Friday, 13 November 2015

The problem with self-actualisation

Motivation Theory is something that, by now, we are all familiar with, and perhaps one of the most recognisable theories to date, often being the first one mentioned when the concept of motivational theory is raised, is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

To recap the theory briefly, Abraham Maslow suggested that there are five tiers of motivation; physiological, safety, belonging, esteem and self-actualisation, with each one superseding the previous factor, until you reach self-actualisation, where all of an individual’s motivational needs are met and hence, this is when they have reached the top and have become the “best that they can be”.

I recently read an article however, which questioned the theory, (as many have done in the past I am sure). It made me wonder whether Maslow’s hierarchy that we have all gotten so comfortable with, can truly be applied to every individual.

The article from Joe Desena asks the question of whether reaching the top really leads to happiness and self-actualisation? From my interpretation I would say that aiming for self-actualisation would definitely improve the chances of becoming more content in oneself. The article instead suggests that by bettering oneself, the expectations also increase, making the self-actualisation or “ceiling”, as Mr. Desena likes to call it, even further away and harder to obtain. He also suggests that if there is a top which can be reached, then once there, there will be nothing left to feel motivated about, and thus will have nothing to work towards in order to be happy.

So you're probably thinking how is this relevant to you?

Well we can pull both good and bad points from both arguments. Firstly, it is important to have goals in the first place, with your education coming under the self-actualisation section, at the pinnacle of the hierarchy. It is therefore an essential element when it comes to getting to where you want to be.

However, it is also equally essential, according to Mr. Desena, to ensure that You have other motivators besides the ones listed in Maslow's theory. Motivators such as making others happy are not necessarily listed in the theory, but can have huge implications on the well-being of yourself.

So to summarise.

It is extremely important to set yourself targets, as you are doing when it comes to progressing and developing yourself through education, but it is also key to remember that this alone will not bring total happiness and fulfilment within your life; it is essential therefore that you try to have other motivating factors in your life.

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