BEING WORK-A-FROLIC! (A quickie on self-actualization)

So the year 2017 has been witness to the resignations of a huge number of CEOs from Ashish Bagga, CEO- India Today Group to Vishal Sikka– CEO and MD Infosys. While their reasons are not clearly known, Max Schireson former CEO- MongoDB quit his job to be a family man. His departure had garnered a lot of attention since he was one of those rare male executives who openly admitted that his “work-life balance was off-kilter”. Several members of our society had remarked things like “the CEO has everything, why on earth did he quit!” and “I would kill to be in his shoes, and he has mindlessly thrown it all away”. According to Abraham Maslow, a person is motivated not by his/her satisfactions but by his/her unsatisfied wants, needs and desires, and this explains Schireson’s behavior.

After a year of being a stay at home dad he is back with a bang and has joined Massachusetts based venture capital firm Battery Ventures as an executive in residence which allows him to work with exciting new startup firms without committing to an intense CEO like management role. So now besides work of course he enjoys spending time with his family, hits the gym, plays bridge, has learnt to ski and casually advises people on starting new companies which he enjoys doing to the very core which he simply didn’t have time for during his stint as a CEO. So in short, he went from being a workaholic to a worka-frolic!

So what is it that made a man who had worked extremely hard to land his dream job as a CEO, throw it all away? The answer dear readers is the incongruity between expectations and reality. Benjamin Franklin once rightly remarked “the discontented man finds no easy chair!” So why we do, what we do can be explained with the help of Humanist Abraham Maslow’s theory of “Hierarchy of Needs”. The theory can be clearly understood from the image down below.

An individual moves from the bottom to the top of the pyramid by fulfilling each need in order of it’s emergence.

Maslow put forth this theory in 1954 that behavior may satisfy many needs at the same time thereby suggesting that an act is multi-motivated, therefore when one seeks a job, apart from earning money s/he also wishes to be happy doing it. These needs arrange themselves in hierarchies of prepotency i.e. the appearance of one need generally depends upon the satisfaction of another. As seen in the image, aspirations and needs are closely related and maybe arranged from the lowest to the highest development of one’s personality which is known as self-actualization. Self-actualization is “the realization and fulfillment of one’s talents and potential followed by happiness/ satisfaction that one has accomplished something, in short finding one’s calling in life.”

An individual may reach the level 4 of the pyramid i.e. establishing one’s reputation, without caring to satisfy lower order needs e.g. one could have carved a niche for oneself in a given profession without satisfying love and affection needs and may later satisfy them. But one thing is clear that that the need for self-actualization dominates over all the lower order needs- it can in fact be termed the driving force of human existence. One moves up and down this pyramid of hierarchy of needs continuously throughout the course of his/her lifetime to constantly achieve a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

While it is clear as to how the basic and social needs are achieved, it is very hazy as to how one manages to self-actualize. In modern times most individuals are extremely dissatisfied in their jobs and this is the result of not having taken into account the upsides and downsides of a particular career path. This issue can be fixed by virtue of a concept popularized by Albert Humphrey viz. the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis which is a structured planning method that evaluates the following four elements of an individual, organization, project or business venture.

  • Strengths: characteristics or qualities of an individual/organization that give an advantage over others. This is internal
  • Weaknesses: characteristics or qualities of an individual/organization that place one at a disadvantage relative to others. This is internal
  • Opportunities: elements in the environment that the individual/organization can exploit to one’s advantage. This is external
  • Threats: elements in the environment that could cause trouble for the individual/organization. This is external

The degree to which one’s internal qualities match with the external environment predicts one’s ease of achieving success. It is only when one feels satisfied across all the lower order needs alongwith a sense of accomplishment can s/he be termed as one who has reached the state of self-actualization.

An example of a writer’s SWOT analysis is as follows:

An individual may very well aim to achieve self-actualization by doing a SWOT analysis. Things like happiness, peace of mind, me-time, family-time, opportunities to pursue hobbies and interests etc. should all be included while analysing SWOT with regards to a chosen career path. It is extremely important to work, earn money, seek power etc. but it is equally important to be happy while doing so. This sows the seed of the lovely tree called self-actualization which will bloom throughout one’s life if one takes the time to appropriately care for it.

It is paramount to take on challeneges once in a while rather than perpetually performing easy to accomplish tasks. In the words of American Psychiatrist Theodore Isaac Rubin, “happiness doesn’t come from doing easy work, but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a task that demanded our best”. This single quote presents the message of the entire blog post in a nutshell.

Happy self-actualizing!!

Did we miss a few points? What would you like to read about in the posts to come? Please tell us in the comments down below.

Shout out to Mr. Pranav for having suggested this topic.


19 thoughts on “BEING WORK-A-FROLIC! (A quickie on self-actualization)

  1. For people who get stressed out because of their jobs, this is a go-to solution I guess. This helps them not just to get out the stress, but to actually analyze where they are making the mistake and correct themselves in the right direction. Great topic, beautifully written. Well done!

  2. Even a government job in India today is quite demanding. Self actualization in Maslow hierarchy of needs could sometime merge with one of the lower layer and is highly subjective. In the case of the stay home dad above, it is still not matured to top layer of the pyramid. I personally think that if I become a stay home dad so that I can equip my near and dear move up the pyramid and recognise that the top layer is an illusion, I have arrived at the top layer.

  3. In the case quoted above, Schireson’s decision to be a stay-at-home-dad is not an example of self actualization, its just a break to make up for lost time with family and also a means of relaxation. It is what he did afterwards that can be termed self actualization.. Yes, as all other psychological concepts it is subjective, it can merge with a lower order need and is unique to every individual. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  4. I loved the “satisfaction” part. By reading this article, I understood the reason as to why I don’t work harder after a point. Probably I am satisfied with the little that I would have achieved.
    Thanks a lot for this.

  5. Thank you, it was very informative , gave a new clear picture of self actualization . privileged to see my name here…

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