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Stage I Fulfillment: Meeting Our Primary Physical Needs

Stage I Fulfillment: Meeting Our Primary Physical Needs
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Continuing our dive into the Four Stages of Fulfillment, this week we explore Stage I Fulfillment.

We are born into the world seeking Stage I Fulfillment. A baby cries when cold, wet, tired, or hungry. The baby is happy for a few hours, but the cycle begins again. Stage I Fulfillment creates short-term satisfaction, but we must meet our primary needs or perish. Eating, sleeping, and seeking comfort—the better we care for ourselves physically and emotionally, the better our chance of surviving and thriving. Thus, Stage I Fulfillment can be viewed as the stabilizing base of the pyramid—Stage I provides a foundation for our upward journey to experience the other three Stages of Fulfillment more fully.

The Primal Brain Predominates in Stage I Fulfillment

The primal brain predominantly drives Stage I Fulfillment with the hormonal releases of adrenaline, dopamine, and endorphins that reward us with immediate gratification and fulfillment. Though the fulfillment only lasts a few hours, like the gratification from our last meal, it is a primal force that cannot be ignored. To be purposeful, we need to listen to the Wise Brain* to assess the best response for this stage for us to be successful (Stage II Fulfillment), or contribute to the benefit of others (Stage III Fulfillment). When deprived of Stage I Fulfillment, we can respond by overeating, oversleeping, and even over-medicating. This is the most challenging stage to engage the Wise Brain, as we are primally motivated to care for our immediate physical needs, especially when deprived.

Stuck at Stage I Fulfillment

Those fixated on Stage I Fulfillment become consumed with their immediate physical gratification needs. They are not concerned with their impact on others. These individuals do not delay gratification, which can compromise their foundation to be effective and purposeful in the higher stages of fulfillment. They lack the maturity (Wise Brain) to delay physical gratification.

As adults, we are constantly negotiating with our Four Stages of Fulfillment. There is a natural pull to meet our primary Stage I Fulfillment needs. However, proper attention at Stage I enables us to effectively move to Stage II Fulfillment, where we learn, grow, compete, and win. How much sleep, food, drink, warmth, and drugs are strategically purposeful for us to be our best selves for the long term?

Stage I Fulfillment Attributes

  • The primary impact is on oneself.
  • Understanding and feeling begins at birth.
  • Behavior includes fulfilling the basic needs for food, water, and sleep, and being physically comfortable.
  • Fulfillment begins immediately and lasts for hours.
  • This stage is vital and foundational for survival.
  • Exemplars include infants and those with addictions.
    • You may know people whose Stage I Fulfillment needs are like gravity, constantly pulling them from the success they could find if they could effectively honor their physical needs at Stage I so they can be best prepared to learn, grow, and compete to be successful at Stage II.

* The “Wise Brain” refers to using our prefrontal cortex brain. It allows us to think about the longer-term ramifications of our short-term decision-making. In our work, to ensure no confusion about the meaning of “executive” in this context, we use the expression “wise brain” rather than “executive brain.”

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