Barrett's Seven Levels of Consciousness

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If you enjoyed last week's look at Maslow's hierarchy, its limitations and implications, you may find Richard Barrett's model interesting as well. Click on the image below to see a larger version. Barrett has taken Maslow's pyramid and added to it, offering services to individuals, companies, schools, and governments to better understand culture and values. He combines Physiological and Safety needs in his "Survival" Category, maintains "Relationship" (Belonging) and "Self-Esteem", and takes self-actualization as a starting point for the "Transformation" towards higher goals of "Internal Cohesion", "Making a Difference", and "Service".

As with any culture model, it is important to remember every author is looking through their own cultural lens. It's always difficult if not impossible to take a neutral view of other cultures. What I like about this framework though, as well as e.g. Ken Wilber's Integral Theory, is that they are dynamic, not rigid. They allow for movement and development. In fact, they might shine a light and point out a path, challenging and encouraging us to do more and be better.

Barrett's Seven Levels of Consciousness also describe what can happen in situations of what he calls "excessive focus". That is when movement is denied and attention becomes too rigid. For example, for an individual working on Self-Esteem needs, it is helpful to engage in behaviors that foster confidence, competence, and self-reliance. These might include practicing vulnerability and setting effective boundaries. If focus becomes rigid, however, the need for self-esteem can turn us into power-hungry egomaniacs, only concerned with our status and authority, needing others to be less-than.

For an organization, it may help to have high performance systems and processes in place, particularly to attract and retain the best talent. If the approach is too rigid and centralized, not taking country-specific cultural differences into account, these same processes can soon turn into bureaucratic nightmares, effectively achieving the result they intend to avoid, namely confusion and complacency.

Where do you see yourself in this model, and where do you see your spouse, organization, or community? What can you do to align values and behaviors to reach the next level?