Happiness For Dummies
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If you believe yourself to be an unhappy person, consider these stages of self-actualization and what you may be missing to make a happy life. According to psychologist Abraham Maslow, a forerunner of the positive psychology movement, if you’re self-confident, enjoy solitude, you serve the greater good, have a keen sense of humor, and aren’t afraid to be creative and unique in your approach to life, you’re a self-actualized person.

Maslow said that happiness comes from satisfying a hierarchy of needs in an orderly manner. He argued that you experience happiness at each of five levels of self-actualization:

  • Level I: The first level of self-actualization has to do with meeting your basic survival needs — air, water, food, and sleep. At this level, happiness is more about having something to eat than it is about tender, loving care.

  • Level II: The second level of self-actualization has to do with safety and can include everything from a safe neighborhood to a financial safety net that comes from having a supportive family or by working hard to put aside money for your retirement years.

  • Level III: The next level involves a sense of belonging — that is, feeling loved and needed by others.

  • Level IV: The fourth level has to do with self-esteem. Do you feel like you’re respected and appreciated by others? Do you like and respect yourself?

  • Level V: The final level Maslow calls self-actualization. In essence, you’re there, you’ve arrived, you’ve reached your full potential, and you are your happiest, most unique, most creative self. Classic examples of self-actualized people include Thomas Jefferson, Florence Nightingale, Albert Schweitzer, Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Mother Teresa.

Having satisfied each level of need/motivation, you then move on to the next all the way to the “peak” of what life has to offer.

So, ask yourself: How satisfied am I as far as biological needs, safety, love, self-esteem, and creativity goes? You may be more self-actualized than you know.

About This Article

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About the book author:

W. Doyle Gentry, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, a distinguished Fellow in the American Psychological Association, and the Founding Editor of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

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