Self Actualisation

03 Jul 2022

This blog is me learning in the open. It’s not intended as advice or opinion (or even as being interesting - it is to me, might not be to you).

Discuss the theory of self-actualisation, such as Maslow and Herzberg, giving your views on these models and their use.

(Perera, 2020) “Self-actualization is the complete realization of one’s potential and the full development of one’s ability and appreciation for life”


The term self-actualisation was introduced by Kurt Goldstein. As a reaction to the psychology of Freud and Jung, Goldstein created a holistic theory which led into the humanistic branch of psychology. Freud and Jung are psychoanalysts. This involves looking internally to explain negative aspects of a patients thoughts and behaviour or treat mental disorders.

In contrast, Goldstein believes that the goal of every organism is to achieve some form of potential. He coins this self-actualisation.

Carl Rogers limits self-actualisation to humans. To Rogers we achieve self-actualisation when our ideal self and actual self are in harmony (congruence). Self-actualising is the act of seeking to resolve tensions caused by incongruence through reflection and exploring potential possibilities to match the “real” and the “ideal”.


Abraham Maslow created a hierarchy of needs model with self-actualisation at the top. This model is widely taught and is the one that most people have heard of.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Criticism includes:

  • The model makes it look like the lower bands need satisfying before the upper levels - doesn’t allow for complex relationship between different levels of needs
  • Only an elite few can achieve self-actualisation (probably born out from Malsow’s own example list)

Frederick Herzberg created the two-factor theory, a theory for motivation in the workflow. He is influenced by Maslow’s work and agues there are two sets of factors: motivators and hygiene factors. Each set acts independently from the other increasing and decreasing (respectively) motivation.

Herzberg’s theory links to self-actualisation in that it identifies possibilities for growth (presumably toward it).

Herzberg's two-factor motivation theory

Criticism includes:

  • Has proved popular in management but isn’t backed by substantial studies (academically)
  • Has been replaced by newer theories

David McClelland - Acquired needs theory. McClelland theory states that people have 3 types of emotional needs.

  • Achievement (getting stuff done)
  • Power (having influence)
  • Affiliation (having relationships)

Their motivations and behaviours derive from these.

Understanding your own needs improves your decision making and helps you steer to better outcomes (towards self-actualisation - not sure if McClelland references this directly - more research needed).

Additionally, there is an iceberg analogy - the above water bit is what we see of others (or what they see us), the more complex bit below is the true underlying self.

The models can be categorised as either “content” or “process”.

Content - looking at needs - tends toward the less rational.

Process - looking at people almost as machines - tend towards rational.

Victor Vroom - Expectancy Theory of Motivation

Self Determination Theory - we need to get things from our environment to be motivated Dan Pink - 3 Cs (Control Confidence Connective-ness)

E061 - Motivation: Reversal Theory (w/Rob Robson) Reversal Theory - 8 motivations as lenses. Describes human nature in a dynamic way. If you can change your motivations, you can change your experiences. Management of the self. Reversal comes from flipping between states. Using Journaling can be a useful tool.

Looking at emotions as signals, motivation theory gives methods to decode them.

Views on models of use

The models and theory are interesting, and quite frankly overwhelming. There is a lot of content to take in between Freud and now. Some of it I have come across in design and business degrees, but not at a level that makes me a psychologist. I am scratching at the surface.

It is interesting because it explains ways to understand people and their motivations in a realm outside of religions. However, it does feel like it overlaps quite heavily into more opinionated view on spirituality. You could swap self-actualisation for enlightenment in most of the readings and not notice.

I like this, and as long as you are critical of the authors and their own infallibility or even agendas, there is a wealth of depth to inform helping others help themselves.

From the point of view of coaching, it strikes me that you will be dealing with people who will either come with their own views on spiritualism, religious or otherwise, or may not want a prescriptive model pushing their way. Therefore, it is important not to push. This is where I need to reconcile my own needs with reality. For instance, I have no desire to become a “business guru coach” because that would be disingenuous (or even incongruous), so I need to find out what it is I do want. This is positive and will be interesting. From content and process theory - either I start changing, or I change by context (or a mixture of both).

Discuss and research models enabling the effectiveness of contracting in a coaching environment

Contracting sets boundaries, outlines goals, and set expectation. For me one of the most important aspects of this comes from the concept of “fit”. It ensures that a healthy tone can be set and the expectations of what the coach understands as coaching can be compatible with what the coachee is expecting.

This will alter over time and differ between contexts. For example, if a coachee is paying and has firm set expectations that you cannot meet (or indeed they cannot meet) - the fit might not be great.

Discuss how you would maintain good practice and adhere to a code of conduct in a coaching environment, give examples where possible

I need to explore this more. Understand what the purpose and responsibility of a coach is and how it differs from mentoring, teaching and (definitely) counselling.

Code of conducts and duty of care. Maintaining a duty of care means keeping refreshed with the official advice and content. Todo: find links to it and schedule in.

Keeping up to date, make sure you don’t cause harm, keep your clients interests in mind over your own (especially if you work with them and may have your own work needs). Examples of how to do this - join the coaching crowd group, get a list of podcasts to listen to, investigate conferences and professional groups.

Research and discuss the theories relating to return on investment, (ROI),usually for the organisation

I’ve done plenty of study of financial performance measurements round the financial aspect of an organisation (ROI, ROCE, ROE etc). A primary use of these are for investors to get an understanding of the financial health of an organisation to inform their own decisions.

From the point of view of coaching you could see this from two angles. If an organisation invests in coaching, what will they get back? The more interesting angle will be if an organisation invests in a coaching culture, and really looks after its people, how will this affect the performance of the organisation.

You could go a level deeper and question the purpose of organisations in society. This may touch on your economic and political views somewhat, but we have big issues that are time critical in a way that they have never been before, i.e. “will we have an environment which will sustain humans in the next fifty to a hundred years” is different from “what are your personal view of fairness and how wealth should be distributed”. Looked at through this lens, it seems common sense that most questions would be about sustainability. Healthy return on investment is usually seen as a question of sustained competitive advantage. The companies that will exist in the future almost by definition will have to be the ones which take sustainability seriously (and I’m an optimist - so I won’t concentrate on the alternative as there is little point). The best way to do this is to invest in people so that they can collectively work at their best to solve problems. Is coaching a way into this? The performance of people needs work towards the performance of organisations to be able to achieve sustainability (economic, social and environmental) in order to secure a sustained return on investment.

Compare coaching methods and how this can benefit the Coach, Coachee and the organisation

Difference coaching methods:




Other roles


Listening to

Tru thoughts presents unfold - 26 June 2022

Balance of force - boymerang