Money! Power! Health! Relationships! Great Abs! You can have it all! Self-help books consistently top the bestseller lists, and workshops based on “The Secret” and other success formulas consistently sell out. Why does our society have such a strong fascination with self-improvement?
There is, of course, an underlying message and feeling that who you are right now is not good enough. Just one more workshop, and maybe you’ll discover the secret to a lifetime of happiness. As nations go, we have wealth beyond compare, lavish malls, plentiful food, and the highest levels of energy usage in the world. So why do we crave more and better?
Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, categorized the needs that humans have on a hierarchy. At the base level are physiological needs (food, sleep, stimulation, activity), safety needs (security; protection from harm), love and belongingness needs (love, friendship, comradeship), and esteem needs (self-respect, personal worth, autonomy). Maslow points out that we satisfy these needs in order: the lower needs get fulfilled, then we go ahead and seek to fullfill the higher ones. Self-actualization occurs when we transcend the needs of the flesh, of the mind, and seek to satisfy our spiritual needs.
Considering that most workshop-going Americans have just about all their physical needs handled, where are we getting hung up? At the upper levels of the hierarchy there is a crossover point from the needs of the one, to the needs of the many. From what I call “service-to-self” to “service-to-others”. Unless we make that shift in seeking to help others, we become stuck and unsatisfied. Satisfaction at the spiritual levels of consciousness occurs when our attention is removed from the self, from worldly pleasures, and is focused outward on helping others.
So do we need to handle all our physical and intellectual needs before developing our spiritual lives? I’ll leave that question for you to ponder. How quickly we shift out of a “me” society to a “we” society, and how soon we begin to co-create planetary solutions for the needs of the many depends upon your answer.
About Tony Cecala
Tony is a business strategist. He publishes the Holistic Networker and produces the Wellness Expo. In his spare time he reads about technology and the mind.