Motivation and Personality

by Abraham Maslow | Harper Collins © 1987 · 193 pages

Abraham Maslow tells us, "What one can be, one must be!" (OMG I love that.) He was a 20th century humanistic psychologist who came up with the hierarchy of needs and studied the most exceptional people of his era. In this Note, we'll explore some of the Big Ideas on how we can be all that we're destined to be and look at some of the characteristics of those self-actualizing human beings who're rockin' it.

“What human beings can be, they must be.”

~ Abraham Maslow from Motivation and Personality

Abraham Maslow. The guy’s a rock star.

A 20th century humanistic psychologist to whom we owe thanks for the advent of the modern trend in Positive Psychology, Maslow coined the phrase “the self-actualizing individual” and developed his framework of a “hierarchy of needs” we ascend as we evolve in our hero’s journeys.

In my spiritual family tree, he occupies the great-grandfather slot (with Ralph Waldo Emerson in the Great-Great+ Grandfather slot and Joseph Campbell as the Granddaddy and a host of brilliant guys occupying the spiritual daddy seat :).

I love the guy. In fact, his phrase “What one *can* be, one *must* be!” captures my ethos in life more than any other.

Think about that: What you CAN be, you MUST be. There is, in Maslow’s language, a NEED you have to self-actualize—to live at your highest potential and to express your latent potentialities. If you don’t fulfill this need, it’s like depriving your soul of oxygen. Although you (may not) gasp as noticeably as you would if your more basic need of physical oxygen were deprived, you WILL experience equally (albeit more subtle) painful symptoms of angst, anxiety, depression and all that (which, of course, are often medicated with pills, TV, alcohol, complaining, asinine conversations, etc. :).

Alrighty. So, in this Note, we’re going to focus on one particular chapter in Maslow’s academic-ish book, Motivation and Personality—the chapter called “Self-Actualizing People: A Study of Psychological Health” in which he identifies the 19 characteristics of his self-actualizing individual. We’ll briefly look at ALL 19 of these characteristics at the end of this Note. If you’d like a more thorough look at all 19, check out the book or the quotes on the site.

For now, let’s dive into some Big Ideas!

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About the author


Abraham Maslow

American psychologist best known for his hierarchy of needs.