True Personal Freedom
Revealed in 1943, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs would go unchanged for decades until the addition of Transcendence to the top of the hierarchy much later.
With the revised hierarchy, a new category replaced self-actualization at the top of the pyramid – transcendence.
Transcendence is the highest form of consciousness, where the individual who has achieved self-actualization loses himself in the service and improvement of others. In other words, once you’ve reached your highest self, what’s left is to make others better.
The Steps to Personal Freedom and Beyond (Transcendence)
Achieving Transcendence will require fulfilling our most basic and intermediate needs before realizing our best selves and then using the skills, knowledge, and wisdom attained for the good of others.
1. Basic Freedom (Physiological Needs).
Without the fundamental freedoms where basic physiological needs such as water, food, shelter, sleep, clothing, and reproduction are met, there is very little hope of advancement in any context – whether personal, spiritual, or financial.
It’s no wonder that the Declaration of Independence lists life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – in that order – as inalienable rights all citizens are entitled.
Without the basics of life (water, food, shelter, etc.), liberty and the pursuit of happiness are moot.
Think of a North Korean prisoner deprived of proper water, food, shelter, sleep, and clothing daily. He may be alive, but he’s not living. Fortunately for the vast majority of us living in the United States, this essential freedom is a given. Most of us don’t go without water, food, or shelter.
2. Physical Freedom (Safety).
Physical freedom means having a foundation in physical and tangible assets that will serve as a springboard for achieving higher levels of freedom. These tangible assets include personal security, employment, resources, health, and property.
Physical freedom goes beyond basic freedom, where only your physiological needs are met.
Even people who live in a free country like ours where their basic needs are met, many may not necessarily experience physical freedom. They may not feel safe where they live, not have stable jobs, have poor health, don’t own a home, and so on.
Basic physiological needs may be met, but they may not provide you the safe foundation you’ll need to achieve greatness.
For example, you may have shelter, but a bed in a homeless shelter is not the same as owning your own home and having the security of knowing that no one can ever take it away from you as long as you do your part to stay employed to pay for it.
Physical freedom requires more work than physiological freedom. The homeless man can have his physiological needs met with little effort. On the other hand, having a job, owning a home, having good health, etc. require work and sustained effort.
Although nice, security and physical freedom don’t equate to fulfillment. You hear about people working their fingers to the bone. They may have all they need from a physical standpoint but are they fulfilled?
3. Emotional Freedom (Love and Belonging).
What’s the use of working if there’s nothing to work for. Without friendship, family, intimacy, and connections, we’re just vessels sleepwalking through life. Those individuals with strong emotional foundations, family ties, and spiritual ties have the best shots at succeeding.
How many successful athletes, entertainers, or successful business leaders credit their parents for their success?
Ask Elon Musk about his true inspiration and greatest cheerleader – his mom. No interview with Tom Brady would be complete without a mention of his parents, his wife, or kids.
On the flip side, how many inmates attribute their predicaments to the absence of a parent or parents, depriving them of emotional connections from a young age?
Emotional freedom is a big deal. Having loving and spiritual connections gives us the strength and motivation to achieve our highest selves.
4. Personal Freedom (Esteem).
Now having achieved basic, physical, and emotional freedom, we now have the foundation for achieving personal freedom – respect, self-esteem, status, recognition, and strength.
It’s achieving personal self-worth validated by public acknowledgment. This personal freedom translates to confidence and achievement of personal, professional, spiritual, and relationship goals.
This morally upstanding person has it all: a beautiful family, a prestigious job, good standing in the community, a good spiritual foundation. Life is good, but this person hasn’t fully reached its potential yet.
5. Complete Freedom (Self-Actualization).
A person who has achieved complete freedom has realized their full personal potential.
- They have maximized all their talents, skills, and abilities and have achieved their best selves. There’s nothing more they have to prove.
- They have achieved the pinnacle of success.
- They are not merely comfortable; they are in full control of their destiny.
- They are still subject to mortality, and there are things still out of their control, but they have complete dominion over the things they can control.
- They have found complete fulfillment in their careers, their home lives, their communities, and their spiritual lives.
6. Transcendental Freedom (Transcendence).
Transcendental freedom is the freedom from one’s own needs or one’s concerns. The needs of others become the overriding motivation for individuals with transcendental freedom.
They’ve already achieved everything on a personal level. Their focus now turns to improve the lives of others and leaving a lasting legacy for good.
The irony of achieving complete personal fulfillment is that once we’ve attained that level of existence and pass on to the pinnacle of human life – transcendence – we completely lose ourselves in the concern and presence of others.
Up to this point, we had been focused on ourselves and improving ourselves.
Once we achieve that, we lose concern about ourselves and seek to improve the lives of others.