Seek Growth, Wealth Follows
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is an interesting subject when it comes to money. Looking at the pyramid, it is clear the influence that money has on meeting our most basic needs. A baseline amount of money is needed to be nourished, sheltered, and to have a feeling of safety. It’s not the same amount of money for every person, but the need is there.
Money + Relationships don’t have the same direct correlation, but the impact is just as strong. Money problems are cited as the #1 cause for divorce. Long-time friendships can be torn apart when the finances on a business partnership turn south. There is no question that relationships can be won and lost on the back of the almighty dollar.
The next rung of the pyramid, esteem, is where most people get permanently stuck. Society is obsessed with esteem. Our economy is strong enough that most people (not all) can get their basic needs met rather easily. As a result, those born into healthy relationships get to skip all the way to the need for esteem from birth. To elevate to this level of the pyramid from birth should assure victory, right? Unfortunately, no.
Esteem is marketable. It can easily be commercialized. Ever notice that the car commercial is looking to sell you on a combination of freedom and cool that their brand of car can deliver? They are marketing to your psychological need for esteem. The car industry isn’t alone in this pursuit. Our economic success is largely built on our ability to package and sell esteem to each other. Esteem in and of itself is not bad, but too heavy a concentration can be destructive. This imbalance often leads to us spending money in a way that compromises our more basic needs, particularly safety. The result? 7 out of 10 Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings account. As we move back down the pyramid, we lose our opportunity to reach the highest rung of the pyramid, self-actualization. All of our energy is devoted to our obsession with esteem and the cyclical nature of our more basic needs being compromised from time to time.
So how do we break through? We need to have a healthy relationship with esteem. It doesn’t take precedence over our more basic needs. It’s not a destination, it’s simply one rung on our life’s ladder. We spend money on those things that bring us the most value and utilize the rest to meet our more basic needs and help us to pursue self-actualization. What is self-actualization? It is the achievement of one’s full potential through creativity, independence, spontaneity, and a grasp of the real world. It’s the point where all of our basic needs are met, so we can focus most of our time and energy on personal growth. Self-actualization is infinitely harder for companies to market towards, because it’s so......personal. As a result, spending money becomes less and less attractive and much of our esteem is built up through our personal growth rather than consumerism. A natural by-product of this intersection between personal growth and a reduced desire to spend money is wealth.
Wealth is flexible. You can spend it. You can hold on to it. You can give it away. It’s completely up to you. The important thing is that your focus remains on personal growth rather than wealth. Otherwise, wealth will morph into just another form of esteem and you will be subject to all of the same problems you previously faced. Will self-actualization solve all of your problems? Absolutely not, there are many issues that self-actualization can’t solve. However, it will help you to be a more balanced person when these issues present themselves. When you align your values and your goals, you open the door for wealth. This isn’t the most exciting achievement, though. Your growth as an individual is the real prize. What step can you take today to move closer to self-actualization?