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Self-actualization is having the desire which is present in everyone, to develop your potential to the full. It was the eminent psychologist Dr Abraham Maslow who put forward the five levels of human needs, the topmost of which is the self-actualization needs. The four lower levels are: physiological needs, safety needs, love needs, self-esteem needs. Once all these layers of needs are met, one arrives at the self-actualization need to achieve as much as one possibly can.

Everyone, from very privileged to deprived backgrounds, strives to attain the self-actualization level which is within reach once all the other needs are fulfilled. When their striving ends and they reach the top self-actualization level, they would have attained fully developed status with the self-realization that they are now capable of realizing their full potential. Here is where they identify the most important aim of their life and where their primary motivation lies.

The self-actualized person strives for full fulfillment of his potential in so far as his capabilities and qualifications permit. He has assessed his abilities and is realistic about what he can achieve without any self-delusion. Whatever he feels he is capable of achieving, he proceeds with all the requisite qualities – determination, persistence, confidence, integrity and others – until successful completion. He does not feel utterly daunted by the prospect of encountering difficulties and obstacles, which to him are mere challenges.

Every person can be a self-actualized person regardless of their education, experience, and social circumstances. It’s up to them to turn their inner potential into reality rather than subscribing to the belief that fate and luck play a part. Those who believe so are highly unlikely to achieve what they set out to do. People are not predestined to succeed or fail. It is up to the individuals to end in successes which are not determined by external factors but are decided from within them.

Dr Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs has strongly influenced later understanding of motivation in the workplace. Workers have their respective desires and their self-actualization has become a matter of interest and importance. Money is secondary as a motivator and the priority is towards personal development. It is up to the management to ascertain what are best in their interests and to act accordingly to motivate them to satisfy their desired needs.

Self-actualized people excel in what they do. They do much better than most people whether in earning money, having relationships, achieving success, gaining prestige, making friends, playing sports or living their lives which usually are long and happy ones. Like them, we have the inner resources for our growth. We can seek to emulate them and excel as well. But we must first have the inner desire to pass through the other levels of needs – physiological, security or safety, social, esteem – to reach self-actualization.

A self-actualized person has reached the pinnacle of his personal development. He tends to be the happiest and most fulfilled of all people.