The journey toward a meaningful life is about using intention to guide your behaviors. It is about declaring what you want and going after it. And it is about seeing the big picture. It would help if you lived in the present with an eye out for the future. But, of course, you can always climb higher, but the road in front of you determines your experience. In this article, I will discuss the six levels of personal development, which I learned from INLPs training.
The first thing that is the most important for a human being (Level I) is physiological needs such as food and water. Without those base physiological needs taken care of, a person will starve to death or die of dehydration, preventing them from becoming self-actualized at all.
Often, the world presents us with challenges. For example, life can be demanding and feel stressful. Even with the best of intentions, you might come across obstacles such as a shortage of time, a lack of energy, or a gap in your knowledge or skill set, making moving forward seem overwhelming. You need to tune into your power when you come to this point.
Level II is about personal power and self-control. You want to seek control in healthy ways. Actual control comes from controlling your energy, emotions, and behaviors, primarily from being mindful. Absolute control means creating conditions that lead to optimal performance and letting go of any attachment to the result. As Seth Godin says, "You're responsible for what you do, but you don't have authority and control over the outcome."
Level III is about love and belonging and your relationships with other people, including friends, family, and your romantic partner. We are social beings, and we cannot derive real meaning from life without connections with other people.
Relationships can be both stressful and stress-fighting, depending on the nature of the interaction. We are affected by our proximity to others and the level of intimacy with them. For example, when you surround yourself with negative, critical, or unsupportive people, you might shut down. When despite your innate desire for closeness, you are unable to convert this individual into being your fan, you may want to run the other way. Conversely, when you surround yourself with others who are loving and supportive, you flourish. Thus, it is a prominent reminder for you to actively pursue positive and encouraging people and environments that attract like-minded individuals.
Level IV is about self-awareness. Being self-aware is very important. It serves as the basis on which one builds self-mastery. When you do not know yourself or what drives your emotions and needs, you will not be your best self and can easily take on the identity other people want you to have. The lack of self-awareness will leave you feeling empty inside.
Self-awareness is a work in progress. It requires you to continually check in with yourself and notice what is happening within you. Assessing your strengths and weaknesses, personality, needs, triggers, values, and beliefs is a start, as these are typically stable over time. You can focus on your emotions, which will be affected daily and change throughout each day. Once you have self-knowledge, you can begin to manage your reactions and be more in control.
One of the biggest misconceptions we have is that we will indeed be able to live our purpose after acquiring and achieving many more significant milestones. This is where Level IV (Contribution) comes in. All the actions we take in our daily lives contribute to life itself and reflect our purpose in one way or another. Driven by our passion, these actions either allow us to do something truly unique or end up doing something we later regret in life. So finding your purpose is all about those tiny, mindful, and deliberate everyday decisions you take. These seemingly insignificant actions are what collectively add to our purpose and, in the end, provide us with a sense of achievement.
The ultimate goal is at Level VI, to be self-actualized. Self-actualization is all about accepting your own responsibility for yourself. Maslow once said, "What a man can be, he must be." This quote means that if you can become an exceptional person, it is your moral duty and obligation. That means that you must focus on becoming the best person you can be.
A self-actualized person is motivated by one and only one thing: himself. He can achieve amazing things because he has a strong drive to excel. This drive comes from the desire to be the best he can be. It is not driven by other needs because those needs are already fulfilled. The secret to becoming driven by yourself is to secure all of your other requirements, leaving you free to focus on excellence without stress or worry. Having all of your needs met ultimately leads to the greatest freedom that a person can experience.
As we can see, human beings are incredibly complicated creatures. We might think that needs are simple at the beginning. For example, we might think all that a child needs to survive is food and shelter, but as we have seen here, there is far more involved with meeting needs. Each level is closely connected, and whenever we attain mastery over one, we find that we get closer to self-actualization. Once we reach the highest level, we are finally free and capable of doing whatever we wish. The freedom from bondage is worth the price of admission.
The road to self-actualization isn't an easy one. Our modern-day culture creates a lot of roadblocks that prevent us from being able to focus on the deeper levels of community, relationship, and introspection. Jealousy, fear, negativity, all of these things work together to prevent us from being able to get our needs met through legitimate means. Instead, we find ourselves living in a world obsessed with finding fulfillment in things that are only meant to enhance life. There are many things like validation, pleasure, fun, alcohol, sports, video games that can enhance our lives, but none of those things give our lives meaning. No needs can be met through pleasure or validation.
Don't be like those who are chasing after the wind in vain. The greatest pleasure, the most significant source of validation, is being your ruler. There is nothing better than being the captain of your destiny. There is satisfaction in being able to drive your ship to wherever you want to go. It isn't easy. It will sometimes be rather tricky, and you might feel a desire to quit. But the road to self-actualization requires you to push yourself past the comfortable parts of your life to achieve greatness.