Day 248 - Hierarchy of Needs - Part Two.
And so I return to Maslow and his paradigm shifting ideas about people and how they get their needs met.
Today it is Level Five: Self Actualization.
What does that mean?
Well, it is kinda different for all of us. But for me, it means that we each work to become all that we can be which would include learning to live in such a way that the first four levels are met for ourselves. Holding ourselves responsible for meeting those needs and to see that our own fulfillment is not the only goal. That as we move up the pyramid, we are responsible for ensuring that others are similarly bolstered along the way. Therefore, it is not some mad race to the top, but more of a trudging forward that includes and invites others in the process. And the invitation of others is not just so that our own needs can be met. It is about seeing that the satisfaction of our own needs can only really be met when we are equally concerned that we help others along the way.
In order for us to become fully actualized humans, we have to be as concerned about others welfare as we are about our own. Otherwise, the pyramid is simply another way to stand on the backs of others on our journey toward the apex. And hasn’t there really been enough of that already?
So my final purpose in this life after I have been able to secure physiological needs, safety needs, emotional needs and esteem needs is to help others do the same. For me, this final category isn’t about me really becoming anything better...it is about me becoming all that I can be to help others. I don’t get a great life so that I can sit back and say, “wow, look at what I have done here...I have this great life. Isn’t it grand for me?” No, I get to take what I learned in the first four levels and use it to help others. The fact that that makes me happy and joyous is the by-product of right living not the be all, end all point.
For me, self actualization is the realization that all that I have gained and saved and learned and accomplished and worked on and fucked up, is to help others do the same. That is all. This right here is the most basic and fundamental best use of a life. Clutching all that I have learned and accomplished and gained to my chest and holding it to be mine and mine alone is not skillful or helpful and is, in fact, a very lonely way to live.
So all the work that I did and do in the first four levels isn’t to get me across the finish line. It is to teach me things I need to know so that I can help others that I meet along the path. The by-product of that work is that I also get a great life. The great life is the result of helping others, not the goal.
I have been supremely selfish in my life. I have used people. I have taken things that weren’t mine to take. I have refused to see other’s perspective. I have been completely stupid about a lot of things. I have gotten it wrong way more than I have gotten it right. However I have never quit. I keep trying and I am willing to share with, well anyone that cares to read this blog, just how and where and why I screw it up and how I try to fix it....every single day of my life.
As I sit in level five, my review of the work I did to get here is marred and not always pretty. I had to do some pretty awful things on my way up. But I have atoned and sacrificed and not gotten what I wanted enough along the way to see myself in my most basic and true form: selfish and self centered. Any look back shows me this one thing over and over and over again. Not really all that pretty but I can also see that as I progressed up the pyramid, I lost a lot along the way. But unlike what I thought, I lost stuff that I didn’t really need and stuff that blocked me from forward and upward progress.
I can see now that the stuff just had to fall away for me to level up so to speak. I can see that my most basic confusion in my life has been that I have been so misguided in what I thought brought happiness and what I thought brought pain. For the most part, those things have been opposite. I learn by subtraction not addition. The loss of something I thought I wanted or needed, the precursor for getting my attention. For exiting me out of being a completely self centered ass to becoming someone who cares about what is going on with you, all of you regardless of whether or not I think you are worthy, deserve it or even care about it.
I think the best use of my life is to help others. Not so that I can get higher up on the pyramid because that is the big life joke in the end...the finish line whether you lived your best life or your worse is death. Not really much of a reward...
So for me, self actualization can only and completely happen when I care about helping others to achieve a sense of balance and security in all the levels. I cannot do this if I am more concerned about my own needs. I cannot do this if I care more about me than you. I cannot do this if I am not paying attention. I cannot do this if my success or failure is forever tied to me getting over on you.
I certainly don’t do it perfectly. I am still a selfish ass more often than I would like to admit. I still screw it up. I still miss the mark. I still buy things that I think will make me happy. I still use people. I still get it wrong more often than I get it right. But I have relaxed in my journey. I no longer demand perfection from myself or from you. We can all screw it up and I can use my own screw up to help me see that it is a jagged path and we get it wrong so often so that we can fix it and then get it right. The wrong has to come first to soften us so that when we do get it right we don’t take credit and use that accomplishment to bolster our ego’s belief that we are so important.
Level five is all about me becoming the best version of me that I can...but not for myself, but for service of mankind, animal kind. Me being my best self so that I get a great life is not the goal. Me being my best self to be useful to you and others is the goal. The great life is the by-product of living in a way that others and their needs are paramount while holding the belief that I am no better or worse than anyone else on the path.
I am never going to get there...if there is a place where I have it all together and all the levels are perfectly sorted out and I can breathe easy. It is hard to walk up the pyramid. It is challenging, it is backbreaking sometimes. But what I have learned is that the long walk is the gift. It is the framework of a life well lived. Pain is the pathway to peace every single time. If I am successful of removing pain from my life, I am off the path, detoured into some false reality where I think that I am gaining ground when I am more typically mired in addictive thinking and acting.
So I will begin this day with the hope that something I have done or said is helpful to just one person, that something I can give today is meaningful to someone other than myself. I commit to this, I will seek out ways to love all that I come into contact with for fun and for free. I will see what I can do today to help my fellow sentient beings on their journey which I know will result in me having a fucking fantastic day. Namaste...