Cracking the Code to a Fulfilled Life: Unlocking the Hidden Chamber in Maslow’s Motivational Pyramid of Needs

What if everything you’ve aspired towards as an actualized person turned out to be an incomplete life objective?

Everyone knows that Abraham Maslow created a hierarchy of human needs, with self-acutalization at the apex. Right?

But here’s the thing. Later in life he began to refine his thinking and eventually placed self-transcendence as a motivational step on top of self-actualization.

Think about it! Your personal positioning is no longer the pinnacle of your life’s journey. This is tantamount to discovering the world is not flat!!!

It has far reaching consequences for the meaning of life, as well as how you view altruism and wisdom.

Let’s take a step back. Way back to 1943 when Maslow crystallised his initial motivational theory using the following logic:

“…man lives by bread alone – when there is no bread. But what happens to man’s desires when there is plenty of bread and when his belly is chronically filled? At once other (and higher) needs emerge and these…dominate the organism…human needs are organised into a hierarchy of relative prepotency.

He set out five motivational levels and provided a description of a person at each level:

5 Self-actualizationseeks fulfilment of personal potential.

4 Esteem needsseeks esteem through recognition or achievement.

3 Belongingness and love needsseeks affiliation with a group.

2 Safety needsseeks security through order and law.

1 Physiological (survival needs)seeks to obtain the basic necessities of life.

In the late 60’s, Maslow added a sixth motivational level:

6 Self-transcendenceseeks to further a cause beyond the self and to experience a communion beyond the boundaries of the self through a peak experience.

By ‘beyond the self’ he meant service to others, devotion to an ideal or a cause. He also included a potential desire to be united with that is perceived as transcendent or divine. A ‘peak experience’ may involve mystical experiences and experiences with nature, aesthetic experiences, sexual experiences or transpersonal experiences in which a person experiences a sense of identity that transcends or extends beyond the personal self.

He believed there was a special cognitive ability at work when transcendence was at play and he called this “Being-cognition”. He saw the “goal of identity (self-actualization) to be simultaneously an end-goal in itself, and also a transitional goal, a rite of passage, a step along the path to the transcendence of identity.

While Maslow crystallised a linear logical progression from one need to the next, he was aware that some people were able to jump from any level to self-transcendence.

Importantly for our modern day self-obsessed society, he noted that people who are struggling to gain higher levels and are striving more for self-transcendence than self-actualisation are better off than those who have arrived at self-actualisation and, seeing this as the pinnacle of motivational needs, are resting on their laurels:

The ones who are struggling and reaching upward really have a better prognosis than the ones who rest perfectly content at the self-actualisation level.

Victor Frankl, the psychotherapist, transcends Maslow’s hierarchy. Interred in a Nazi concentration camp Frankly experienced severe deprivation of every type imaginable except one: he maintained his quest for meaning. In doing so he jumped across the entire motivational hierarchy and found the bliss and joy of self-transcendence. His bestselling book, Man’s Search for Meaning is a must read.

 

Why is this important for you?

Firstly, beware of blindly following constructs and paths created by others. They may be incomplete, they may be censored (the American Psychology Association allegedly tried to muzzle Maslow’s theory on self-transcendence). Chart your own path, feel what works for you and resonates within you, not an an ego level, but deep within amongst the quiet soulful spaces of your being.

Secondly, find ways to transcend your selfish needs and wants and focus on finding meaning by rising above your self. Look for ways to be of service to others. Set self-transcendent goals that enhance and amplify your purpose in life.

If you want to delve more into Maslow’s self-transcendence theme and especially how this plays out in business I recommend Chip Conley’s Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo From Maslow.

How Mindful Leadership Can Heal Our World

Mindfulness is at the forefront of the ‘science of the human mind and heart’: it has helped people deal with chronic pain; it has eased the anxiety of veterans dealing with post traumatic stress.

Mindful stress reduction programs are mushrooming in our classrooms and across our companies, but Jon Kabat-Zinn’s message is that it urgently needs to be harnessed in the most ambitious way yet: it needs to challenge the way the world is run and he wants to inject mindfulness into global politics.

Called the godfather of modern mindfulness in a recent piece in The Guardian, he says that: “People are losing their minds. That is what we need to wake up to.”

His current message is that mindfulness could change the world. He “vibrates with an urgent belief that meditation is the ‘radical act of love and sanity’ we need in the age of” [pick your modern woe – political, environmental, health or disaster-related].

Mindfulness is not some wishy washy fad. It works. It is powerful. As the Guardian article points out, if you need proof just ask NBA basketball champions, the Golden State Warriors. Mindfulness is now one of the team’s core values.

Jon’s concerns today echo his words from 1969, “We are approaching a critical unique point in history. We are approaching an ego disaster of major proportions – overpopulation, pollution of every conceivable kind including mental.”

His aim is to help political leaders “maintain a degree of sanity and recognition of the fears and concerns of those who do not see the world the way we do. The temptation is to fall into camps where you dehumanise the other, and no matter what they do, they are wrong, and no matter what we do, we are right.”

“The human mind, when it doesn’t do the work of mindfulness, winds up becoming a prisoner of its myopic perspectives that puts ‘me’ above everything else,” he says. “We are so caught up in the dualistic perspectives of ‘us’ and ‘them’. But ultimately there is no ‘them’. That’s what we need to wake up to.”

We are at a “pivotal moment for our species to come to our senses … mobilising in the mainstream world … the power of mindfulness”.

This is a powerful message and one all leaders and aspiring leaders should take heed of. As I point out in my book, Fierce Reinvention:

The only way we can make a difference and start healing ourselves and our world is to take personal responsibility for our actions, and to live in the now by mindfully and purposefully focusing on the present moment as it unfolds, without dwelling on what we have done or dream of doing. It is up to each and every one of us to step up, take more responsibility and assume a higher level of leadership.

 

 

Nothing Is Forever: Embracing Death Will Help You Become Greater and Happier

I grew up among sickness and death. My father was a veterinary surgeon, and I’d accompany him on farm visits and regularly visit his animal hospital.vet visiting a farmBut I noticed that our relationship with death was different when it came to people. The adults didn’t talk much with us children about the passing of a family member. And when my sister was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of six, we were shunned by many former friends in the community.

Death is taboo, an obsessive morbidity that can’t be healthy for us—or so our culture seems to say. It’s OK to bring it up briefly when someone we know has died, and we recognize grieving, but not for too long. For a few weeks after a loved one dies, we’re offered condolences. We respond with a polite “Thanks,” and then the topic of conversation quickly moves on.

Let’s make impermanence our friend


But death is all around us. By denying aging, death, impermanence and sickness, we set ourselves up for a life of fear and reactivity, and a meanness of spirit. When we do break through the death barrier, we find that we relax into our lives and our place in the universe. We pull back from the acquisitive, busy, controlling mentality that formerly held death and our fear of it at bay. We feel a wave of relief wash over us, and we shift into a more honest and real relationship with ourselves and the people around us. We become more present, more aware and more compassionate.

By denying aging, death, impermanence and sickness, we set ourselves up for a life of fear and reactivity, and a meanness of spirit.

In society, we often measure success by what we own and what we do. So, at a young age, we start to acquire assets: watches, cars, jewellery, property. We also allow our workplace to define us. And we struggle when all this stuff is taken away from us due to happenstance, ill health and ultimately, death. We grieve the loss, and rue how impermanent life is, but these feelings often come too late to give us much comfort.

We’d be far better off making impermanence our friend and death our mentor at a young age, by creating a daily practice of recognizing that nothing is forever. This daily practice could include the following three steps:

  • Reflect on your health and remind yourself that it’s in our nature to become sick.
  • Reflect on your life and remind yourself that it’s in our nature to die.
  • Reflect on what you have and remind yourself that everything will eventually become separated from you.

Instead of being shocked when something departs our world, it’s best that we instead recognize the loss as natural and wish that person, relationship or thing well on its journey.

My father’s gift to me


Wrapped giftMy father was always strongly independent. And yet, as his cancer spread, he became weaker and more reliant on others. Through his realization that he wasn’t in control—and perhaps never had been, in his life—he was giving me the gift of a stronger perception of impermanence while allowing me to connect with and care for him more intimately.

When my father was in the final few weeks of his battle with cancer, he turned to me one morning and asked, “What do other people do?”

“Do you mean other people in your situation?”

He nodded.

“Does it really matter what they do? You need to dance to your own tune and not worry about what is a socially acceptable way to die. It’s your time. There’s no right or wrong way.”

It was hard hearing myself say that. This was my father. This was the toughest man I’d ever met.

“All I ask is that you keep breathing. Relax into this part of your journey and breathe. Don’t let social pressure or fear control your behaviour.”

Life is a series of unknown moments


While it’s useful to create a practice to help us deal with our own death, this is no guarantee of how we’ll face it when the time comes, nor will being prepared necessarily reduce the anguish for those around us or lead us to dying in a serene state.

Life is a series of unknown moments that are strung together by our minds to create a narrative. What’s important to remember is that each and every moment is not only unknown, but unknowable. Our death is but one such moment. Contemplate that, explore the unknown, become comfortable with infinite unknowables, and your fear of death and dying well will diminish. Replace your anxious mind with a curious mind.

Building a strong practice of meditation is particularly helpful for creating a heightened level of comfort with the unknown. In meditation, we release our biases and preconceptions and let every moment arrive abundantly unknown.

Death can teach us so much about living life to its fullest—without delay, without fear and without masks—so do your best to let yourself embrace it.

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This post was first published on The Mindful Word in November 2017.

image: 1. Sterllng College via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)  2. Pixabay

How to Determine What You Really Want

You can learn so much about who you are by enquiring into your desires and dreams. You are what makes you happy.

If you don’t know what makes you happy, if you wrongly determine what your needs and wants are, you will be out of alignment and you will invoke suffering in your life.

This is what makes the practice of self-inquiry so important as the first step on the path to achieving true greatness. Once you truly know what you need and want at a soul level, you can start taking steps to attain these things.

Enlightened with this knowledge you will be emboldened to choose the path less travelled, take on more risk, embrace fear and uncertainty and unshackle yourself from unnecessary suffering.

This leads to a win win: once you are on the pathway to happiness and fulfilment you can do the same for others; by being positive for yourself, you become positive for others; knowing your purpose you become more aligned with others and reduce conflict in your life.

What is it that you really want at the deepest level? Fundamentally, in your soul of souls the answer is very, very simple: you want love (you want to be loved and you want to love).

But the challenge for so many of us is that we are fearful of what love could bring: we are fearful of what it has brought us before; we are fearful of what we have seen it bring to others (heartbreak, pain and rejection); love has wounded me.

There is hope though. First you need to accept that there is no difference between love for yourself and love for others: there is only love. And secondly, you need to realise that love is abundant, that love has no limitations in its giving or receiving.

Accepting these two precepts, you will lower the barriers to loving yourself and loving others unreservedly, unconditionally and with no restrictions.

Give it a try, you will be surprised at the results.

How to Meditate More Self-Awareness

This is Day Twenty Nine in the 30 Days of Reinvention Video Series [#30DaysReinvention].

Connect to a mindful awareness of your feelings at both a mental and physical level with this guided meditation.

How to be Happier

This is Day Twenty Two in the 30 Days of Reinvention Video Series [#30DaysReinvention].

Live more in the now.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Hey, it’s Rand,

We all want to be successful and happy, we all want to enjoy doing a great job, yet for the vast majority of people these remain amongst our most elusive goals.

 We flit between moments of illusory happiness and moments of dulling pain, glimpsing true joy in the eyes of others, yet very rarely in our own.

Overextension has become the norm: we are always on; always chasing deadlines; always checking in.

Even though happiness can feel ephemeral and elusive, there is a simple formula you can apply to increase the amount of time you are happy:

happiness is living in the now + being resilient

 Existing in the now, we are more attentive, engaged and at our happiest.

What can you do to increase you now time?

What can you do to exist more in the now?

Firstly, you can minimise the potential for distractions: by keeping an uncluttered workspace; by placing your mobile phone on silent and, while you are wanting to focus, by removing any form of email or social notification and abstaining from accessing any form of social media.

Secondly you can create more focus time by allocating  90 minute calendar slots to progressing your priority projects and then sticking to them.

Give each task your full attention and notice when your mind wanders, acknowledge that intruding thought, and return your mind to the task at hand.

And thirdly you can build a now practice.

 The more you practice being present, in the now, the better you will become at achieving a depth of focus.

As you build a regular practice of being in the now you will start to notice your compulsions to quickly check your email and your social media feed become weaker, you will start to notice that intruding thoughts won’t be as loud and they will arrive  less often and with less fanfare, and you will more easily be able to shuffle them on and stay focused.

When you find yourself at this point you will know that you have strengthened your ‘now’ practice.

Want to Exist in the Now, Be Happy and Less Stressed?

As revealed in my new book, Fierce Reinvention, there are three things you can do to increase your ‘now’ time.

Now time is good for you because it raises your happiness levels, helps you to de-stress and decreases the amount of negative chatter in your mind.

So let’s get started:

  1. Minimize the potential for distractions

Perhaps unsurprisingly, you can minimize the potential for distractions by keeping an uncluttered workspace, placing your mobile phone on silent and, while you are wanting to focus, removing any form of email or social notification and abstaining from accessing any form of social media.

  1. Create focus time

No doubt about it, you can create focus time by allocating calendar slots for progressing your prioritized projects and then sticking to them. Within these 90-minute slots make sure to take a 10-minute break mid way to stretch, look at the horizon and breathe in the world around you.

Give the task your full attention and notice when your mind wanders. Acknowledge the intruding thought and gently, but fiercely return your mind to the task at hand.

  1. Build a “now” practice

Wham! There is no end point you are trying to get to when practicing living in the now. It is all about building up to a regular practice of now-related behaviors.

And boom! You’re there: the more you practice being present, in the now, the better you will become at achieving this depth of focus.

The result? You may also start to notice the compulsions to ‘quickly check’ your email or your social media feed become weaker. As your practice grows the intruding thoughts won’t be as loud and they will arrive less often and with less fanfare, and you will easily be able to shuffle them on and stay focused. This indicates that you are positively shifting your behavior and strengthening your ‘now’ practice.

Taken from my new book, Fierce Reinvention: A Guide to Harnessing Your Superpowers for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Success ($11.99 digital, $15.99 print (USD), October 2017) is available from Amazon.

How to Find Your Soul Voice

This is Day Twenty One in the 30 Days of Reinvention Video Series [#30DaysReinvention].

Break the vicious cycle of busyness and delayed joy.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Hey it’s Rand,

It can take months, even years to reinvent yourself.

The journey usually starts with a sense of the collapse of your ego structure.

Something much deeper within you seeks to voice itself. Think of this as your soul voice.

At this point you begin to recalibrate the structures that surround you. To align with your soul voice.

You may need to change:

  • your workplace
  • your community
  • your activities.

The catalyst for starting this journey may be a profound feeling of apathy; it may be a feeling of anger or even isolation.

Whatever it is that signals the breaking of the vicious cycle of busyness and delayed joy for you, you should welcome it with open arms.

My near death experience broke my vicious cycle: I still get goose bumps thinking about it; I was able to still my busy mind and focus inward; I peeled back layer upon layer, until all that remained was my inner voice; with constant exercise it became stronger, and as it did I became calmer and more attuned to the universe. For the first time, pure joy entered my life.

Be aware that the journey of reinvention can be a painful time, filled with confusion and fear; repressed feelings can flood into your consciousness; moments of uncertainty about the path forward can hinder your progress.

But it is such a worthwhile journey. Instead of being filled with your own joyless noise, you will begin to listen at a deeper level. And you will start to hear what the people around you are really saying.

Invest the time to determine what excites you; invest the time to determine what delivers you real meaning; work on that the rest of your life.

This work’s true value is fulfilment and inner joy. This work is priceless.

 

How to Deal With the Dark Side of Success

This is Day Twenty in the 30 Days of Reinvention Video Series [#30DaysReinvention].

Avoid the depressing effect of success by setting off on a meaningful quest and tackling your triggers.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Hey it’s Rand,

Success can come with a dark side: successful people are more prone to depression and loneliness; success can act as a depressogen, causing depression.

Why is success such a lonely place?

Once we are successful, the Expectations don’t stop. They get higher.

This is true for our expectations and for the expectations placed on us by others.

Once we are successful the stakes get higher. There can be so much more at stake: there can be so many more people reliant on our continued success.

At any given time you are only ever a heartbeat away from failure, and the press love a rise and fall story.

Subconsciously, you may see or read of others who have fallen from grace and the pressure on you mounts up.

What can you do to deal with the dark side of success?

The first thing you can do is to embark on quest-centred therapy.

Figure out something you want to achieve, for example, being at peace with yourself. And then set off on a quest to achieve your objective. As you go, mark your journey and your progress with small wins.

Each of these wins will stave off the darkness in small amounts at first, but cumulatively the process of being involved with a quest that has meaning for you will help you deal with the dark side.

Secondly, instead of avoiding the dark times, explore them by delving into your past and present. Confront the fear wrapped in those dark moments and this will lead you to the third activity – tackling your negative triggers.

Sometimes things happen in our lives that for most people would be viewed as slightly or somewhat negative, but for some reason we view them as off the charts negative.

These are your negative triggers and when they are sparked they can send you into a downward spiral of negativity that can impact your entire life.

By exploring your dark side you become more aware of these triggers and  what sparks them off. Your aim should be to tackle them  as early as possible. Preferably before they start having an impact.

How to Unleash Your Potential

Think about this for a moment. When we are young we dream impossible dreams, but as we get older these can be all but knocked out of us:  perhaps by societally induced constraints; perhaps by our parents’ ambitions for us, perhaps by our peer group’s limiting beliefs, perhaps by our inherited dogma, or perhaps by our upbringing.

You know the score: as we hit failures, feel pushed outside our comfort zone, and get older, we start to develop a series of self-limitations that can hold us back from using even more.

Sadly, we might believe we’ve missed the boat, that we’re not capable enough, or don’t have the right personality or social set to attain success.

Don’t worry. There’s a solution. The good news is that we are all born with the powers we need to achieve our absolute potential.

What if I could show you how to be fierce and harness your super powers to reinvent your life, and through them, achieve your absolute potential, as if born again, without constraints?

Would you be in?

Let me lead you through my new book, Fierce Reinvention: A Guide to Harnessing Your Superpowers for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Success ($11.99 digital, $15.99 print (USD), October 2017), which is available from Amazon.