Man is a wanting animal and what he wants is more- Abraham Maslow (1908-1971)

Psychology teaches us that needs and motivation drive human behavior. Obnoxious or unacceptable behavior results from mis-directed attempt to satisfy motives which are deeply held.

The major theory on motivation and personal human achievement is attributed to one Abraham Maslow, Founder of humanistic psychology. Abraham Harold Maslow was born on 1st April 1908 in New York. A scientist and a researcher on human sexuality, he formulated the hierarchy of needs and coined the word self-actualization.

In Maslow’s, hierarchy of needs, He argues that first; it is in the nature of man to be driven by their needs and desires. Secondly, that those needs and desires evolve over time in a way that is specific and predictable. Thus, we are able to show a hierarchy or ladder of needs up which we climb through life.

The lowest need is the physiological needs which are food, shelter, clothing and sex-the requirements of healthy functioning of the body and the continuance of the species. Security appears next in Maslow’s hierarchy. This is the need to know that our world is stable and predictable, the confidence that gains made can be conserved. The denial of this need leads to tension, anxiety, fear, panic and self-absorption.

Nelson Mandela

The need to be a valued member of a group and the confirmation that others find us likeable is the third ladder in the hierarchy of Maslow’s needs. He called it social needs. Esteem needs come next in the hierarchy of needs. This is the need for recognition and prestige. The basis of self-respect knowing that we as individuals count for something.


Self-actualization appears on the top rung of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs ladder. This is the need to continuously develop in ways which are personally important to the individual. Self-actualization is only possible only if the lower needs have been sufficiently met so that they do not detract from or engross a person’s basic energies rather than organize their behavior toward tension reduction, individuals whose deficiency needs are satisfied may in fact; seek states of increased optimal tension in order to enhance their opportunities for self-actualization indeed higher needs may become as compelling as food to the hungry.

The self actualizer is an ideal, but given skill, knowledge and commitment every individual has the power to create that ideal. Maslow claimed and recent psychological research has confirmed that self actualizers are able to consistently make accurate judgments about themselves and others .It is argued that  the self actualizer has been blessed with a greater than normal ability to recognize the realities of life and to avoid wasting effort in trying to change the unchangeable.

Winston Churchill

Self actualizers are prone to avoid emotional involvement in issues and are able to concentrate to an abnormal degree to get things done. They also demonstrate a strong urge to be of service to mankind. Their concern for people does not by any means make them easy to get along with as they demand a great deal of themselves and others and are readily moved to disgust with those that whose principles are elastic.


From the above descriptions it can be seen that the picture drawn of   the self-actualized person is a composite. Arguably, the description does NOT imply perfection but rather a higher level of functioning.

It has been argued in some academic circles that only about 2% of the world population attains and maintains the self-actualizing mode. The lord Buddha, Jesus Christ, the prophet Mohamed, In modern times the names of Eleanor Roosevelt, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, John Paul 11, Winston Churchill, Bill Clinton and even maybe Cardinal Maurice Otunga,

The personalities mentioned all seem to be in the top league of human success- But still they are many unsung heroes in our communities who have in their own way attained the status. They are rarely noticed -their modesty would not allow them- but indeed they exist and are the pillars of each society.

Do strive to actualize.

Written by Elizabeth Kiilu


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