“The story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short.” – Abraham Maslow
What is Self-Actualization?
The term is commonly associated with Abraham Maslow, humanist psychologist, in one’s thinking or discussion on “The Human Needs and Motivations”. He coined it in his article, A Theory of Human Motivation. Maslow explicitly defines self–actualization to be “the desire for self-fulfillment, namely the tendency for him or her [the individual] to become actualized in what he or she is potentially and being capable of.
To appreciate self-actualization better, I would like to introduce two more terms, “Pain” & “Suffering“, to help to clarify and emphasize its importance to the psychology of human needs and motivations.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Pain is an unpleasant feeling often caused by intense or damaging stimuli, such as stubbing a toe, burning a finger, putting alcohol on a cut, and bumping the “funny bone”. The International Association for the Study of Pain’s widely used definition states: “Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.”
Suffering may be an experience of unpleasantness and aversion associated with the perception of harm or threat of harm in an individual. Suffering is the basic element that makes up the negative valence of affective phenomena. The opposite of suffering is pleasure, or happiness.
Both may come in all degrees of intensity, from mild to intolerable. Factors of duration and frequency of occurrence usually compound that of intensity.
In summary, I would like to conclude and theorize the two terms as follow.
- Pain motivates the individual to withdraw from damaging situations, to protect a damaged body part while it heals, and to avoid similar experiences in the future. Most pain resolves promptly once the painful stimulus is removed and the body has healed.
Note: If it persists despite removal of the stimulus and apparent healing of the body, I would conclude it as a “mental” phenomena.
- Suffering is “Attitude” in the mind, the thoughts and beliefs of one’s condition or circumstance (external or internal driven), in response to a potential threat to one’s mental or physical equilibrium state. The suffering may vary widely, in the sufferer or other people, according to how much it is regarded as avoidable or unavoidable, useful or useless, deserved or undeserved.
Note: Suffering occurs in the lives of sentient beings in numerous manners, and often dramatically. As a result, many fields of human activity are concerned with some aspects of suffering. These aspects may include the nature of suffering, its processes, its origin and causes, its meaning and significance, its related personal, social, and cultural behaviors, its remedies, management, and uses.
With the above two terms defined, I would like to talk about Maslow concept of a hierarchy of needs in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” and his subsequent book Motivation and Personality. He expounded that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other, more advanced needs.
While some of the existing school’s of thought at the time (such as psychoanalysis and behaviorism) tended to focus on problematic behaviors, Maslow was much more interested in learning more about what makes people happy and the things that they do to achieve that aim.
Five Levels of the Hierarchy of Needs
There are five different levels in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
- Physiological Needs
These include the most basic needs that are vital to survival, such as the need for water, air, food, and sleep. Maslow believed that these needs are the most basic and instinctive needs in the hierarchy because all needs become secondary until these physiological needs are met.
- Security Needs
These include needs for safety and security. Security needs are important for survival, but they are not as demanding as the physiological needs. Examples of security needs include a desire for steady employment, health care, safe neighborhoods, and shelter from the environment.
- Social Needs
These include needs for belonging, love, and affection. Maslow described these needs as less basic than physiological and security needs. Relationships such as friendships, romantic attachments, and families help fulfill this need for companionship and acceptance, as does involvement in social, community, or religious groups.
- Esteem Needs
After the first three needs have been satisfied, esteem needs becomes increasingly important. These include the need for things that reflect on self-esteem, personal worth, social recognition, and accomplishment.
- Self-actualizing Needs
This is the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Self-actualizing people are self-aware, concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opinions of others, and interested fulfilling their potential.
(Extract from About Education, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs by Kendra Cherry, Psychology Expert)
When you can sense it, you can feel it. The stronger the stimuli, the more powerful, the sensation of its presence. The likely scenario is to do something about it, to remove or mitigate the “pain” consequence. Physiological Needs fall under this category of “painful” experience. Maslow described it as something you are aware of and will & must do first, on top of all other priorities you may have.
Once the first level of Hierarchy of Needs is put under control, the other needs will become apparent and demand your attention (consciously or unconsciously) and actions.
By then, you are more conscious of what you have. The wants (safety and security matters) become your main mind focus. You start to have fear of loss of what you already have. The fear factor kicks in. Your mind is preoccupied with what and how to prevent such things from happening.
Once the second level of Hierarchy of Needs is put under your control belt, you become bored. Anthony Robbins, successful personal coach guru, describes this as a need for variety. Once your initial want or desire is met, you start to lose interest on it. Your mind starts to wander around for something else. From this point on, third level of Hierarchy of Needs assumes greater significance to you. It becomes your mind attention, intention and action focus . All actions are related to the need to satisfy the preoccupied wants in your mind. The variety cycle continues on and on unless you change your thought pattern to the next higher level.
Even that variety needs will stop one day if you shift your mind focus to your ego, the need for self esteem and importance. Most people will stay in that level or drop off to the lower levels of Hierarchy of Needs (if their fortune turns south).
Records of human history, of past ancient civilizations have showed the paths taken by ancient men, somehow along the line of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, although not necessary in the same sequence or order of needs.
From the above examples, one can conclude that the determining factors to achieve the four higher levels of Hierarchy of Needs, have to do with the working and mastery of one’s mental state of mind and taking positive & sustainable actions for its attainments.
Men and Women Today, still face this dilemma of Hierarchy of Needs, although not of the same kind or intensity. There are strong interest by them, to know how to build self-actualization into becoming part of their daily lives.
Very very few people could say that they have achieved or sustained in the level of self-actualization, long enough to become permanent feature in their journey in life. Maslow commented this fact in his quote below.
“The story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short.” – Abraham Maslow
We all have experienced “pain” & “suffering” in some point/s in our journey in life. Could we do something differently for the better if we know the above and take some preemptive actions prior to its happening?
I think we can, we will and we are if we take proactive actions & do it consistently daily.
“Success is a prize to be won. Action is the road to it. Chance is what may lurk in the shadows at the roadside.” – O. Henry
Questions that need your reply . “Clear and Honest” answers
1) What Kind of “Success” Do You Want and Why? (The “What” and “Why” parts)
2) Is self-actualization path, the one sure way for anyone to come up with, a guaranteed formula for “Success”? (The “How” part)
According to Harry Lorayne, world’s foremost memory-training specialist and author of the book, “Secrets of Mind Power”, Success is strictly an individual concept. There are those who feel they could not be happy unless they became famous or wealthy, or both. Those who can attain happiness without fame or wealth are indeed fortunate, and are to be envied. It’s all a matter of the mind. It is possible under almost any circumstances, if your mind allows it. And who’s to say that being happy is not being a success?
He cautions us “Don’t Measure Success Backward”. He gives us, an example, to illustrate his observation of many people who have this tendency, to measure success backward, by imitating successful people actions, after reading their so-called “success stories”.
Mr. Z was a full-time chicken plucker at the age of eight. Mr. Z is now a very wealthy and/or famous man. Therefore, if you want to become wealthy and famous, it is a good idea to be a full-time chicken plucker at the age of eight!
It may sound pretty funny ; but sometimes the laugh’s on us. Harry knows many people who think like that, openly, and still others who do so subconsciously.
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Writer’s note: In view that it is impossible to capture all insightful thoughts, interesting events and happenings throughout the Ages in one seating, it is my intention to update this post, from time to time, when there is a need.
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