The Journey to Self-Actualization: Maslow’s Model
Life is a continuous calculation and evaluation of what is important. Given the dynamicity of contemporary life and personalities, what is important to some could be money while to others it could be companionship. Once one has identified what it is they want and start working towards it, the journey is referred to as self-realization or self-actualization. Kurt Goldstein is accredited with the conceptualization of self-actualization as the process of making the most out of one’s ability and the constant journey to fulfill one’s true potential. Maslow is connected with Goldstein as the psychologist expanded this concept by asserting that an individual can only achieve their full potential if they are assured of their affection, attachments and physiological security. Maslow’s journey of self-realization comprehensively captures what it takes and what it means to be a professional coast guard and kickboxer. Self-actualization as a kickboxer is well justified by Maslow’s eight phases of development as one has to condition their bodies in order to maintain a firm level of physical and psychological sturdiness.
Self-actualization begins in the very early stages of life. According to Maslow, psychological needs are perceived as the instigators of the motivation theory as they represent psychological drives (6). Physiological needs refer to the basic requirements for optimal survival of the physical body such as shelter, food, water, warmth, and sex (Maslow 6). Capture of these needs ascertains a good chemical balance in one’s body that in turn results in high energy levels. If the biological requirements are not met, the body is not able to trust the environment resulting in an individual stagnating in a state of high anxiety and neuroticism (Jerome 42). My physiological needs began being satisfied at a tender age in a small house in Henderson, Kentucky. Despite having a humble beginning, food, water, warmth, and shelter were constantly met. I always had a higher level of physical activity as a child given my playful nature. As a result, I developed a better balance and agility at a tender age. This was all without the knowledge of what I was to become in the near future. This lack of knowledge is perhaps why Maslow referred to this class of needs as instinctive in nature.
With the satisfaction of biological needs, then an individual moves to addressing his or her safety requirements. According to Maslow, safety needs refer to the set of actions a person needs to take in order to dominate their behavior (10). These requirements arise from a personal desire to have a predictable and organized life where all uncertainties can be controlled and are rare (Maslow 10). In organizational culture, safety needs revolve around having a complex network of norms, policies, and values that guide all people towards a standard workplace behavior (Lomas 2). I relate this phase with my late teenage years and early youth. Coming from a patriarchal home, self-independence was always emphasized prior to any other extracurricular activities such as relationships. Straight from school and at such an age, there is some sort of peer pressure to be able to cater for oneself, especially in social elements such as fashion and entertainment. Due to my rather above average physicality, I applied and landed a job at the local physical center as a lifeguard. Little did I know that the experience will benefit me later in life in another profession.
The third layer of this eight-stage development pyramid entails the need for affection and acceptance. One of the primary traits of human beings is the need for companionship. Poston refers to belonging needs as emotionally-based affiliations, such as a supportive family, sexual intimacy and casual friendships (349). Failure to meet these requirements will result in negative social behaviors such as low extraversion and feelings of guilt (Jerome 43). In a research on organizational culture, it was revealed that the absence of belonging may negate one’s feeling of autonomy or sense of having control. In essence, lack of this third layer of development may erode the benefits of the second tier. Personally, I did not actualize this layer until I moved to Los Angeles, California a few years ago. It was after my relocation to the city that I was able to establish an intimate affiliation. I did come from a supportive family and have close teammates, but it was until I had another person to care and provide for that I was able to capture a complete sense of belonging. This begs an inquiry as to whether an individual can skip one phase to another in the journey to self-realization.
Self Esteem Needs
Kickboxing entails more than power in throwing a punch or unpredictability in mobility. In order to be able to enter the ring, one has to spend countless hours working on the body and state of mind. One has to continuously engage in order to tangibly perceive a sense of contribution. This is the same assertion presented by Maslow regarding one’s self-esteem. According to the psychologist, all human beings need to have self-respect, respect for others and command respect from others (Maslow 16). If not satisfied, the needs will instigate a sense of inferiority and low agreeableness (Poston 350).
One cannot understate the importance of self-esteem in kickboxing. The sport demands that an athlete possess a broad range of qualities including speed, strength, power, balance, timing, agility and coordination. These qualities are only achieved through a strong sense of discipline, which also entails knowledge of one’s capabilities and limitations. This form of self-awareness to an extent is self-respect. Mastery of one’s body is the key to the refinement of one’s fighting qualities that in turn determine one’s success in the ring. It is common knowledge that a better success rate commands more respect from others as it denotes one’s discipline, fighting spirit and commitment to the sport. Personally, I commit a minimum of two hours for vigorous training on a daily basis.
Maslow premised that human beings have the urge to increment their intellectual capacity and are thus committed to chasing knowledge. Therefore, the psychologist described cognitive needs as the natural need to explore, discover, create and learn as a function of acquiring a better understanding of the world (Maslow 19). The need is directly connected to the urge to be open to an experience. Kickboxers are normally presented with two options, whether training is for keeping fit or for competing. Fighters are anticipated to exercise year round, but not all are expected to get ‘name-making’ title fights. Given recent researches on head concussions and their connection to contact sports, most of my close friends and family constantly ask why I fight. The answer is that apart from training, fighting is the next best way to identify what needs to be improved and how to do so. From a tender age, I always had the aspiration to have a high level of skill in martial arts. Competitive fighting denotes my commitment to chasing knowledge and increasing my intellectual capacity regarding the sport.
The aesthetic stage of development is one that I highly give importance to as it covers a part of my life that made me complete in terms of self-identity and long-term happiness. In order to continue upwards on the journey to self-actualization, human beings require something new that is aesthetically pleasing (Lomas 6). Basically, people need to rejuvenate themselves by finding beauty in nature while carefully understanding their immediate surroundings. After years on non-competitive training as an amateur, financial pressures were eroding my faith in the sport while equally increasing the emotional strain in my relationship. The news that I was to become a father was enough to spark the belief that I can succeed as a professional fighter not only for love of the sport but also for the financial rewards that come with winning. Fighting is a tough sport, but fatherhood accords a lot of visualization and esteem that bring beauty to life.
Maslow refers to this seventh stage as the instinctual need for a person to maximize on their abilities and work on becoming the best version of themselves (Maslow 21). On the other hand, Jerome refers to this need as independent and the journey towards one true calling (351). I am a father, a student and an established pro-fighter. As a father, I have the satisfied the need for my wife and child to feel loved, have shelter and feel safe. However, internally is a feeling of dissatisfaction largely attributed to the fact that I am yet to win a big professional title. There is a motivational focus on bettering my knowledge and talent in order to attain the desired high level of respect that comes with winning a professional title in kickboxing. Therefore, I am yet to achieve a feeling of generativity.
As the topmost tier of Maslow’s stages of development, self-transcendence entails spiritual needs. According to the psychologist, self-transcendence is divergent from the other tiers as it is accessible in many of the levels (Maslow 22). The assertion provides a half answer on the earlier inquiry whether an individual can skip one phase to another in the journey to self-realization. The products of the tier are feelings of integrity (Gerwith 174). Spirituality is at the core of martial art as the mind-body connection is heavily emphasized. Having a strong mental state is imperative in kickboxing that spirituality is integrated to establish all-roundedness. Spiritual practices such as meditation and yoga are part of my weekly workout routines. In order to have lighter body movements, one also needs to have a lighter heart and a clear mind.
Reflection and Conclusion
Abraham Maslow’s phases of self-development still hold true in the contemporary society. The needs theory can be applied in corporate careers and even in general life. Referencing the pyramid, it is evident that my life has followed a pre-determined path of needs that started from a tender age and continues to persist into my adulthood. As a child, a state of destitution would not have accorded me the physiological energy imperative to the establishment of control over life’s uncertainties. It was only after achieving some form of financial security that I was able to pursue meaningful intimate relationships. With the emotional affiliations came the sense of belonging and additional motivation to become a professional kickboxer. Important to note is that all people are affected by the forces of life, some which are beyond personal control. It is only when a person meets the deficits of the hierarchy that one is able to get closer to self-realization. At the most basic level, the underlying lesson is that humans are emotionally affected in each phase of the hierarchy. If the life experiences are positive and needs are being fully met, then one can excel in self-confidence that in turn establishes a stronger foundation for future life.
Gerwith, Alan. Self-fulfillment. Princeton University Press, 2009.
Jerome, Nyameh. Application of the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need Theory” Impacts and Implications on Organizational Culture, Human Resource and Employee Performance. International Journal of Business and Management Invention, vol. 2, no. 3, 2013, pp. 39-45.
Lomas, Jacob. Climbing the Needs Pyramid. SAGE Journals, vol. 13, 2013, pp. 1-6.
Maslow, Abraham. A Theory of Human Motivation. Midwest Journal Press, 2016.
Poston, Bob. Exercise in Personal Exploration: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The Surgical Technologist, vol. 8, no. 2, 2009, pp. 347-357.