American psychologist Abraham Maslow introduced his concept of a hierarchy of needs in his 1943 paper – A Theory of Human Motivation. This hierarchy suggests that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other needs. The principle of the Need hierarchy is reflected in most motivational schemes – consciously or unconsciously.
While the Maslow’s Need hierarchy model is quite explicit it is the interpretation of the highest level that I find fascinating.
The first four levels (lower four) are termed as deficiency or D needs. If they are not fulfilled you feel uneasy and
desire to fill them. However when they are fulfilled they cease to affect you or motivate you. This is because you feel only their lack. Maslow believed that these needs are similar to instincts and play a major role in motivating behavior.
Maslow places self actualization at the highest level. At this level it is not the needs but something much higher. We could call it a state of being. Self-actualization needs are beyond the D needs and known as ‘being values’. When these get fulfilled they don’t go away – but continue to inspire you onwards to infinite levels. This is the subtle level and peak experience – the realization of human potential.
Unfortunately most of us are so busy and always in a hurry that we don’t feel the lack of self-actualization. And therefore we don’t feel its need to be fulfilled. So we don’t even know what we are missing.
A few of Maslow’s 14 values that self actualized people may emanate are: harmony, playfulness (humor, exuberance), simplicity, beauty, meaning, effortlessness (lack of strain), wholeness (unity, oneness), goodness, uniqueness, truth.
Reaching this level is a journey not a goal. It is the quest or लक्ष्य of our life. People who are at this level appear to have
realized the purpose and meaning of their lives. Though Maslow observed the behavior of Abraham Lincoln, Einstein, Helen Keller and few others self-actualization is not restricted only to the high-profile and eminent people; you don’t have to be old or famous to self-actualize. Even ordinary people may reach this high level. You can easily identify them by their calming, childlike and radiant aura.
The good news is that many from the younger generation have embarked on this journey consciously with full awareness. Their responses are spontaneous and effortless – creative and energetic.
I feel the deeper meaning of self actualization is best understood through the profound Chinese quote below –
The Taoist sage has no ambitions, therefore he can never fail. He who never fails always succeeds. And he who always succeeds is all- powerful.
Lao Tsu taught that all straining, all striving are not only vain but counterproductive. It means not to literally do nothing, but to discern and follow the natural forces — to follow and shape the flow of events and not to pit oneself against the natural order of things.
So there is a hope and a chance for everyone to make each day a joyful and productive experience?