You may have heard of a guy named Maslow. If you have not, he liked to organize things, especially relating to human motivation—he called it a hierarchy of need. Maslow became famous for proposing a framework on human needs/desires and how it drives behavior and growth; and people say hobbies will take you nowhere, HA!
“So, what are these needs you speak of fine sir?”
Maslow detailed 5 needs as drivers for human motivation which include; physiological needs, safety needs, belongingness and love, esteem, and self-actualization. While “controversial”, he also proposed that humans progress through these needs in stages.
So, why talk about Maslow? Well, I believe the questions he asked and the framework he developed underlie the principle of happiness. First, I must specify that I believe self-actualization heavily influences happiness, positing that the pursuit of self-actualization and the pursuit of happiness are synonymous, but the journey does not begin there. Before a man walks, he must have the desire to move and then he must know where he is going. The former is apparent, as Maslow’s work detailed, but the latter is what perplexes most and is where they spend their journey.
At the age of 10, my description of happiness was unlimited playing time, many video games, toys, and candy—and they say wisdom comes with age, pssh, this 10 year old savant was defying convention. Skipping forward to college, the elements of happiness changed; play time was replaced by Friday and Saturday night partying, video games and toys no longer interested me—women, ahh women, became my interest; I wanted money, I wanted admiration and attention from those around me. This was happiness and it was transient—I was no further along my journey of self-actualization with achievements in these areas.
Looking back, I realize my journey to self-actualization was stifled because I did not know what the end-product looked like; I did not know what it meant to be self-actualized, to be happy (remember, both are synonymous). That was what sent me on this blogging journey, to identify and reflect on what self-actualization looked like. In doing so, I came up with my own hierarchy; basic needs (safety and physiological needs under Maslow’s framework) and purpose (esteem and self-actualization under Maslow’s framework). If you are asking, “where is the love?”, you would be right, and wise, in asking—I neglected this and it took experience and loss for me to realize this.
Shout out to my fiancé, it was because of her that I revisited the concept of love and self-actualization. At this stage in my life, I have completed my schooling and all that is left for me to do is work on my vision, my purpose. This made me view the emotional component as unnecessary to self-actualization and happiness—I was walking my purpose, hence, I was moving towards self-actualization, I thought. But like I mentioned, it took experiencing and losing the “belongingness and love” that Maslow described for me to realize it’s contribution to self-actualization. I came to realize these elements of self-actualization can’t be replaced or reproduced by the other.
While I hold this true, I also believe its absence does not translate to a “worthless life”; rather, it’s presence enhances the other components and results in a richer life. I neglected this and even avoided it. An old friend gave me a beautiful quote by Marcel Proust that stated, “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” The beauty of this quote is the visual and simple emotion it evokes—makes your soul blossom; that my friends may be greater than self-actualization.
So, I leave you with this; embrace each element wholeheartedly, with joy, and unfavorably—this is my journey, I hope it helps you on yours.