given their specific conditions, and the percentage that is actualized at the end of their life (so that it’s “fair” in the sense that it doesn’t matter where you begin with).
Of course, this is quite theoretical, and assumes that such an “algorithm” could be created to measure every person’s potential before the fact. Another, less “calculating” way to put it: I think a satisfying life is one where, when we look back at the end, we feel we have made the most of the time (and other resources) that we had.
Now it seems clear to me that what “the most” constitutes of, or put another way, which areas of potential each person seeks to maximize / pursue, would be different for every person — this is both because we were all born with a unique set of conditions to begin with (“nature”, of sorts), and because we come to value different things (“nurture”, of sorts) as we venture though our different lives. In this way, people who resonate with my view, may see this “philosophy of life” as one that is non-judgemental of individual preferences or that it is egalitarian; while skeptics might say that it is too flexible, leaving too much undefined.
Unfortunately, I will need to wait until I’ve made more intellectual progress before I can address those critiques. For now, I feel it suffices (me) to say that this “philosophy” is one that feels consistent with my moral (I feel good about using this as a signpost), intellectual (it makes sense) and emotional (I’m drawn to and happy when doing things related to improving human potential) intuitions.
So how do I this?
Currently, it seems to make the most sense to use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a guiding model.
On the most macro level, I think it’s about ensuring that basic needs are met, namely:
- Survival: safeguarding the lives of human beings, especially future generations (side note: I’m open to considering other beings, but I’m going to stick with humans right now, for simplicity’s sake)
2. Quality of life: ensuring that humans live above subsistence / survival mode, so that they are able to explore their interests and potential
Then on a more inter-personal level, I’m interested in:
3. Climbing the ladder: How (to help) people move up in the hierarchy, so that they can unlock or fulfil their innate potential
4. Effectiveness: How to help people at the “self-actualizing” level, i.e. those who (think they) know what they want to pursue do so more effectively. Given my philosophy, I’m especially interested in the people who believe their greatest potential lies in addressing points #1 and #2 above (as the process of their actualization of potential inherently enables more people to pursue theirs).
Finally, on a personal level:
5. Pursuing my potential: I currently see four areas in my life where I could grow and potentially flourish. (You can read about each one in my Life Review, just click on the links in the second section, “Areas of Potential”). While the first area, Work and Contribution, is clearly my priority, I also put significant time and thought into the other areas, because 1) it makes me feel (more) fully human and 2) perhaps consequently, allows me to sustain my efforts in my work.