Self-actualization is a concept that people have advocated for ages. In creating the hierarchy of need, Abraham Maslow placed the concept on the apex of his tier, as a tremendously vital element, which points out how man comes to realize the need for others after he has managed to provide for all his other superficial needs.
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Many people conform to this principle. It is even evident in contemporary music with lyrics such as “…when I grow up, I want to be famous…I want to be a movie star” (Steven 23), which reflect the mentality of most people. However, at the end of his life, Maslow made a crucial revision to his hierarchy. Sad enough, it did not capture the attention of many people. He added another tier above self-actualization, which was for ‘self transcendence’.
Whereas self-actualization is the way to go about in gaining wealth, self-transcendence is the principle to apply during the retention, utilization, and building of such wealth while still enjoying the above processes and finding reasons to continue living.
Maslow’s change of heart from self-actualization, as the highest achievement one can have, to self-transcendence was triggered by a realization that even after amassing excessive quantities of wealth, knowledge power and other desirable qualities, man does not have what it takes to live a contented life.
Instead, this is only possible if one engages actively in the fulfillment of service to someone greater than one is, or other than self. It is no longer enough to live and die as the richest man alive. Whereas this may be acceptable in one’s youth, it becomes evident that, with time, it is no longer enough just to be rich. That is when people go different ways. Some seek out fame and celebrity status, which serves as a confirmation or reaffirmation of their wealthy status.
In turn, this makes them contented, knowing that they are ahead based on most people’s standards. When the excitement of fame wanes, they seek more challenges and some venture into drugs now because they cannot seem to find any contentment in their normal livelihood or the pressure that comes with trying to keep up with society’s expectations is too much for them to handle.
While growing up, many people have but one paramount goal in their life: to become rich. They do not specify the method they intend to apply to get rich. They just set it as the destination. This vision could be counterproductive. This follows because when they are aging, they feel that their clocks are ticking. Most people will employ whatever method they deem necessary to become rich. If they become rich, without any plan on what they intended to do with their wealth, they end up becoming arrogant and prideful (Whitney 67).
They acquire a need for recognition for whatever little contribution they make. Such a person becomes petty and greedy. He/she loses grip on reality. That is why most of the world’s richest men die undignified deaths such as drug overdosing or DUI accidents. It is because somewhere along the way, they had made so much money, and they still had the potential to make more, but they lost their zeal towards life. Their driving force died.
They went on looking for other ‘interesting’ things to spend their money on. That is what happens when self-actualization is the sole goal of an individual. However, when one desires to become rich so that they can use their wealth to serve fellow human beings, thereby leave a legacy, they acquire sufficient drive to remain diligent and committed to their wealth generation and utilization endeavors (Whitney 90).
The need to transcend one’s self keeps one fueled for more growth efforts, regardless of how much one has already achieved because there will always be opportunities to provide service. This means that one will never lack the desire to learn more, generate more wealth, serve more, and outdo his / her last success.
Self-transcendence enables one to make realistic plans for the future. It puts these plans in perspective, making it even harder to lose focus. Moreover, the joy that comes with seeing the appreciation that the less fortunate have for one’s efforts keeps one going.
When a person who lived through poverty in his / her youth makes it in life and manages to create jobs for people in a similar situation as he / she was growing up, it is exceedingly gratifying for their morale. Most wealthy people who have discovered this secret are investing billions in charities and other nonprofit adventures.
Oprah Winfrey is a superb example who invested billions in an initiative to promote girl-child education in Africa with impressive results. It is also intriguing to note that most of these famous people who are seeking self-transcendence rarely get involved in public scandals, unlike their counterparts who are obsessed with fame and amassing wealth for personal benefits; they are rarely sued for engaging in inappropriate businesses, as most rap musicians appear (Steven 65).
Examples of such musicians include Clingy, Lil Wayne, and Snoop Dog, who have all served time in jail for one felony or the other. Their quest for fame and wealth to self-actualize blinds them from acting ethically.
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They involve themselves in illegal selling and possession of ammunition, shady drug smuggling deals, competitive assassination of more successful counterparts in the music industry, and the production of violent and obscene records. Others, especially politicians and first-time leaders involve themselves in shoddy get-rich-quick schemes, which ultimately end up ruining their careers and breaking up families.
Whereas it is not set in stone, it is evident that to master self-transcendence, one requires self-discipline and integrity, characteristics that one perfects by attaining sufficient education in the correct principles.
The fact that most universities and other educational institutions enjoy the benefits of a scholarship program me that is mostly usually funded by an alumni who benefitted from similar support and succeeded in life supports the principle that self-transcendence begets itself.
It is also true that the educated people in society are responsible for starting most of the existing charitable organizations. This is because they probably understand the principle of self-transcendence and they can see beyond self-actualization.
Ignorance and illiteracy perpetuate the notion of self-actualization because most of the poor people just want to get out of their poverty and the way to do so is through getting rich. Lyrics such as, “I want to be a billionaire …so …bad, buy all of the things I never had…” (Steven 65) portray the desire to attain wealthy status among the less privileged. However, a greater purpose for of the less fortunate is usually to help their ‘still incapacitated’ colleagues, and this can reap more fulfilling results.
Steven, Covey. First Things First: To Live, To Love, To Learn, To Leave a Legacy. London: Simon & Schuster, UK Ltd., 1994.
Whitney, Arthur. Self Transcendence, A Better Reason to Continue Living. Sydney: Oxford University Press, 2009.