So, I was at our weekly Coffee with ET ( session, with a front row seat, since I was hosting, and while listening to ET’s thoughts ( on the topic of the day, it suddenly dawned on me… The cultural problems of our society can be attributed to the fact that we adhere to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs when conducting our lives. And then it hit me. The application of Maslow’s Hierarchy in people’s lives was flawed. Now I realise that I’m challenging the theory of a renown psychologist here, but hear me out.

For those of you who are not familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, here is a brief explanation:
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid with the largest, most fundamental levels of needs at the bottom and the need for self-actualization at the top (refer to image above).

The most fundamental and basic four layers of the pyramid contain: esteem, friendship and love, security, and physical needs. Maslow’s theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire the higher level needs.

Now, here is my issue with the whole thing. The philosophy that we work around here at Ascendance ( is that no matter what situation we are in in our lives, we should strive to follow our Heart. Our concept of following the Heart is very similar to Maslow’s highest level of needs, Self-actualization. Following the Heart will lead us to learn the meaning of life, to fulfill our potential and our purpose here on earth. It will teach us to accept ourselves, with all our pros and flaws. When pursuing the goals of the Heart, our mind tends to come up with creative solutions to overcome all the obstacles coming our way.
So you might wonder, what is the conflict here? Well it lies in the fact that Maslow’s theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual pursues the higher level of needs, i.e. Self-actualization.

However, in our school of thought, we believe that the elements of self-actualisation, in terms of creativity, spontaneity, experiencing purpose, meaning and inner potential, should all be pursued concurrently as we strive to fulfill the other fundamental levels of needs at the bottom. Especially in regards to the Safety and Security, Love and Belonging, as well as Self-esteem needs. If we align our pursuit for material wealth with the need to find our purpose, the search for love with the need for acceptance of our own selves, the need to build self-esteem with the need to fulfill our true potential, then we get an opportunity to enrich our lives with the joy of self-actualization while simultaneously seeking success in fulfilling the other basic needs. As we always say, if we follow our Hearts, Nature will provide us with what we need for continued growth.

Now, I am sure the intellectuals among you would accuse me of misinterpreting Maslow’s point of view. I acknowledge that Maslow did make accommodations that can encourage the kind of pursuit that I am describing. Maslow acknowledged the likelihood that the different levels of motivation could occur at any time in the human mind, but he focused on identifying the basic types of motivation and the order in which they should be met.

While I have to give to Maslow for acknowledging this possibility, I do put forth an argument that while Maslow understood these intricacies, the people of today’s society generally tend to rigidly base their priorities in the specific order given in Maslow’s Hierarchy. Therein lies the problem. People are so preoccupied in fulfilling the needs discussed in Maslow’s Hierarchy in the right order that they never get to the stage of pursuing self-actualization.

The flaw with some of these stages, such as security and self-esteem, is that they are very subjective. There will always be the possibility for a bigger risk, thus there will always be more money to be earned before one has enough to be secured. When climbing the social ladder, there will always be a better position to be in. And there will always be people who strive to achieve that. People have the tendency to be fixated on these stages and never say “enough”. And when they are rigidly following the hierarchy, this leads to them never pursuing self-actualization.

We here at Ascendance firmly believe that the pursuit of self-actualization should be the basis upon which we build our lives. Not only will it enhance our experience of life, it will also make it more fulfilling for us to pursue the other needs. If people are wiling to modify their often unconscious adherence to Maslow’s Hierarchy, to accommodate the need for self-actualisation in their pursuit to fulfill all their other needs, then they will find their lives transformed for the better.
As we always say, follow your Heart. It has the blueprint to your whole life. And it will lead you to the ultimate goal: Discovery of your true Self.

~ Karnan Kannan

Author's Bio: 

Ascendance is a group of Gen Y and Gen Z who wants to create a Community of Awareness built around the Seven Basic Laws of Nature. Empowering people towards success while staying true to their hearts. Check out our Facebook page ( or our website ( for more info!