I was playing with this idea for a few days. I saw a documentary about Jurek Kukuczka, who was a very successful Polish alpine and high-altitude climber. He was second to climb all 14 eight-thousanders after Messner and he died while climbing the south face of Lhotse in 1989.
In a short interview with him, his friend mentions the term "higher values".
But what are these? Do we all have them and live by them?
"From an ordinary man’s perspective climbing must be absurd. And it is. A man is the only creature on Earth who does excessive things. We need to have higher values which guide us in life, although sometimes they may appear unreasonable. Is mountain climbing a higher value? Yes it is, because it is a contrast to our ordinary lives. It’s an added value, but something we could all do without. And still many of us do it."
I went on a private search :) and dived into social psychology. I discovered, that there are more of such "higher human values" described, all were researched by professor Shalom H. Schwartz - the creator of the Theory of Basic Human Values.
Kukuczka's and many others' higher values can be therefore put into a category of Openness to change, see the overview below. Professor Schwartz summed the higher values into 4 categories, their importance to each of us can vary, based on our upbringing, culture, inner core values, or other life circumstances.
From the interview with Kukuczka (Jerzy „Jurek“ Kukuczka on Netflix):
It's also interesting to see, that some of these core values can be put into a category of Growth - Anxiety-Free or Self-Protection - Anxiety-Avoidance. Some are focused on personal issues, some focus on social issues.
I'm very much aware that social psychology is not everyone's cup of tea and that it can sound not interesting at all, but I love to understand what's moving me and others personally.
Coming to Maslow
To make this even more complex, I was reminded of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. After the four stages in the pyramid of needs, this means after being fed, having a shelter, feeling emotional and financial security, feeling loved, appreciated, and accomplished, there comes the last brick of the pyramid - self-actualization.
Maslow describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything one can, to become the most that one can be.
As each one of us is unique, the motivation for self-actualization leads in different directions. For some, self-actualization can be achieved through creating a piece of art, for others, it might be achieved through sport, studies, or within a corporate setting.
Behavior leading to self-actualization
(a) Experiencing life like a child, with full absorption and concentration
(b) Trying new things instead of sticking to safe paths (I would like to add: Not being afraid of making mistakes or looking ridiculous)
(c) Listening to your own feelings in evaluating experiences instead of the voice of tradition, authority, or the majority
(d) Avoiding pretense ('game playing') and being honest
(e) Being prepared to be unpopular if your views do not coincide with those of the majority
(f) Taking responsibility and working hard
(g) Trying to identify your defenses and having the courage to give them up
Maslow did not equate self-actualization with perfection. Self-actualization involves achieving one's potential. Thus, someone can be silly, wasteful, vain and impolite, and still self-actualize. Less than 2% of the population achieve self-actualization.
What are your higher values? Which importance do they have in your life? And would you like to change their importance? Do you live your life to your fullest potential? ;)