Self-Actualizing Work – Abraham Maslow


Maslow on Management (Book Excerpts)
Abraham H. Maslow

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization… It refers to man’s desire for self-fulfillment, namely to the tendency for him to become actually what he is potentially: to become everything that one is capable of becoming…
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To do some idiotic job very well is certainly not real achievement. What is not worth doing is not worth doing well.
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The test for any person is—that is you want to find out whether he’s an apple tree or not—Does He Bear Apples? Does He Bear Fruit? That’s the way you tell the difference between fruitfulness and sterility, between talkers and doers, between the people who change the world and the people who are helpless in it.
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…seeking for personal salvation is anyway the wrong road to personal salvation. The only real path [is] salvation via hard work and total commitment to doing well the job that fate or personal destiny calls you to do, or any important job that “calls for” doing… This business of self-actualization via a commitment to an important job and to worthwhile work could also be said, then, to be the path to human happiness (by contrast with the direct attack or the direct search for happiness) — happiness is… a by-product, something not to be sought directly but an indirect reward for virtue… The only happy people I know are the ones who are working well at something they consider important… Or I can put this very bluntly: Salvation Is a By-Product of Self-Actualizing Work and Self-Actualizing Duty.
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…most people prefer no work at all to meaningless work, or wasted work, or made work… In self-actualizing people, the work they do might better be called “mission,” “calling,” “duty”, “vocation,” in the priest’s sense… For the truly fortunate worker, the ideally enlightened worker, to take away work (mission in life) would be almost equivalent to killing him.
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All human beings prefer meaningful work to meaningless work. This is much like stressing the high human need for a system of values, a system of understanding the world and of making sense out of it. This comes very close to the religious quest in the humanistic sense. If work is meaningless, then life comes close to being meaningless. Perhaps here is also the place to point out that no matter how menial the chores—the dishwashing and the test-tube cleaning, all become meaningful or meaningless by virtue of their participation or lack of participation in a meaningful or important or loved goal.
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Enlightened management is one way of taking religion seriously, profoundly, deeply, and earnestly. Of course, for those who define religion just as going to a particular building on Sunday and hearing a particular kind of formula repeated, this is all irrelevant. But for those who define religion not necessarily in terms of the supernatural, or ceremonies, or rituals, but in terms of deep concern with the problems of human beings, with the problems of ethics, of the future of man, then this kind of philosophy, translated into the work life, turns out to be very much like the new style of management and of organization.


2 Comments

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