The Whole Human

There’s more to people than meets the eye.  When we tap into the full range of people’s humanity, incredible things result.

Time-tested wisdom reveals an important fact: there is more than one aspect to our lives and our roles.  While it can be convenient to recognize only the parts of others that immediately and directly impact us, understanding the interwoven and dependent nature of each aspect allows us to acknowledge people as they are…a functioning whole.

The Whole Human is MuddyHudson’s framework for recognizing the wholistic needs and leveraging the wholistic assets of people.  It provides the basis for empowering people to uncover, connect, and employ the fullness of their humanity.  When utilized appropriately, it is useful on personal and professional levels – maximizing performance, strengthening relationships, establishing development plans, among other things – and it is central to our approach for developing deeply engaged participation among organizational constituents.


More Than One Side of Us

Browse the slides below to explore the concepts of The Whole Human.

  • whole_human_500

    People have five domains – Spiritual, Psychological, Social, Physical, and Symbolic – each representing a collection of needs and assets that together interact to form a functioning whole.  Fully-functioning people powerfully utilize assets in each domain and operate with needs in each domain effectively satisfied.  (Click diagram to enlarge.)

  • Spiritual
    The highest level domain, this area includes sources of energy and needs that are larger than the individual or social group.  Spanning both the individual (left) and social (right) domains, the Spiritual exerts an integrating and enriching influence on all domains.

    The Spiritual domain is our connection to that which is beyond us.  While it can include religious elements, it is not synonymous since the Spiritual may not include formal religion for some and since religion can exist in several zones like the Spiritual, Social, and Symbolic.  As the realm of the transcendent, the Spiritual is where we aspire to be more than what we are and where we realize extraordinary potential.

    Assets Needs

    Passions, Peak Experiences
    Purpose, Mission, Vision
    Gifting, Calling, Aspiration

    Meaning, Direction
    Universality, Legitimacy
    Rhythm, Structure
  • Psychological
    The Psychological domain encompasses all internal cognitive and emotional powers and needs: the sum of what goes on in our brains.  Emotions, thought, information, memories, story, the will, desires, and passions combine to create the crowded but beautiful "self."  This domain includes mental constructs and representations which are translated through other domains as they are encoded and decoded.

    Assets Needs

    Know-what (data, facts)
    Know-who (networking)
    Know-why (science, diagnostics)
    Know-how (skills, processes)

    Enthusiasm, Excitement
    Caution, Criticism
    Enjoyment, Delight

    Information, Experience
    Schema, Paradigms
    Context, Interpretations
    Aesthetics, Patterns

    Motivation, Inspiration
    Security, Assurance
    Stimulation, Positivity

  • Social
    Interpersonal relationships make up the Social domain, from loved ones to complete strangers who happen to share the same sidewalk or city.  This domain exerts a formational and nurturing influence over the other domains, shaping and feeding the Physical and Psychological through the Symbolic (culture), and interpreting and articulating the Spiritual.  The Social domain is also the target of most of the output from the other domains, including the final destination of most of our work.

    Assets Needs

    Clients (customers, clients, fans)
    Advisors (mentors, experts, coaches)
    Allies (partners, collaborators, peers)
    Associates (teammates, employees, vendors)
    Loved Ones (family, friends)

    Acceptance, Belonging
    Socialization, Connection
    Love, Esteem
    Attention, Care
    Nurture, Development

  • Physical
    The Physical domain is centered on our bodies, but includes time, energy, and health, expanding out to those things which we physically manipulate: materials and tools.  Without these, no other activity can occur in any domain.  While recognized universally, the Physical is often the most abused domain, bearing the full brunt of demanding lifestyles, but whose constant maintenance is often seen as tedious and burdensome.

    Assets Needs

    Effort, Labor
    Time, Energy
    Materials, Money
    Equipment, Tools
    Space, Plant

    Rest, Activity
    Nutrition, Health Care
    Material, Financial
    Work Space

  • Symbolic
    The Symbolic domain is the socio-cultural representation of ourselves.  Symbols encode meaning and value in a standardized way that expedites communication and transactions.  For example, money is a symbol of the value of one’s time, energy, intellect, etc.  The Symbolic domain includes virtually anything the represents a complex aspect or our lives in a way that is easily recognized by others: institutions, roles (social/work/family), professions, certifications, titles, memberships, citizenships, ranks, and many other things.

    Assets Needs

    Stories (images, language, metaphors, types)
    Markers (fashions, trends, status, symbols)
    Norms (mores, roles, traditions)

    Relevance, Context
    Position, Coolness
    Role, Ritual

  • Maslow Says

    Studying What Works
    Abraham Maslow first studied the human psyche from the perspective of potential rather than disease.  Maslow found that high-performing people live for self-actualization (becoming who oneself envisions) and that the highest-performing people live for self-transcendence (becoming or connection to something more than one is).  Maslow noted that people meet their remarkable potential when they operate from drives located near the top of the hierarchy.  Those controlled by lower drives seem under the power of largely external forces.

  • Top vs Bottom

    Power Over You, Or Your Power Over Things?
    whole_human_topbotDomains are ordered on the diagram from top to bottom in terms of intentionality.  The upper domains represent the areas that give people power over themselves and the world, and the lower domains represent those aspects most vulnerable to control by external powers.  As such, utilizing assets in the upper domains yields powerful leverage upon assets in the lower domains.  For instance, a person who is inspired (Spiritual domain) by an opportunity will fully employ Psychological, Social, Physical, and Symbolic assets to reach the desired outcome.  On the other hand, an uninspired person may only apply a portion of these assets because lower level needs have a stronger influence over him.

  • Left vs Right

    Your Individual and Corporate Sides
    whole_human_sidesThere are portions of each person that are internal and others that are shared in some way with others.  To illustrate this, the domains are divided between individual and corporate on the left and right, respectively.  The Spiritual domain spans the two, having significant elements that are both individual and corporate.  The left side of the diagram includes the Psychological and Physical.  The needs/assets in these domains are owned by the individual and must be translated through another domain to have meaning to other people.  The right side of the diagram – Social and Symbolic – includes needs and assets that are cultural and relational and require the participation of others to have any meaining.

  • The Center

    Moving Towards the Center
    whole_human_centerThe position of assets and needs in relation to the center of the diagram is significant.  Notice that the domains get much tighter at the center of the diagram.  While any element of a person's life is located in one of the five domains, its position in that domain in relation to the center of the whole speaks of its power and importance.  The closer it is to the center – the core of who we are – the more power an element has in the domain and in linking other elements and domains.  The closer any element is positioned to an edge shared with another domain, the more this element influences and is influenced by that domain.  Using the example to the right, family relationships are the most core and customers the least so.  Friends are close to the Spiritual domain, which may represent relationships based on a sense of shared values or mission, but customers' proximity to the Symbolic means these relationships are influenced by cultural factors.

  • Interaction

    Making Connections Across the Domains
    Although we naturally understand and live in the domains, some of the greatest challenges exist in the interaction and integration of these areas.  Referring to the circular diagram, while all the domains interact, only those that share edges can interact directly, requiring accurate translation of power from one domain to the other.  For example, in order for something Psychological, like a product idea, to reach customers in the Social domain, Physical resources must first translate the idea into something real and then it must be encoded into something meaningful in the Symbolic domain during marketing (click diagram below to enlarge).



Bringing It to Life

The Whole Human's most obvious applications are with the people who power your organization from the inside.  However, it has power with customers and beyond.

  • Status Quo

    Human Resources for Rent?

    Some conventional approaches to people management have a low view of the possibility of human-business relationships.  Ignoring the reality that people are Whole Humans, they set up competition between the personal and professional, buying time away from "where people really want to be" in order to get their attention "where they have to be."  From the perspective of the people, this often leads to a minimalist approach: do as little as possible in the professional to enable a "standard of living" and "lifestyle" in the personal.  This transactional view turns businesses into mere economic machines, and the people involved into gears and cogs.

    whole_human_exploitIn the language of The Whole Human, the transactional approach rents parts of people, giving Symbolic returns (money, status, titles) in exchange for access to employee's Psychological (knowledge and skills) and Physical (time and body) domains.  In the case of investors and customers, the worst cases of the transactional approach use manipulation of the Psychological, Social, and Physical levels in order to access Symbolic assets. 

    On the other hand, the healthier, more complete approach of The Whole Human seeks to involve as many domains as possible, interacting with people in ways that preserve their power to effect their lives and world and their best motivations to be self-directing.  This leads to a more collaborative approach to value creation for all the participants in a business, maximizing benefits in every aspect and area.


  • Potential

    The Capacity of Your People is the Capacity of Your Business

    People are the heart of every business.  A business reaches its full potential, then, only as the people in and around the company fully realize theirs.  When a business recognizes the full range of human needs and assets, it can play a significant role in contributing to and benefiting from the wholeness of the people around it.  In order for business to get extraordinary participation and performance from this reciprocal relationship, it must heed the call to inspire and nurture its people.

    Inspiration.  Businesses can tap the greatest powers in their people by touching and connecting on universal themes that reside in the high-level Psychological and Spiritual domain.  Even highly-diverse audiences share hopes and expectations for life and its "bigger things."  If people – whether employees, customers, suppliers, communities, investors – see one or more of these themes reflected in where a business is headed, they see themselves reflected in the company and are more likely to join the journey and employ their assets in favor of this mission. 

    Capacity.  Increasing the capacity of people is only truly successful when assets from every domain can be employed in the process.  Then growth is fully owned, so responsibility and effective application are the natural results.  A cross-domain approach to building capacity results in the development of skills of growth, so improvement and innovation are integral and constant in wholly engaged people.

    Alignment & Accountability.  The best strategies of management empower people to self-manage as much as possible.  This must go far beyond "carrot and stick" methods of motivation by connecting to peoples' own highest level needs and assets.  When a company casts a compelling high-level vision, the participants have clarity judging their own alignment and more often measure themselves by their own expectations of their role in that mission.

    Nurture.  By pro-actively and dynamically playing their role nurturing the needs of people, businesses can increase participation and performance and empower more complete engagement across domains.  Since unmet needs block higher-level assets, businesses can open pathways to unlock latent potential by caring for people.  When people feel cared about, a relational connection is established that releases assets at the upper levels of the Social, Psychological, and Spiritual domains.


  • In Our DNA

    At The Core of Many Things

    If people lie at the center of business, The Whole Human gives access to the center of people.  That's why it's at the core of our management philosophy, our facilitation techniques, and our own company ethos.

    For example, The Whole Human plays a central role in two of MuddyHudson’s core frameworks: ICAAN and ATRALA.

    I C A A N
    Inspiration ~ Capacity ~ Alignment ~ Accountability ~ Nurture

    ICAAN surveys key human needs that drive individual and organizational performance.  Intentionally growing people through Inspiration, Capacity, Alignment, Accountability, and Nurturing ensures that they have what is needed to engage completely and fully utilize their assets.


    A T R A L A
    Awareness ~ Trial ~ Relevancy ~ Affinity ~ Loyalty ~ Advocacy

    develops lasting, high-value customer relationships by mapping a customer's journey from first contact to fully advocacy.  Customers become believers because marketing messages, and the delivery that follows, connect to high-level assets and needs.



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