Psychology of Self-Actualization


Maslow pioneered study into the bright side of human nature and positive psychology in the 1940s and so created a paradigm shifting model in his 1954 model in Motivation and Personality. Maslow’s whole new approach was based upon modeling the best specimens of people. He even did a “good humans study” and then modeled self-actualizers who he chose as fully human, mature, and psychologically healthy specimens.

What did he introduce that was so revolutionary? First, the Hierarchy of Needs model by which he detailed and separated needs into lower and higher needs. This showed that our higher needs (meta-needs and Being-cognition) is part of our biological nature.

Maslow’s Vision was Revolutionary

  • He challenged the old psychologies about human motivation asserting that people are basically good and do things simply to gratify needs, not to be bad or because they are evil
  • He showed that people will naturally and organically grow, develop, and move to maturity when given opportunities and support.
  • His “good humans study” grew into a scientific exploration of self-actualizing people who regularly have peak experiences which identified all of the key prerequisites.
  • He repeatedly showed how that we have “sold human nature short” as he applied his hierarchy of human motivation and personality to education, management, leadership, and self-actualization.
  • From his study of self-actualizers, he began detailing out the process of how we can facilitate and support self-actualization in everybody.

A Great Vision that still needs Actualized!

  • While Maslow gave us a new understanding of human “motivation” as he discerned lower and higher needs in the hierarchy, while most people know about the Hierarchy of Needs, how does that help us to self-actualize? What can we do with the Hierarchy? What practical use does that have?
  • So, while Maslow wrote five paradigm changing books and scores of articles, most of his best ideas continue to be locked away in books and an approach that’s more academic, than practical. While in his last years he became a Visiting Fellow at a company in California and sought to apply his theories to business (his Eupsychian Management, later retitled, Maslow on Management), Maslow was always at heart a college professor.
  • While Maslow was pioneering descriptions of the “bright side of human nature,” and arguing against the old instinct theories, the more practical application of how to actually unleash potentials and enable self-actualization was not very well developed.

Actualizing Maslow and his approach via new Self-Actualizing Models

  • While Maslow gave us the hierarchy of needs, the pyramid of lower and higher needs that showed levels, growth, and the biological foundation of our higher needs for knowledge, beauty, music, order, justice, etc., he left out the role of meaning and meaning-making -Semantics.
  • Yet when it comes to self-actualizing, it is meaning and meaningfulness that drives the heart and soul of this dynamic process. Therefore using the developments in psychology since Maslow, the Cognitive Psychology movement, the Neuro-Sciences, etc. we have shown precisely where Maslow missed meaning and have extended his work by recovering the role of meaning in self-actualizing.
  • Because self-actualizing is a function of meaning and performance and results from the synergy of these two dynamics, this gives us two axes from which is built the Self-Actualization Quadrants.
  • Because self-actualization is also reflected in developmental psychology, cognitive-behavioral psychology, and the “person” centered psychology of Rogers, May’s existentialism, and Frankl’s logo-therapy, we have used the Matrix Model of Neuro-Semantics to create the Self-Actualization Matrix.
  • What both Maslow detailed out in terms of characteristics of self-actualizers, Cognitive psychologist Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi worked out in his research on the experience of “flow” as the psychology of optimal experience. We have brought all of this together, with Goleman’s work on emotional intelligence, Seligman on learned optimism, and the cognitive psychologists on thinking patterns to describe The Construct, the Crucible, and the Zone of Self-Actualization.