Abraham Maslow, the American psychologist, best known for writing ‘A Theory of Human Motivation‘ and ‘Towards a Psychology of Being‘ defined the concept of ‘Self-Actualization‘ or the ‘Self Actualization of Maslow‘ as ‘the desire for self-fulfillment.’
Maslow studied mentally healthy individuals, instead of people with serious psychological issues, and in particular “Self-Actualized” individuals who had a better insight of reality, deeply accepted themselves, others and the world and whom share qualities such as truth, goodness, aliveness, uniqueness and playfulness.
Maslow noticed that Self-Actualized individuals only exist once their underlying human needs have been met and described these human needs in a prepotent hierarchy, usually represented as a pyramid. Needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher-up and a pressing need would need to be mostly satisfied before someone would give their attention to the next highest need. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards the needs are: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem and self-actualization.
At the bottom of the hierarchy, you can find “basic needs” of human beings such as food, water, sleep, sex. The next level is “safety needs” or the need for security, order and stability. Those needs are important for the physical survival of the human being. Once individuals have achieved their basic nutrition, shelter and safety needs, they are free to accomplish more; and this is how they move on to the next level i.e. love/belonging. When individuals have taken care of their basic needs for survival they are free to share themselves with others and are in a position to offer love, affection and compassion to the people around them. The fourth level i.e. “esteem” is the need to feel competent and recognized; this level is achieved when individuals feel comfortable with what they have accomplished through professional success and status.
At the top of the pyramid, you have the need for self-actualization which occurs when individuals reach a state of harmony and understanding because they are engaged in achieving their full potential.
So how do you become self-actualizing?
The first step is the thought. The sowing of a thought should be followed by action. Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
“Sow a thought and you reap an action. Sow an action and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
The sowing of a thought should be followed by action. The reward is not so much in what the pursuit and achievement of that objective will bring but rather the skills acquired along the way and the transformation it forces us to undergo. Achieving those goals requires to leave our comfort zone, whilst developing new skills and cultivating self-discipline. The problem is that for many of us we struggle to move from sowing of a thought to taking action. So, the question is…
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