How to Be a Self-Transcender

There is a dance between self-actualization and self-transcendence.
Each enhances the other. And both come home in the Heart of True Being.

monarch butterfly on violet asters
Figure 1

The Map is not the Territory
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs diagrams are maps that indicate a healthy human’s progress from what he calls “Deficiency Needs” (I prefer the term “Foundational Needs”) to the “Being Needs” of self-actualization and self-transcendence.  See Figure 1.

Like all maps, these diagrams are not the territory. And the journey through them is not linear—although they do build on one another. This is particularly true of the Foundational Needs. For example: you’re not likely to be concerned with success if your roof is leaking or your well run dry.

The thing to remember about Foundational Needs is that once they are satisfied they disappear. But the Being Needs actually increase the more we feed them. And they tend to feed each other.


While Maslow found that not all actualizers are transcenders and not all transcenders are actualizers, my personal observation is that transcendent (peak) experiences can enhance both. It is also possible that a deep exploration of the work that is most fulfilling for you can lead you into its spiritual essence—the home of self-transcendence.

Creating an environment (internal and external) that supports self-transcendence can also nurture and support further self-actualization. The higher we aim in consciousness, while remaining mindfully grounded, the more likely are we to fulfill our reason for being—which is the definition of self-actualization.

Are You a Self-Transcender?  Take the Survey now.