“May He give you what your heart desires and fulfill your whole purpose” – Psalm 20:4

We are now into the seventh week of the year; 42 days have gone galloping by. What are we doing this year that is different from last year in our quest for “Happiness – a way of mind and a way of life” to quote Pastor A. R. Barnard? What are we doing about our 2007 goals, are they self-centred or do we have plans to help others or both? Are we focused on increasing our assets, are we digging ourselves out of a hole, are we community service oriented? Are we judging others or are we examining ourselves? Are we effectively using the 24 hours per day – our most important asset? Are we selfishly craving for happiness at the expense of others? What a lot of questions! If you attempt to examine them diligently and take corrective action, where necessary, He may give you

what your heart desires and fulfill your whole purpose.

I would like to share a philosophy which I think is a useful framework to guide us through this entanglement of questions – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. This is a theory in psychology that Abraham Maslow proposed in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation, which he subsequently extended to include his observations of man’s innate curiosity. His theory contends that as humans meet ‘basic needs’, they seek to satisfy successively ‘higher needs’ that occupy a set hierarchy.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging, Esteem and Self-Actualisation – is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the four lower levels are grouped together as deficiency needs associated with physiological needs, while the top level is termed growth needs associated with psychological needs. While deficiency needs must be met, growth needs are continually shaping behaviour. The basic concept is that the higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus once all the needs that are lower down in the pyramid are mainly or entirely satisfied.

The Physiological needs include the need to breathe, drink water, regulate homeostasis (the ability to regulate stability in the internal environment), eat, exercise, bodily comfort, and activity. If some needs are not fulfilled, a human’s physiological needs take the highest priority. Physiological needs can control thoughts and behaviors, and can cause people to feel sickness, pain, and discomfort.

When physiological needs are met, the need for Safety will emerge. Safety and security rank above all other desires. These include: physical security, employment, revenues and resources, moral and physiological, family, health and personal property. Sometimes the desire for safety outweighs the requirement to satisfy physiological needs completely.

After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third layer of human needs is Social. This involves emotionally-based relationships in general, such as friendship, intimacy and a supportive and communicative family.

Humans generally need to feel belonging and acceptance, whether it comes from a large social group or small social connections. They need to love and be loved by others. In the absence of these elements, many people become susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety, and depression.

According to Maslow, all humans have a need to be respected, to have self-respect, and to respect others. People need to engage themselves in order to gain recognition and have an activity or activities that give the person a sense of contribution, to feel accepted and self-value, be it in a profession or hobby. Imbalances at this level can result in low self-esteem, inferiority complexes and an inflated sense of self-importance or snobbishness.

There are two levels to Esteem needs. The lower of the levels relates to elements like fame, respect, and glory. The higher level is contingent to concepts like confidence, competence, and achievement.

Maslow believed that humans have the need to increase their intelligence and thereby chase knowledge. Cognitive needs is the expression of the natural human need to learn, explore, discover, create, and perhaps even dissect in order to get a better understanding of the world around them.

Based on Maslow’s beliefs, it is stated in the hierarchy that humans need beautiful imagery or something new and aesthetically pleasing in order to continue up towards Self-Actualization. Humans need to refresh themselves in the presence and beauty of nature while carefully absorbing and observing their surroundings to extract the beauty that the world has to offer.

Though the deficiency needs may be seen as “basic”, and can be met and neutralized (i.e. they stop being motivators in one’s life), self-actualization and transcendence are “being” or “growth needs”, i.e. they are enduring motivations or drivers of behaviour. Self-actualization is the instinctual need of humans to make the most of their abilities and to strive to be the best they can.

I believe that there is a high correlation between: education and success; taking advantage of opportunities and success; the satisfaction of Maslow’s needs and success; and between success and happiness. Those of us who have enjoyed success along the way, for whatever reason, have a responsibility to help others move up the hierarchy of needs and experience happiness. Particular attention should be paid to ensuring that all our children receive a good foundation. Then and only then would we have fulfilled our whole purpose.

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc.)

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