This article concludes the 5-part series of needs and wants. Again, we refer to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to address the ascending order of needs and resulting motivation which is triggered at different levels. Level five is the highest order of needs. How it is addressed is an individual’s choice. Others may disagree with someone’s choice, but we should never be judgmental about one’s perception of the highest order of need which is self-actualization. After all, it is about a person’s desire for unmitigated fulfillment.
Self-actualization may be viewed as “be all you care to be.” Hopefully, a sense of internal peace accompanies this achievement. And hopefully, it will last. As we know, life is full of fleeting happiness moments. There are no guarantees for ascension to or permanence of an elevated status within the hierarchy.
Vignette: Sara Inside the Pyramid
Sara T. is a 49-year-old professor of Management. She holds a Ph.D., is tenured, earns $104,000 a year, and has a generous benefits package. She has been employed by the same university for the past 7 years. Sara enjoys teaching and does not feel overly burdened by expectations of publishing papers.
Dr. T.’s balance sheet reveals a net worth of nearly one million dollars. She is frugal, has a generous retirement plan and makes supplemental retirement account contributions. The retirement plan forecast is an accumulation of $1.2 million in today’s dollars. She is fully satisfied with meeting her definition of lower–order needs at the basic and safety levels. Social needs are met through her connections with and activities at the university. Sara is a member of a prestigious social club. She perceives herself as a welcomed colleague in all regards. Others offer reinforcement through association, friendship, and nominations for awards. Also, she does volunteer work with veterans who aspire to be entrepreneurs. Understandably, she feels good about herself and her station in life. She is a likely candidate to reach self-actualization and perhaps even self-transcendence. Sara has realized her definition of happiness.
Although Dr. T. may have ascended within Maslow’s Hierarchy, there is no guarantee that she will be so positioned for any period of time. Suppose the contract at the university enables staff and faculty reduction if programs are cut. She may be forced to seek alternative employment. If financial security is brought into question, club membership might be of nominal importance. Things change, sometimes abruptly. What was once a satisfying connection with virtually all facets of life could suddenly shift to unexpected turbulence. Negative impact with a job, or health, or relationships, in addition to other life events, can disrupt an otherwise smooth journey. Consider the abrupt mandated changes as a consequence of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Awareness and guarded optimism are valuable practices.
People are motivated on a variety of levels and for different reasons. Choices must be made, or a decision is made by default. Satisfaction of needs in an industrialized nation leans more toward satisfying wants. Are the wants of consumable products likely to outweigh the want of accumulating wealth?
The discussion of Maslow’s Hierarchy illustrates that choices are made throughout our lifetime that reflect our developed characteristics leading toward or away from self-actualization. Some choose more conservative approaches to finding satisfaction within the needs-want continuum, thus are able to please themselves and enhance wealth building.
Marketers are readily available to offer products and solutions to help us reach the lofty goal of self-actualization. Some examples are colleges, universities, publishing houses, professions, financial advisors, and a myriad of other organizations. Again, it is up to the consumer to decide on the most appropriate differentiation between need and want.
Indeed, it is a wonderful ambition and journey to actually become all you care to be!
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