I’ve mentioned Spiral Dynamics a few times before because it’s really fascinating.
It can be a map showing you how far you’ve come as a human being and give you a hint of the potential you actually have.
The details can get really complicated so this article will only provide a quick overview of what Spiral Dynamics is and how it can be used to improve your life and the lives of those around you.
It was devised by Dr. Clare Graves.
“I suggest, that for the overall welfare of total man’s existence in the world, over the long run of time, higher levels are better than lower levels, and that the prime good of any society’s governing figures should be to promote human movement up the levels of human existence.” – Dr. Clare Graves
The following briefly describes the known human development levels and this knowledge can be applied not just to understanding how a society, organization or group sees the rest of the world and itself, but also can be very useful for self-improvement.
Just as Graves’ states in the quote above, when one level ceases to give you the answers and no longer makes sense, then you are ready to take a step towards the next level. Or if you are can’t handle your current level you might need to revert to a previous stage.
|This level is focused on meeting basic needs for survival. Today only seen in young children and people suffering from severe cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s or extreme drug dependency.|
The individual follows a strong leader. Core values include safety and security for the tribe, group, or team. This level is also the magical thinking stage as magical ideas are used to understand and influence nature. This level values, faith in supernatural forces and subordination to the leaders and magical medicine men.
This is the beginning of self-expression. It is when individuals believe the tribal leaders, or others get more advantages and individuals wish to take these advantages for themselves.
People get jealous of the success and possessions of others. Comparing yourself to others causes the emergence of the self. And when it comes out it’s a selfish, inconsiderate P.O.S.
Core values here include power, immediate gratification, escaping from being controlled, being respected and avoiding shame. Think Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan.
|The third level creates many dangers in human societies.
As a result, Kings, judicial systems, morality, a strong sense of right vs. wrong, good vs. bad and the need for order in society develop.
Fundamentalist religious beliefs also form at this level too and attempt to define morality to influence behavior for the better of societies. Core values include justice, and a desire to control impulsivity and “inappropriate” behavior. Selfish desires are vilified as “sins.”
|Blue is very restricting so eventually the self tries to reemerge in an attempt to seek truth and success. It’s not as violent or dangerous as when it was red, but is still capable of questionable behavior.
Science is allowed to prosper for both profit and the creative benefit of mankind. Modern first world nations generally fit in here.
|Focus on consensus, peace with inner self and others.
A strong desire to make all people equal. Wishes to eliminate poverty, racism, discrimination, and hierarchies believed to be the causes of the world’s problems. Think hippies, feminists, and social justice nerds. Of course, being green doesn’t necessarily make you that extreme and obnoxious though.
|This level is a result of the conflict that happens between orange and green.
Orange thinks green is a bunch of illogical, obnoxious hippies. Green thinks orange is a bunch of bigoted, racist bullies.
Green’s obnoxious behavior will first over adjust society’s norms and try to force people to think in certain ways. Such as denying free speech. But as we know, Just because you can’t say something doesn’t mean you don’t think it.
Orange WILL react to readjust the norms back to what they are used to and eventually this tug of war gets us closer to balance.
We will keep hierarchies, but they will be changed.
The Yellow person accepts diverse ideas and is more aware that the previous levels exists.
They can often see the bigger picture and be willing to take a position that is contrary to popular opinion. However, may get frustrated if others are not able to see their point.
This is the beginning of integration of selfish desires with desires to provide for mankind. Previous levels care primarily about others on their own level. Yellow wants to help Red people gain more education, safety, and discipline. Help blue feel safe enough to move on to orange. Help Orange to succeed, and help Green do hippy stuff.
|Theoretically this is world peace. You likely won’t see it in your life time. Turquoise cares more about long-term goals for improving and preserving humanity than profit. It strives to eliminate war, poverty, disease, hunger and political oppression. Recognizes the potential need to sacrifice self and others as may be required for the overall survival of life. Thinks and acts globally.|
Each level incorporates parts of previous levels.
Notice how it alternates between a self-focused level and a more group focused one. In red you are the most selfish. Then in blue you are threatened with death or torture if you don’t conform with your society’s rules. Each time you get to a group focused level you are concerned with a larger amount of people until you get to turquoise in which you genuinely care for the problems of all people in the world. (in theory)
Blue and Green both try to force people to change their behavior and thoughts with threats, and even violence.
In theory, Turquoise people will be more considerate of others because it’s the right thing to do, not because they are coerced into it.
Though it’s difficult to get there when you are struggling to survive yourself. Why should you care about the 21,000 people who starve to death EVERY DAY when you can barely take care of yourself?
That’s why it’s important to move to as high a level as possible. The more you help yourself, the more you are capable of actually helping everyone.
Eventually, when you get to yellow, you have the skills and knowledge to become your ideal self. It’s like you are Bruce Wayne and can afford all the education and toys you want to build your character.
Spiral Dynamics is extremely relevant to self-improvement because it can show you what is missing from your life and what you need to evolve.
At red you satisfy selfish desires.
At blue you develop self-discipline, good habits, and concern for others.
At Orange you begin thinking critically about truth, and pursuing career/business goals. With the help of your Blue discipline you are more likely to succeed. Red people aren’t likely to succeed without deception, theft or other sneaky behavior. Largely because they lack the discipline to do it any other way.
At green you start to open your mind to breaking down categories and get involved in groups that are sensitive about things you care about.
At Yellow you are open to integrating everything useful into your life, and eventually using that knowledge to give back to as wide an audience as possible.
Of course, again, it’s a little more complex than that, but this basic structure can help you grow up and get more out of your potential.
Of course, you likely aren’t exclusively one level. You can feel more strongly connected to one level depending on the area of your life. Such as Orange when it comes to business, but a Blue Prude when it comes to sex.
Which level feels more relevant to you?
What is preventing you from moving on to the next level?
I think there are basically 2 obstacles to moving on to the next level.
- You aren’t ready for it / Have no stimulus encouraging you to move on.
- You have gaps / unfulfilled desires in previous levels that would need to be fulfilled first.
If you aren’t ready for it, you might be completely comfortable with your current level. Everyone around you shares your values and beliefs. It can be comforting, but you are deluded into thinking that is the ultimate state of mind and anyone with different beliefs is completely crazy. Even the highly rational Orange people can fall victim to this.
Gaps in previous levels can be just as big an obstacle to evolution. If for example, you think you are extremely Blue (very conservative, strong feelings about right vs. wrong, etc.), you may repeatedly try and fail to start a new business to make money, but you lack the ruthless attitude of a Red person who would negotiate hard for exactly what they want and is willing to face danger and take risks to win.
This Blue guy who never embraced his selfish Red desires is a bit of a pushover. He doesn’t have experience asserting himself and isn’t confident in his ability to succeed.
His solid Blue values are built on a shaky Red foundation. Every time he tries to build something on top everything will collapse.
He isn’t used to facing his fears. He is used to following the rules of his community to guide him. Since he is incapable of getting to Orange, he must first go back to Red and build that foundation.
That doesn’t mean he needs to be a rude, violent psychopath for a while. It means he needs to embrace his selfish desires a little. He needs to start asserting exactly what he wants from people. He needs to start demanding respect He needs to become even more intimidating than his bullies.
As Jordon Peterson likes to point out, a rabbit is not virtuous because it isn’t capable of violence. Virtue comes from the capacity to be a monster but the discipline to restrain it.
The Blue pushover needs to grow some fangs. Then he can take the important reference experiences, knowledge, and competence back to his attempts to become a successful entrepreneur.
The same situation could be true of anyone stuck at any level. You might not be ready to move on to the next level of your life because previous levels have too many gaps.
You may have too much anxiety and stress because you aren’t ready to move on and mature.
Spiral dynamics is a spiral because each level incorporates previous levels. You can also think of it as a circular spectrum attempting to balance selfish individual desires with selfless perfection.
No matter what level people find themselves in, the default mentality is often that they are doing the right thing and everyone else is messed up.
It takes courage to acknowledge flaws and weaknesses
They may very well be paragons of the positive traits of their given levels, but unless they embrace the monsters within they won’t be able to construct something capable of withstanding the challenges of life.
These levels aren’t finite definitions of where you or a society are on the path to growth. But they are meaningful rough guidelines to development.
Spiral Dynamics can help you improve yourself in these ways:
- Showing you gaps that might be holding you back. such as an Absolutist (Blue) pushover who can’t Assert his dominance because he’s been scared to express himself since he was a child. Or An ambitious entrepreneur who is too lazy and lacks discipline to actually achieve anything. He should get himself in some kind of discipline training program that forces him to get his life together and build productive habits.
- You can get an idea of the types of goals you should be moving towards. If you are trying to build a series of extremely successful businesses, it doesn’t make sense to waste all of your time pursuing selfish indulgences
- The most valuable concept you can take from Spiral Dynamics is probably to balance your selfish desires with order. Balance your desires with what will best contribute to everyone else.
You have to first work on yourself before you feel stress free enough to devote more time and energy directly on others.
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