Life is a fucking rollercoaster, am I right?

Yesterday, you woke up charged, ready to actually bounce out of bed, pour that coffee, run 5km, work, and then…today happened. For whatever reason, today just feels like garbage. Instead of doing what you really want to do, which is crawl back in bed with really soft cotton pyjamas and Eat, Pray, Love, you have to do all the stuff you happily did yesterday, much less happily.

What gives?

Ever heard of Maslow and his hierarchy of needs? I think it explains a lot. And, I think this theory is particularly interesting to revisit given this whole quarter-life crisis, within the context of being a modern Millennial.

If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life. – Abraham Maslow

Here’s a modern take on the hierarchy of needs.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, our end-goal is self-actualization (being on top of the world), however most of us don’t reach that point. And, there are several other needs that need to be met first before we even consider trying for the top.


Here’s a quick breakdown.

  1. Physiological: these are your basic needs, like food and shelter. You need these to survive, and if you lack these you’ll seek ways to cope.
  2. Safety: you seek security, and you seek to be free from fear. You’ll seek help.
  3. Belonging and love: this is where it starts to get juicy. You’re physically comfortable, now you seek emotional connection, community, and intimacy.
  4. Self-esteem: you’re comfortable in your social situation, you understand where you belong, and now you’re ready to step up and find your independence, build your self-esteem, take on the world.
  5. Self-actualization: that last one is one where I see a lot of us get stuck, and I’ll get into that in a moment. When we can’t fulfill that need, it can be hard to reach this transcendent state, where you become wise, and reach your full potential.

Think about the history of people. For a very long time, life was about surviving. Our basic needs may have been met, but they were challenged. Drought, long winters, and other weird weather patterns could devastate a community. In developing countries, these needs still aren’t always met.

Contrast that with how we live in the western world, where many of us take our basic needs for granted.

According to Maslow, only two percent of us will reach self-actualization, or “full humanness”. We’re our own worst enemies in this regard. Have you ever been given a good opportunity and turned it down because you didn’t feel like you deserved it? Or, that you weren’t good enough to pursue the opportunity further? We not only fear failure, but greatness.

How to become fully human

The Millennial time period, that mid-20s to mid-30s age range, is defined by our motivation to fulfill our need for self-esteem. Think about it. You probably spend most of your time trying to achieve mastery (higher education, working your way up the career ladder), gain your peers’ and parent’s respect, gain recognition for your hard work, whether it be personal or career-related. Just thinking about it makes me uncomfortable. Is it any wonder why you feel weird about your life right now?

Maybe you fear that you’ll seem too big for your caste-determined britches. One of the biggest hurdles I’ve faced starting my own business has been overcoming my fear of being a public person. Thankfully, I was forced to put myself out there and get used to it, because otherwise my business would have failed.

Overcoming shit in your Millennial years plays a huge part in your journey to self-actualization. This is your opportunity to accept change and evolution before you get too stuck in your ways.

Maslow observed behaviours that help people achieve self-actualization, which I think show a roadmap to crawling out of any life-slump:

  • Experience life like a child. Absorb. Concentrate. Be free in your curiosity.
  • Understand that life is a series of choices with consequences. What choices will lead you to growth?
  • Tap into intuition and evaluate experiences on your own instead of listening to what society, tradition, or authority says.
  • Stop playing mind-games. Start being honest, with yourself and the people around you.
  • Be okay with being “uncool”. Embrace your weird.
  • Take responsibility and work hard for what you want.
  • Look inside, identify where your blocks are. Be brave, and work them out of your system.
  • Try to see and bring out the best in other people.

Just a little list of easy things to do… But, seriously. Think about the people you admire, the #sheroes, #girlbosses, phenomenal fathers. What can you learn from them? What can you emulate?

This list could be a manifesto for Millennials, a guide to surviving huge change and uncertainty in life.

Would you add anything to this list? Post in the comments!


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