Many of you are probably familiar with Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid. Maslow’s theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before an individual will desire or be motivated to move toward the secondary or higher level needs.
However, he also noted that the order in which these needs are fulfilled does not always follow this standard progression. For example, he explains that for some individuals, the need for self-respect or esteem is more important than the need for belonging. For others, the need for artistic expression may supersede even the most basic needs.
Additionally, Maslow acknowledges that many different levels of motivation are likely to be occurring in an individual simultaneously. The bottom line is that by identifying and meeting our needs, we can increase the chances of experiencing the highest levels of who we are, along with the highest levels of joy, appreciation, and love in our life.
So, let’s briefly review these relatively self-explanatory needs, and also observe the characteristics of a self-actualized person.
1. Biological and Physiological – These needs are the requirements for human survival, and if not met, the human body simply cannot continue to function. Examples are food, water, breathing etc.
2. Safety – Once the physical needs have been reasonably satisfied; the individual’s safety needs take precedence and dominate behavior. Safety needs center around protection, laws, stability, etc.
3. Belongingness and Love – As soon as physiological and safety needs have been fulfilled; the third layer of human needs involve feelings of belongingness. This would comprise the forming and maintaining of emotionally significant relationships with others.
4. Esteem – After the first three needs have been satisfied, esteem needs becomes increasingly important. These include the need for personal worth, social recognition, and accomplishment.
5. Self-Actualization – This is the highest level of needs and refers to the desire people have to achieve their full potential; seeking self-fulfillment, personal growth and peak experiences.
Maslow identified some of the key characteristics of self-actualized people to use as our guide:
Acceptance and Realism: They have realistic perceptions of themselves, others and the world around them.
Problem-centering: They are concerned with solving problems. These people are often motivated by a sense of personal responsibility and ethics.
Spontaneity: They are spontaneous in their internal thoughts and outward behavior. While they can conform to rules and social expectations, they also tend to be open and unconventional.
Autonomy and Solitude: They have the need for independence and privacy. While they enjoy the company of others, these individuals need time to focus on developing their own individual potential.
Continued Freshness of Appreciation: They tend to view the world with a continual sense of appreciation, wonder and awe. Even simple experiences continue to be a source of inspiration and pleasure.
Peak Experiences: They often have peak experiences, or moments of intense joy, wonder, awe and ecstasy. After these experiences, people feel inspired, strengthened, renewed or transformed.
Review and fulfill the hierarchy of needs above, in order to fully experience the characteristics of a self-actualized person.