Where do you think that you sit on the continuum?
The pyramid is separated into 5 sections, with a more general split into 3 broader categories. These are:

  1. Basic Needs.
  2. Psychological Needs.
  3. Self-Fulfilment Needs.

The odds are if you live in the Western World that you are all set for the Basic Needs. Society almost supplies them on a plate, especially in more liberal countries such as the United Kingdom with our benefits system. These are split into two sub-categories, starting with the Physiological Needs – the very basics of food, water, warmth and shelter. The things without which we cease to exist.
This leads into a far more theoretical debate of Universal Basic Income, which doubtless will come up in a future post. In broad strokes though, these are simple topics in the western world and in many cases are easily achievable. In the United Kingdom for example these are provided through our benefits system which supports those unable to work through a variety of causes, including medical conditions, child-care, sickness, infirmity and other causes of inability to work.
Then the Safety Needs follow; security from danger and predators, safety from threats which once upon a time were so much more prevalent. Thankfully we are no longer considered part of the classic food chain – due to our ability to craft we have created weapons, tools and objects that have risen us from the threat of such classic predator-prey relationships. In a civilisational context, that is because we have public services; our military, police, firefighters, medical staff and emergency response personnel stand as the sheepdogs watching over us and keeping the wolves at bay.

Then the discussion becomes that of Psychological needs, the first of which is dubbed by Mazlow that of “Belongingness and Love”. In ancient times this would have crossed over very nicely with the previous category of Safety and Security – both of the above would be provided by the tribe that you surrounded yourself with and made a life alongside (this too will be the subject of a book review in time, I’m sure!)
In the modern-day this sense of belonging is harder to find and sustain, and we seek this through a number of mediums. It is found in community sports clubs, such as Crossfit boxes and martial arts schools, in art clubs, music societies, yoga classes, cycling and running meet-up groups and social events organised around many other hobbies. Technology is a double-edged sword in modern day social practices – we can stay in contact with our friends and family from anywhere or the country or even in the world, but it consequently removes the direct human connection that was so all-important in relationship building before arguably the 1990’s.
The fourth category we come to and the second grouping within Psychological Needs is Esteem Needs, that of “prestige and feeling of accomplishment”. This is often accomplished through career in many cases, although accomplishments open to us are many and varied. One can climb a mountain, jump off a cliff, win a race, learn a skill, musical instrument or language, master a craft, paint a picture or write a song. There are many, many varieties of accomplishment and a human being has the facility to pick one or to pick multiple.
These can also be accomplished alone, or as part of a team. This links solidly with the requirements for Love and Belonging – though achievements can come about through groups of reluctant teammates, they are far more readily created through unified teams where many minds have one purpose.

Finally, and at the top of the tree, we come to the Self-Actualisation Needs.
These are the top of the hypothetical mountain. It requires first the defining, and then the actualisation of one’s full potential in whatever variety the individual deems fit. These are the Richard Branson’s, the Bob Marley’s, the Steve Jobs’ and the Van-Gogh’s of the world. That isn’t to say that the person has to be well-known, or famous… What it implies is that the individual is beyond concern with the initial 4 stages and is throwing the energy and vigour in their lives into the realisation of whatever they deem their purpose. In the case of each of these men, it is excellence in a field of their choosing.
The difficulty with this is Mazlow’s Hierarchy can be considered building blocks. It is very hard to work towards a stage without having the previous stage in place, and it is far too easy to become stuck at #3 or #4. Few people ever spend enough introspective time to set their sights on #5.
As is quoted far too oftentimes, Les Brown once said,

“Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land amongst the stars”

We should all give ourselves the chance to realise our best, whatever that may be. Self-actualisation is a life spent in pursuit of a passion, or group of passions. It is far too easy to get caught up in the hamster wheel of unimportant-yet-urgent minutiae, and get stuck in what I choose to refer to as “ostrich mode” – leaving your head buried in the sand, failing to see the potential that life exudes all around.
Happiness is tied intrinsically to growth. We are either growing, or we are stagnating – moving backward. Don’t fail to see the wood for the trees. Continue to grow, and continue to be happy.


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