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Leveling Up: How Bad Do You Want It?

Leveling Up: How Bad Do You Want It?

Wants and needs control our lives. Every day, we internally battle with what we want versus what we need. If you had to make a list of what you needed versus what you wanted, how would your list look? Would it be even, lopsided, or just short of neglect? Most often, we become a prisoner to our wants while our needs are being investigated by social services.


 It is easy to come up with a list of what you want. Nevertheless, ask yourself, “Do I need it because I want it, or do I want it because I need it?” The complexity of this question has been influenced by billboards and advertisements strongly suggesting what we need. Marketing campaigns are so compelling; we become convinced that our wants are now needs. Fine wine, jewelry, a new wardrobe, a newer car, a trip to Paris—override the sleep we lost while hustling to obtain more.

In spite of this, wants appear to be winning as the dictator of decision-making. Yet, on any given day, a need will rise up and trump any plan you negotiated to get what you wanted. Though, not always a priority, primary needs are necessary to survive. Ask the entertainer who wanted to do a non-stop, 40-city tour but collapsed on the 10th date because of dehydration. Or, ask the widow of the man who jumped to his death from his plush, top corner Wall Street office. Both arrived at a place of needing more than they wanted.

The idea of wanting more has become a deadly addiction that is quietly sabotaging a person’s ability to achieve optimal health. While wants are accumulated, primal needs are mysteriously moved to a mere “I want some water.”  The basic, human survival needs consist of oxygen, water, food, sleep, clothing, and shelter. This list seems simple enough, however life can expeditiously turn upside down if these needs are not satisfied. No matter how you try to negotiate the deal, primary needs are non-negotiable.

American human theorist and psychologist, Abraham Maslow proposed a theory that humans have a certain amount of needs that must be met in order to be healthy. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a five-level pyramid of needs consisting of the following levels:

  • Level 1: Survival Needs- food, water, sleep, exercise, sexual expression
  • Level 2: Security Needs- shelter, safety, protection
  • Level 3: Social Needs- belonging, affection, acceptance
  • Level 4: Esteem Needs- self-respect, respect for others, accomplishment
  • Level 5: Self-Actualization Needs- creativity, spirituality, fulfillment of potential

According to Maslow, individual needs must be met at each of these levels in order to be healthy. In 1943, Maslow was speaking about what we call today—leveling up! Everybody must crawl before they run.

Despite popular belief, leveling up is not a trend; it is an explicit requirement for achieving optimal health. Each level is a pre-requisite for the next. For example, have you ever been so hungry that you became hangry (an amalgam of hungry and angry)? Your instinctive hunger signals a sound off, making you irritable, weak, and queasy. Your blood-glucose levels are telling the brain that you are in a life-threatening situation. This physiological phenomenon is very real. Your thoughts and behaviors are focused on surviving. During this period, it is hard to concentrate, you are weak, and simple tasks become difficult. Then, after you eat, you return to normal and you are ready to level up.     

For this very reason, many school districts offer free breakfast and lunch to their entire student body. There is a direct connection between learning and nutrition. Research shows that consuming a healthy breakfast improves academic success. If a student is not well nourished, concentration becomes difficult and production is reduced. Wouldn’t it be awesome if adults followed the lead of children?

Instead, adults are crashing and burning like a bad race at the Indy 500. They are continuously seduced into neglecting their basic needs. After all, who has time to eat when you have a new Mercedes-Benz 2018 S-Class parked on the other side of deadlines and pending contracts? Obtaining a promotion and being socially accepted has become the new-needs, leaving basic survival needs such as sleep, in the bed with a balanced diet. Hustle is the new flow, even if it means not sleeping for days.

The results are inevitable; you become a victim to the Hustle and Flow Syndrome. You hustle and you flow until you can’t go no more. I am not telling you something I heard; I’m speaking from experience. There have been plenty of times when I personally experienced a setback due to the lack of sleep, insufficient intake of water, or improper diet. I was hustling hard to disappear until pneumonia put a spell on me that had me bedridden for 6 days. The doctor admitted that it would’ve been worse if I wasn’t already in good health. Yet, even good health has to be maintained. Leveling up is a process—you can’t skip levels.

Five Important Lessons to Remember While Leveling Up:

  1. Nothing—no-thing is more important than satisfying your basic needs.
  2. Rest is crucial to sustaining cell reproduction and rejuvenation.
  3. Your family, friends, clients, etc will wait while you take care of yourself.
  4. If you don’t handle the business of your personal health—there is no business.  
  5. You can’t skip levels.

Camela Douglass, M.S. ED. is a Professor of Health and Wellness at Central State University. She is the founder and C.E.O. of Mo Better Me, Inc. For bookings, visit or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .



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