“Self-actualization, in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, is the highest level of psychological development where the “actualization” of full personal potential is achieved, which occurs usually after basic bodily and ego needs have been fulfilled.” Source: (Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-actualization)
This is a concept that I use as part of my personal study into human psychology and motivation. As with all things human related it is complicated to say the least. I am explaining this from my personal experience on the matter. Below is the scale that “Abraham Maslow” used in his theory. This is a limited example of the scale. Please remember that each category has many sub categories that affect people from all walks of life on different levels.
This theory attempts to explain what the primary human needs are and that the next level cannot be fully realised unless the previous level is satisfied. A quick example: Have you ever tried to finish important work or conduct a meeting while nature calls? In that moment you are consumed by your basic immediate need. Matter of the fact is that our primary needs take over and if not satisfied you are consumed by it until that need is satisfied. Your brain automatically puts your body in peak state to satisfy your primary need until it is met. So regardless of your will power there are certain things you need in order to free up your mind and body for optimal clarity.
This takes time as it becomes a process of getting to know yourself on a very intimate level. You will need to do so to the extent that you know exactly what level each one of your personal needs must be satisfied to. It stands to argue that we need the drive of a need not fully satisfied to perform at our best. Yes, I agree with this but you still need clarity of mind to progress to the next level. Do your best to find your levels and maintain them for drive and clarity.
Once you master this, then the self-exploration can begin. This is far harder than it sounds as there is a constant internal battle to satisfy your basic needs over the goals you would like to achieve. You need to find your optimal balance and manage this according to a time scheduled for basic need satisfaction. Doing so will give you more time to focus on your goals not directly related to the basic needs. Such as greater wealth, higher social standing or just an expensive trip abroad. The reason this does not come easily is human nature. Once all our basic needs have been met we go into energy saving mode. This mode helps you relax and reset your physical and mental state for the next round of satisfying your basic needs.
Here we need to take control of our focus and give extra. This requires great focus. I have recently experimented with this primal state by doing intermediate fasting while trying to maintain a steady frame of mind under the daily requirements of work, family life and hobbies. Trust me, your basic needs run the show. The biggest struggle I had was being productive after having a meal at night. My body just automatically went into energy saving mode. One evening I forced myself to sit in front of my laptop for at least an hour and write something. It was nearly impossible. My mind did not want to maintain focus on any subject. After writing a piece I went straight to bed. The following morning I read the piece and it was as if a different person wrote it. It had no personality and was very blunt. With my limited grammatical ability I could even pick out the mistakes. Not to mention the rambling on with no meaning for the majority of the piece.
I can positively say that after testing this for myself it does carry quite some merit.
I tested all the variations of basic need deprivation and each had a negative effect of my higher thought process. This was my personal experience it will differ for others but the general idea would be the same. So back to my point, you need to satisfy your basic needs before attempting to achieve anything beyond your basic state.
There are quite a few scholars that study the concepts that apply to the “humanistic approach” to psychology. The professionals I prefer to follow are mentioned below and are still used as guidelines today. (There are a few others but these are my pick)
Self-Actualization: Maslow described self-actualization as the highest of the basic needs, or the Being-need. Maslow felt these were needs related to meaning, and doing or experiencing personally meaningful things in life.
Will-to-Meaning: Viktor Frankl believed this was the primary motivator in life, and his therapy called logotherapy helped people find meaningfulness in life.
Unconditional Positive Regard: According to Rogers, unconditional positive regard involves showing complete support and acceptance of a person no matter what that person says or does. Therapists can do this, and parents and friends can do this. People can still have boundaries and say yes and no, but an overall attitude of acceptance from a parent or friend or therapist Roger’s thought was a great gift.
I have made the following conclusion and call this my theory. Note that as always most things have been discovered and words repeated over time. I have come to this conclusion by my personal experience and study of environments that I have spent a considerable amount of time in.
I agree with all three of these gentlemen as the combination of their theories is what I experienced in my personal study of this subject. I will list my findings in point form below and use self-actualisation as my reference point.
1. This is a very personal experience with no journey being the same.
2. It is up to the person to discover this for themselves through their development process.
3. This knowledge cannot be learnt from a literal source and must be experienced.
4. In self actualisation an individual cannot understand information not personally experienced.
5. Forcing new information onto a person could lead to cognitive dissonance. Resentment, depression and even physical illness could follow.
6. Self-actualisation is a constant process of development over a person’s lifespan.
7. Self-actualisation is never fully realised as it is a process of development in action.
8. There are different self-actualisation peaks for different individuals. If one such peak is chosen as a stopping point then this would mean that the individual has reached their level of self-actualisation.
9. Even though the goal might be the same the level will always differ between individuals.
10. There are too many variables to give self-actualisation a definitive level.
Self actualisation is said to be the peak state an individual reaches when all basic needs are met and higher goals achieved. You are basically sitting on cloud nine, whatever form that might take for you. We all know so well that this experience does not last because of one simple fact. As a human we have the natural urge to become more that we currently are. No matter the level of satisfaction we attain evolution drives us to continuously improve and be better than the day before. This is where it gets real in my perspective.
You need to find yourself. How will you know when you do? I would like to say you get up one morning and just know but that might seem a bit vague. Rather you experience a level of calmness and focus. You know what you stand for and appreciate everyone for who and how they are. You start understanding that your ego is a response formed by your perception of yourself. Do not be mistaken you will still lose your temper, say the wrong thing or have a bad day but the difference is that you will realise what you are doing and make peace with the fact.
There are so many complicated solutions to simple problems. The bottom line is that you need to endeavour to be the best you and deliver it to the best of your capability. Learn, grow and adjust as many times as necessary. Self actualisation is something each of us need to endeavour to achieve.
Some of us will, some won’t and the others just don’t know.
For further reading on the subject search Self actualisation, Self Realisation, Self Transcendence. There are my sub categories but these will have a multitude of information on the subject.
This article is based on self study and personal viewpoints combined with 20 years of experience in working with people from all walks of life and mentored guidance.