It is impossible to be completely happy if you are not healthy. It is impossible to be productive if you are not healthy. Most importantly, it is impossible for you to reach your full potential, if you are not healthy. Regardless of gender or socio-ecomonic background, we all have one thing in common: a hierarchy of needs.

As described by Maslow (1954), a hierarchy of needs is a pyramid which can be divided into basic (or deficiency) needs and growth needs (cognitive, aesthetics and self-actualization). He stated that human motivation is based on people seeking fulfillment and change through personal growth. Maslow described self-actualized people as those who were fulfilled and doing all they were capable of. We understand this in other words as “reaching potential”.

If you desire to grow in any area of your life, your basic needs must be met before you can move up to the higher level of needs. Whether you aspire to achieve higher career goals, successful relationships, or personal accomplishments, the needs are the same. One must satisfy lower level basic needs before progressing on to meet higher level growth needs. Once these needs have been reasonably satisfied, one may be able to reach the highest level called self-actualization.

Problems are created and steps are taken backward in this process when the lower (more basic) needs are disrupted. For example, job loss or divorce can send someone back to the first two levels of needs that will then affect all of higher growth areas. We have seen this time and time again in our own lives as well of those around us. We get frustrated because we think we should be achieving success (many times as defined by others) however our security and survival must always come first.

Among this first level is your health. If you are not functioning physiologically at an optimal level, it affects your sense of self esteem and personal success, which in turn makes it impossible to move up the hierarchy. Most of us have our food and shelter provided, but what about sleep, medical conditions, aches and pains? These are ground floor needs! Taking care of your needs means taking care of your self mentally and physically. Only then can you begin to realize your full potential.

Where do you fit on the pyramid? Where would you like to be? Can you organize your life in such a way that you put the bottom level needs higher on the priority list? We all want to be happy, some of us want to achieve a self actualized state, however only 1 in 100 people successfully obtain and maintain the self actualized state. Why? Because American society has taught us to focus on “things as needs”.

‘What we have’ has become more important that ‘who we are’. We are more concerned with accumulating wealth and power than cultivating relationships and understanding what makes us feel secure. I could write all day on this subject, but I think it is up to each one of us to individually decide what we want and who we want to become. Then simplify life in such a way that ensures our base of support is healthy so we can grow into the self actualized individual that we all admire.

Characteristics of self-actualizers:

•  They perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty;

•  Accept themselves and others for what they are;

•  Spontaneous in thought and action;

•  Problem-centered (not self-centered);

•  Unusual sense of humor;

•  Able to look at life objectively;

•  Highly creative;

•  Resistant to enculturation, but not purposely unconventional;

•  Concerned for the welfare of humanity;

•  Capable of deep appreciation of basic life-experience;

•  Establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people;

•  Peak experiences;

•  Need for privacy;

•  Democratic attitudes;

•  Strong moral/ethical standards.

There are no perfect people, but there are people who seem to just stand out from the rest. They have the basics in place and have worked hard to live life authentically.  I think we all have that potential. It starts at the bottom. What can you do today to ensure that you physiological needs are met? You would be amazed at how quickly you can move up from there!