By Jeff Beals
Psychologist Abraham Maslow changed the social sciences forever when he developed his hierarchy of personal needs. Maslow argued that in order for a person to achieve greatness, or full potential, he or she must have certain needs met. The needs can be ranked or organized into a hierarchical pyramid.
At the base of the pyramid are the very basic needs, called “physiological” needs, which are required for a human being to stay alive. Among these needs are food, water, air, shelter, sleep, pain avoidance and sexuality.
Once you have satisfied these basic needs, Maslow believes you can progress to the next level of the hierarchy: safety and security needs. These include stability, safety and security. The third ranking, social needs, includes companionship, affection and friendship. This is sometimes referred to as the “love-and-belonging” level. Because of these needs, we are motivated to marry someone or join a club. It’s the tribal instinct that all cultures share.
Once the three lowest levels are met, a person then has the luxury of operating at higher levels. At the fourth ranking, we reach the esteem needs. These include ego, self-esteem, the need for recognition and the desire to achieve a lofty status in life. Feelings such as confidence, competence, achievement, mastery, independence, and freedom are implied at this level.
Finally, if a person has satisfied all of the first four levels, he or she is ready to pursue self-actualization, the pinnacle of human existence. Self-actualized people pursue intellectual curiosities. They are focused on personal growth, achievement and advancement. They constantly seek new challenges and although they thoroughly enjoy their victories, the joy of success only motivates them to conquer something grander.
Most successful professionals reach a plateau at the fourth level. That’s a good place to be, but they’re missing out on something more. They are denying themselves the joy of self-actualization. Maslow claimed that true self actualization is very rare and that no more than 2 percent of the world’s population ever reaches it.
Don’t deny yourself the heady experience of self-actualization. It takes work, dedication, and deliberate planning, but almost any professional can reach the hierarchical peak of the pyramid.
Although achieving self-actualization isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight, there is a clear path to it. As you contemplate how you can become self-actualized, or perhaps more self-actualized, there are several encouraging things to consider.
First, you have total control of the process. You have the freedom and the right to be self-actualized. You don’t have to ask permission, and you don’t have to wait for someone else to do it for you.
Second, there’s no limit to the number of people who can enjoy operating at the peak of human existence. As British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, “People think that at the top there isn’t much room. They tend to think of it as an Everest. My message is that there is tons of room at the top.”
But how do you get to the top of Mt. Everest? Start with initiative. Benjamin Franklin advised, “Plough deep while sluggards sleep.” Successful people are always on the move and don’t behave passively. Be the ultimate self-starter.
Perhaps even more important, avoid victimhood and blaming at all costs. It’s never somebody else’s fault. The highest-performing people accept blame when appropriate, and they also accept credit when it’s due.
This message is a liberating one. Self-actualization, or however else you may define success, is always within your grasp. You can manufacture it out of seemingly nothing. To reach Maslow’s pinnacle, you need to adopt certain behaviors and beliefs and make them part of your daily life. You have total control of your life. Success starts with you and ends with you.
Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.
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