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Maslow revisited

'A New Life in the Sea' by Michael LombardiSome 15 years ago I was entrenched in studies to become a diving instructor when introduced to ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs‘ by the individual teaching my course. Having just been ever so briefly introduced to this theory, its implications didn’t quite register. I did get the take home message of the day, which was that diving requires high performance, and we cannot perform to our highest potential if our basic human needs are challenged. Further to that, while diving, we are dependent on an artificial means to breathe, challenging the most fundamental human need right off the bat.

Diagram of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
Diagram of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Conquer the compromise that artificial life support imposes and then further realize self-actualization, and we’re really on to something…

We all face this in similar ways each and every day. Rather than grinding through the stress to just make the most of the situation, I’ve found that making a conscious effort to mitigate fundamental stressors over the long term has provided for a consistently elevated level of performance. As I’ve been able to take better care of myself, I’ve been able to better perform and be consistently more productive, and at what seems to be far higher cognitive and intellectual levels. All critically important as we maneuver to advance this life aquatic.

For instance, during some of the deeper dives I’ve done, I’ve made months worth of preparations – perhaps not entirely because the dives were that complex, but rather I had to prepare myself to perform with acute clarity and focus while my basic needs (breathing) are challenged, and at the same time psychologically accepting that I was almost 15 atmospheres away from home. Operating anywhere on the pyramid but the top would have been recipe for disaster.

So, who was this Maslow guy?

Maslow is best known for his proposed Hierarchy of Needs, suggesting that people are motivated to fulfill certain needs, which can be broken into five principle layers (per above pyramid).

The fundamental concept is that lower level basic needs must be met before progressing on to meet higher level growth needs. Once these needs have been reasonably met, one may be able to reach the highest level called self-actualization. Every person is capable and has the desire to move towards realizing self-actualization. Life experiences, both in short and long timescales can disrupt progress.

Maslow noted that one in a hundred people become fully self-actualized because our society rewards motivation primarily based on esteem, love and other social needs which are mid-way up the pyramid.

So why reach for the top?

I tend to believe that people have far greater capabilities than we live up to on a day to day basis. Being given the opportunity to realize these capabilities comes from both the desire to get there, and in many cases, perhaps some serendipitous alignment. In my opinion anyway, the most important piece is keeping in tune with the world as it turns – the path will reveal itself.

Well, enough of my motivational speaking for one night. What’s all this have to do with human exploration? Well to sum it up – there are entirely new dimensions of space right here on Earth that we just don’t yet have routine access to. To get there, we need to perform at our best, which means operating at an elevated capacity, and that means taking care of oneself, and perhaps most importantly – one another.

Time to get back at it.

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