SincepsychologistAbrahamMaslowfirstcoined “self-actualization” in the 1950s, a lothas changed. The work of Maslow and hiscolleagues—thefoundersofHumanisticPsychology—inspiredtheHumanPotentialMovement in the 1970s. This movement latergavebirthtotheself-improvementandpersonaldevelopmentindustryweknowtoday. Since Maslow’s period, however, theterm“self-actualization”hasbecometremendouslyoverusedand misunderstood.This manifesto will help clarify the confusion toensure you’re moving towards what’s mostimportant to you.
What Made Maslow DifferentIn Maslow's era, psychology had a single-minded focus on mentalillness. Neurosis and psychosis were the central themes aspsychologists sought to understand and potentially heal mentalafflictions.But Maslow took a different approach. Instead of studying mentalillness, he asked a different question:"What does positive mental health look like?"The summary of his lifelong research into this question yielded an ideathat's still popular over 60 years later:self-actualization.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of NeedsMaslow has become well-known for identifying the basic human needsall humans share.From bottom to top:Biological or physiological needsinclude air, water, food, homeostasis, andsex.Safety needsinclude shelter, clothes, routine, and familiarity.Belonging & love needsinclude affection, connection to family, friends, andcolleagues.Esteem needsinclude external esteem like respect from others andreputation/prestige as well as internal esteem like self-respect, a high evaluationof oneself, and achievement.Self-actualization needsinclude self-growth.Most people associate Maslow's work with this "hierarchy of human needs."
Growth Needs versus Basic NeedsMaslow drew a line between people motivated by growth needs andthose driven by basic needs. All of the needs below self-actualizationare basic needs. Maslow also called themdeficiency needs.When these needs aren't being met, we feel something is missing in ourlives, leading us to experience tension and exhibit neurotic behavior.Without a roof over our heads, for example, our need for security isthreatened.Until we fulfill our basic needs, gratifying them dominates ourattention. But once we meet them, we can shift more of our attention togrowth needs. Whereas basic needs are external, growth needs areinternal. With growth needs, we're no longer motivated by what otherpeople think—family, friends, colleagues, or anyone else. Instead, we'redriven by somethingmore profoundinside of us.