Seeking a higher purpose

In 1954, American psychologist Abraham Maslow developed his now famous ‘hierarchy of needs’.  Maslow’s theory says that the needs of all human beings fit into five broad categories: physiological, safety, belonging, esteem and self-actualisation. 

Maslow argued that some needs take precedence over others.  For example, physical needs such as food and water, are the most basic needs.  When these are fulfilled, people will focus on the need for shelter and safety. 

Those of us lucky enough to live in the Western World are in an extraordinary situation – we are wealthier and healthier than the vast majority of the people on the planet. 

For example, if you have assets of more than $61,000, then you’re in the top 10 per cent of the global wealth league table. To belong to the top 1 per cent of the world’s wealthiest adults you would need more than $500,000, something that 37 million adults have achieved.

And if you can read this, then you are already ahead of more than half the world’s population, who are illiterate. 

Sadly, most of our fellow human beings will never move past phase one or two on Maslow’s hierarchy – they’ll never have the opportunity to climb to the top of the pyramid and achieve “self-actualisation”.  They’ll never have the opportunity to ask themselves “what is my life’s purpose?”

But for those of us who do, it’s important not to waste that opportunity.  Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness website has a great range of questionnaires to get you thinking about your approach to life and happiness, and perhaps put you on the path to fulfilling your highest purpose.

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