Achievement without fulfillment is an empty victory. What are you working for? Why do you do what you do? Many people go through life without a why, and find it difficult to achieve true fulfillment. I currently rank myself high on that list today. In this blog post, we will discuss the per-requisites to finding our "why" and achieving fulfillment in our lives!

Just a bush walk “attempt”, but with such a beautiful winter sky and amazing sunset, I barely walked, just keep pointing my camera and capturing the moment.
Photo by Gilberto Olimpio / Unsplash

Over the years, I have done everything I was supposed to do. I've had a successful career, I've been married and I have 2 daughters I'm extremely proud of. Two years ago today, I decided to leave my corporate career behind and become an entrepreneur. Last year, I trained to be a certified coach. I've had a lot of fun, a solid income to sustain myself and I've truly enjoyed the freedom of not having a 9-5. But, it still feels at times something is missing. The questions I'm trying to answer: "What do I want to contribute?", "What do I want to leave behind?" and "What is my purpose?". In summary, what is my "why"?

Here's my commitment: over the next 6-7 months, I will put my "why" down on paper, as well as create a concrete action plan for the six months thereafter. I will do this in public, regularly publishing my thoughts and my progress. I will arrange for meetings with people I admire - some in my network and some new - to discuss my thoughts and seek their input and feedback.

Maslow's pyramid

To find our "why", we need to take a step back and look at our lives from a different perspective. Let's start with a framework that Vinay recently re-introduced to me. Of course, I've read about it before, but since Vinay mentioned it to me, it's stuck in my head - Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Most people are familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs, but for those who are not, it is a model that suggests we have certain hierarchical needs that must be met to achieve fulfillment in our lives. There are five levels in Maslow's hierarchy of needs: physiological, safety, belonging, (self) esteem, and self-actualization.

At the bottom of the pyramid are our physiological needs, which are the most basic and essential needs for survival such as food, water, shelter, and sleep. As we move up the pyramid, we have our safety needs, which are our need for security and stability. Once our safety needs are met, we move on to our belonging needs, which is our need to feel loved and connected to others, to be part of a community. Next, we have our (self) esteem needs, which is our need to feel confident and respected by others. Finally, at the top of the pyramid is our self-actualization need, which is our need to reach our full potential and find meaning and purpose in our lives.

It is important to note that we cannot move on to the next level of needs until the previous one has been met. For example, we cannot achieve belonging if we do not have our need for safety met first. It's also important to note that if one of the levels disappears, a person would fall right back to that level, e.g. if someone is working to improve their self-esteem but their physical safety is suddenly endangered, all focus will go back to satisfying that need first.

Great Pyramid of Giza, Khufu and Cheops - El Giza, Cairo, Egypt
Photo by Jeremy Bezanger / Unsplash

In practice

Although the model is widely taught and known across the world, there has been very little research to substantiate Maslow's hierarchy of needs is as strict as it's presented. There has been research indicating people can focus on different levels at once.

For me, being able to take the time to find my "why" is a core step in self-actualization. I feel my bottom four needs are met and am grateful I can even ask myself this question. On the other hand, we see the pictures of war and people fleeing their homes and countries in the news every day and night; such a stark contrast with where I'm finding myself today. I find it interesting Maslow published his theory in the middle of World War II, in 1943.

In my mind, there is something here, wanting to contribute to others meeting their bottom needs and being able to spend time on self-actualization. I feel it's a start of my "why".... To be continued.

PS. If you're asking yourself the same questions, have ideas or suggestions for me, or would like to provide feedback during the process - reach out!