Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Finding Self Actualisation

In leadership theory, you will probably have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and finding self actualisation. Maslow estimated that only two percent of people reach the stage in life which he describes as self actualisation. This is when they have reached their full potential as an individual.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and Finding Self Actualisation

Abraham Maslow developed a theory of the aspects in a person’s life which motivates them to succeed. He developed a pyramid with five stages called the ‘hierarchy of needs’. The base of the pyramid describes the most basic needs which motivate people.

Each higher stage of the pyramid shows the level of needs that can be achieved once the needs of the stage below have been met. Once all stages of the pyramid have been fulfilled, an individual can reach the highest level which is self actualisation.

The original five levels of the Maslow pyramid

The original pyramid diagram designed by Maslow shows five stages in the hierarchy of needs. The basic needs include physiological needs along with safety needs. These basic needs are the primary objective for each individual. These are the first two stages in the pyramid.

Biological and Physiological needs

The Biological and Physiological needs include; food, drink, air, warmth, shelter, sex, sleep.

Safety needs

Our Safety needs include; security, protection from elements, law, order, freedom from fear, stability.

Love and Belongingness needs

Our Love and Belongingness needs include; friendship, affection, intimacy and love. This includes relationships developed at work as well as amongst family, friends and romantic relationships.

Esteem needs

Our Esteem needs include; achievement, respect from others, mastery, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, independence.

Self-Actualisation needs

Our Self-Actualisation needs include; seeking personal growth, self-fulfilment, realising personal potential, and peak experiences.

A person is motivated to achieve these basic needs before they can progress to the next stage. The basic needs are the factors which keep us alive such as food, shelter and sleep.

The psychological needs include the next two stages in the pyramid. These are Belongingness and Esteem requirements. The psychological needs include seeking intimate friendships and a sense of accomplishment in the work that we do.

Only once these stages have been accomplished will a person be prepared for attaining their self fulfilment needs. This highest stage in the pyramid is where a person is able to achieve their full potential. This stage is known as self-actualisation.

Extended hierarchy of needs

The hierarchy of needs pyramid was later adopted and expanded to include three further stages. The additional stages are cognitive needs, Aesthetic needs and a stage higher than Self-Actualisation, called Transcendence.

The cognitive needs of a person explore their knowledge and understanding. A person trying to fulfil a cognitive need will be motivated by exploration and curiosity.

A person seeking aesthetic needs will be motivated towards seeking beauty in their life. This includes appreciating the aesthetic qualities and balance of their surroundings.

Transcendence is the level that one can develop following their self actualisation. During transcendence a person can focus on helping others achieve self-actualisation.

What is Self actualisation?

Self-actualisation comes once a person has achieved personal growth and fulfillment in their life goals. A self-actualised person is able to focus on achieving all that they are capable of.

Maslow focused on the positive aspects of personal development to discover the stages that a self-actualised person goes through to get to that point. By examining human potential and the characteristics of successful people, Maslow’s theory offers a set of goals to master throughout a fulfilled life.

Once a person reaches the point of self-actualisation, they will begin to experience life as peak experiences. At this stage life experience is encountered as euphoric and joyful.

Self-actualisation is not a final state of perfection but a continued process of becoming the best that you can.

Each person will have their own personal route to self-actualisation. Self-actualisation in one person may be a sporting achievement, or academic for another. The areas where someone can achieve self actualisation include within a corporation, creating literature, works of art or within the classroom.

Maslow in the workplace

The Maslow hierarchy of needs concludes that the needs at the bottom of the pyramid need to be provided for in order that a person is able to climb to the next step.

The deficiency needs

The deficiency needs are the needs of a person to be physiologically secure and feel a sense of safety.

In the workplace, Maslow’s theory suggests that managers are responsible for meeting the deficiency needs of their employees. The deficiency needs cover the basic requirements of the worker.

This is generally maintained by offering a safe environment and a wage to pay for their basic housing, clothing and food requirements. This also includes a feeling of economic, psychological and physical security.

Therefore, working with the threat of layoffs can prevent a person from developing their higher needs. A continued lack of job security will cause a burn out or a worker to seek more secure employment.

  • Economic Security: These include wages and salary, medical benefits, retirement benefits alongside other fringe benefits.
  • Psychological Security: These include managing employee’s problems effectively, ensuring stability and providing agreeable job descriptions.
  • Physical Security: These include periods of rest, comfortable work conditions and adequate heating and ventilation.

The growth needs

The growth needs are those that enable improved self-esteem and self actualisation. An employer should be striving to create a healthy work environment which enables the workers to develop their potential effectively.

If employees felt as though their workplace was unable to meet their growth needs, it leads to an increase in frustration. A frustrated workforce results in lower performance, a lack of job satisfaction and a higher rate of staff leaving the employment.

Employees needs will vary, but by remaining attentive to the requirements of the workers, an employer will appear more supportive, considerate and concerned with their welfare.

  • A sense of Belonging: This can be achieved by creating a positive team spirit which includes participation and periodic praise of their work. Social interaction should also be encouraged with the chance to take part in outside social activities.
  • Improving Self-esteem: Improving self-esteem can be achieved by providing adequate training and encouraging participation. Responsibilities should be delegated and job roles should be challenging. Approval, awards and praise should be provided for achievements.
  • Encouraging Self-actualisation: Self-actualisation should be encouraged by providing additional training to improve skills while also encouraging advanced challenges and creative thinking.

Are you self-actualised

We are all motivated by our needs. According to the Maslow hierarchy of needs, once our basic needs have been met, we can begin to work towards self actualisation.

Self actualisation is a continuing process aimed at reaching our full potential as individuals. There are some common attributes that a self actualised person will demonstrate.

Follow this link to complete this test to discover if you are a self actualised person.

  • Objective judgment: you will have a realistic sense of reality and not think subjectively.
  • Problem solving: When faced with a challenge, you can challenge yourself to overcome it rather than seeing them as problems that you avoid or complain about.
  • Comfortable with yourself: You do not need to be surrounded by others and are happy in your own company.
  • Independent thinking: You will be able to form your own opinions based on experience and judgement without seeking the cultural view from your environment.
  • Non-conformist: The influence of the group mentality does not affect your views or material aspirations.
  • Culturally broad outlook: You will accept and find positivity within all cultures ore lifestyles. Your views on people will be without discrimination and fair to all.
  • Humanitarian: You will be compassionate and wish to help within a social community.
  • Accepting of all: You will not see the differences in people as faults and not wish to change people.
  • Comfortable in your own skin: You will overlook any unusual personality traits that you have and feel comfortable as you are.
  • Seek meaningful friendship: You will choose to have deep friendships with a small number of people instead of a large number of acquaintances which you interact with on a surface level only.
  • Non derogatory humour: you will not find it appropriate to laugh at the expense of others. Instead your humour will be directed at the self or the human condition.
  • True to yourself: You value your own natural personality and do not try to present yourself how you expect others to favour.
  • A broad interest: You enjoy a wide range of interests. You can become excited about everyday activities as much as with larger topics.
  • Creative thinking: You will always seek a new approach to a problem. You remain creative and inventive in your work and play.
  • Seek meaningful experience: You will enjoy heightened activities which leave a lasting impression.

Follow this link to read more about Maslow and the hierarchy of needs.


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