Maslow studied motivation. What makes us tick? It starts with our basic needs for survival and then moves along a continuum towards what he referred to as self-actualization. Once a lower level of needs are met, we tend to move along to meeting the next higher set of needs. We tend not to focus on meeting higher level needs unless lower level needs are met.
Here are the 5 levels:
1. Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.
2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.
3. Love and belongingness needs – friendship, intimacy, affection and love, – from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships.
4. Esteem needs – achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others.
5. Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
Assuming you feel good about levels 1 and 2, you can use levels 3 through 5 to self evaluate your life and where you may need some improvement. To be fulfilled and happy, we all need to feel that we belong and that we are loved. We also need to feel a sense of value as a person. If levels 1 through 4 are being met, then we find ourselves in the realm of level 5. But what does level 5 look like?
Maslow studied people. He specifically noticed two professors who stood out. So, he studied them to understand what made them successful. The following are characteristics Maslow noted as being self-actualized qualities:
- A clear sense of what is right and just
- Dedication to some work, mission or value larger than self
- Confidence and self-respect; absence of severe self-condemnation
- The ability to be decisive
- A relative absence of inner conflict; not at war with self; personality is integrated
- A sense of humility, combined with a willingness to listen to others and learn
- High creativity, along with spontaneity, a willingness to make mistakes, openness and flexibility
- More concerned with the task or outcome than with image or ego
- The ability to maintain composure under pressure
- The ability and commitment to work very hard, yet has balance of work and play
- A sense of control over events and reactions to events
- The ability to develop long-lasting, stable, supportive, intimate relationships and friendships
- Taking pleasure in seeing others experience pleasure
- The ability to see people for who they are and to see through those who are fake and phony
- The ability to thrive alone or with others
- Tolerance of others’ shortcomings
- The ability to see reality as it is
- Having a perception and understanding that is undistorted by desires, anxieties, fears, hopes, false optimism or pessimism
- The capacity to be expressive, natural and simple
- The ability to ignore criticism, ridicule, and cultural constraints with resulting “psychological freedom”
Now, if you are like me, you are not feeling self-actualized after looking at that list! However, the truth is we all fall short of perfection. The important thing is to be working towards improvement. The self-actualized list is a great tool for us to use in evaluating ourselves and setting goals. It is important for all of us to take a periodic look at ourselves to see where we need some work. As you look back at the list, what 2 or 3 items stand out for you as needing improvement? Focus on those items and take at least one step toward your self-actualized future! And just for fun…when you see others not displaying specific items on the list, tell them to self-actualize!