Ten symptoms of having vision beyond yourself

Mar 31, 2008 by

Which one comes first? Helping ourselves or helping others?

Do you know the chicken and egg dilemma? Which one comes first, chicken or egg? That is a dilemma that has never been solved. And I find some similarity with our self-improvement process. Helping ourselves and helping others, which one comes first?

Should we help others in order to help ourselves?
The statement that Chris Melton from soupornuts.com shared, “In order to help yourself, you must help others. There’s no better long-term strategy to achieving your success.” That statement sounds like the “helping others” comes before “helping ourselves.”

But… shouldn’t we help ourselves before helping others?
The other quote that sounds to be contradicting, comes from Jack Welch, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” Now it sounds as if the helping ourselves comes first before helping others.

Wikipedia states that Abraham Maslow differentiates the needs of human being into two:

  1. deficiency needs: the needs to fulfill something that is lacking within us. It consists of physiological, safety, belonging, and esteem needs.
  2. growth needs: the needs to fulfill something more than ourselves and our needs. That consists of self-actualization and self-transcendence.

In summary, you can get the detail in the figure below…


I have shared before how my motivation has changed over the past 2 years following Maslow’s hierarchy. It is just as what stated in the article, “once an individual has moved upwards to the next level, needs in the lower level will no longer be prioritized. But that does not come easily, that comes with dilemmas.

Dilemma #1: Can we fulfill our higher needs while our lower needs is not fulfilled?

This is something that I disagree from what Wikipedia shared about the hierarchy. It is written there that the higher needs in the hierarchy only come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are satisfied. This statement does not fit with how I reflect on my journey within these two years. My focus of the higher need comes not because the lower needs are fulfilled, but more because they are NOT fulfilled.

It is the reason why I consider them as the level of awareness instead of level of fulfillment. When we are aware that our purpose in life is beyond our own success, but also the success of others. We will live our life differently, we will live with a big vision, even when our capability has not matched them.

Through blogging, my needs has been shifted from the deficiency needs, the need to fulfill my self-esteem and belonging into the need for growth. What I have started with my blog has become a need of self-actualization. It is no longer about following somebody else’s path, competing with others or proving to others. It is more about taking stocks of what we have and fulfilling our potential. At the same time, I’m looking forward on how I can help other people through my articles.

Dilemma #2: Will we get back to fulfill our lower needs?

If our lower needs has not fulfilled, will we get back to fulfill our lower needs?
Evan shared that he prefers the Maslow’s hierarchy as pie chart instead of hierarchy. What I assume by him mentioning pie chart is the allowance to fulfill all of our needs at the same time, not only one after another.

And more than that, I believe when we are aware of the higher needs, we will fulfill our lower needs in a much different way, for a very different purpose. Just an example will be that the way we see our need for friends. Friendship is no longer needed to please another person, to feel the sense of belonging and needed. Friendship is no longer a place for reliance and dependence. Friendship is now a place to share and learn.

Wikipedia also shared the similar example, when a businessman fulfilling his esteem purpose in his business having cancer, it will much more likely that he will need to get back and nurture his physiological needs. But the interesting point is as stated below…

If a lower set of needs is no longer being met, the individual will temporarily re-prioritize those needs by focusing attention on the unfulfilled needs, but will not permanently regress to the lower level.

This leads to a conclusion that anyone can start living for their higher needs. Let us discuss now, the different symptoms of having vision beyond yourself, beyond your capability, your need and your exclusive benefit. These are the symptoms that I started experiencing now, and somehow also stated in various resources…

1. You will be a learner, from everyone.

Achieving your vision needs more than you are right now, so you better learn more than what you know and what you have been accustomed to so far. It is called as democratic character structure in Wikipedia, quoted from the page…

Self-actualizing people are democratic in the deepest possible sense. They are friendly towards everyone regardless of class, education, political beliefs, race, or colour. They believe it is possible to learn something from everyone. They are humble in the sense of being aware of how little they know in comparison with what could be known and what is known by others. They are ready and willing to learn from anyone. They respect everyone as a potential contributor to their knowledge, merely because everyone is a human being.

2. You will have tough moral dilemmas.

There is one condition you need to have before learning from anyone. That is a non-judgmental attitude. The book Changes That Heal calls the judgmental attitude as having a black-and-white thinking. Here is the explanation from him on the subject.

They are thinking like an eleven-year-old. They are unable to think in terms of gray; there are no tough moral dilemmas. Everything is simple; if the rules says it; do it… They were so occupied with the rules and right and wrong that they could not get to wisdom, truth, and love.
~Dr. Henry Cloud

I like what Dr. Henry Cloud shared as tough moral dilemmas. Gray zones is helpful not to make us a judgmental person. Instead of judging, we will look into the reason and motivation behind, why a person is doing something. How we can have win/win relationship with people. That is also a dilemma on how we can integrate the different opinions that people have on the matters. That leads to the third symptoms…

3. You will be forced to build your principles.

You are replacing your rules with principles. This is no longer about what you can do or cannot do. It is beyond them, it is the principle of why you are doing it. This is also a point that Dr. Henry Cloud shared on being a mature person. Referring to the Holy Bible, Colossians 2:20-23, he is saying…

Basically Paul says that we are to be freed from rules and adopted as sons and daughters of God. This freedom from parental structures leads us to a love relationship with God and obedience to his principles of love. It moves us from a rule-based way of thinking to a love-based way of thinking and enables us to work according to principles instead of rules.
~Dr. Henry Cloud

Love is a principle and not a rule. When you have vision that is bigger than yourself, you will need principles and not rules. Principles will be able to teach people, and in the same time to love people. Principles will give you freedom, while rules will not.

4. You will get criticism.

The vision is bigger than you; if it seems impossible for you, certainly it will seem impossible for many others. This is the time when you have to learn to accept criticism. Scott H. Young has a very interesting post explaining the criticism that we get. He was saying that it is not because they are jealous or they do not want you to be successful, but…

I feel the real culprit behind a lack of support is that they don’t have access to your vision…. If everyone could share your vision it wouldn’t be yours.
~Scott H. Young

Do not take the criticism personally, nothing wrong with yourself. Do not also judge others that critic you, they are not jealous, they just do not understand yet. That is why it is called your vision, because others just could not see them, yet.

5. You will be called anti-social.

This is just one of the critic that you will get. It is taken from Wikipedia, on the point of the detachment and the need of solitude. Here is how Wikipedia explained the point…

Self-actualizing people enjoy solitude and privacy. It is often possible for them to remain above the battle, unruffled and undisturbed by that which upsets others. They may even appear to be asocial. It is perhaps, related to an abiding sense of security and self-sufficiency.

Dr. Henry Cloud, similarly also share the same point on explaining the boundary we need to set in our lives. Having a big vision requires us to work on them, time of aloness is necessary for time of reflection, pray/meditation and preparation. You will not be able to achieve big vision if you are not willing to be comfortable with being alone.

6. You will have deep interpersonal relationship.

Self-actualizing people have deeper and more profound inter-personal relationships than most adults, but not necessarily deeper than children. They are capable of more closeness, greater love, more perfect identification, more erasing of ego boundaries than other people would consider possible. One consequence is that self-actualised people have especially deep ties with rather few individuals and their circle of friends is small.

It is not because you are anti-social, but self-actualizing people has much deeper relationship with few individuals.

7. You will befriend your limitation.

Self-actualizing persons are not ashamed or guilty about their human nature, with its shortcoming, imperfections, frailties, and weaknesses. They can accept their own human shortcomings, without condemnation. Nor are they critical of these aspects of other people. They respect and esteem themselves and others. Moreover, they are honest, open, genuine, without pose or facade. They are not, however, self-satisfied but are concerned about discrepancies between what is and what might be or should be in themselves, others, and society.

There is one more benefit on befriending your limitation. It is that you are now more resistant towards criticism. You will not take criticism personally, because you are able to laugh at yourself. You will be able to take the good things from criticism that you got, while not blaming yourself nor the other person.

8. You will be more spontaneous.

Self-actualizing people are relatively spontaneous in their behaviour, and far more spontaneous than that in their inner life, thoughts and impulses… They are not conformists, but neither are they anti-conformist for the sake of being so… They are not externally motivated or even goal-directed; rather their motivation is the internal one of growth and development, the actualization of themselves and their potentialities.

Scott H. Young has a very interesting point on spontaneity, he said that…

Spontaneity is not the opposite of planning… The opposite of spontaneity is cowardice.
~Scott H. Young

It is cowardice which is the opposite of spontaneity. When you are living and fulfilling your higher need, you are much more secure with yourself. You are not fearful of what other people is thinking. You are also not ashamed with your weaknesses. That is how you will live life very much differently, you will be much more spontaneous. Shy people, this is a very important point for you.

9. You will be naively creative.

Self-actualizing people are highly imaginative and creative. The creativity involved here is not special-talent creativity. It is a creativity potentially inherent in everyone but usually suffocated by acculturation. It is a fresh, naive, direct way of looking at things, rather similar to the naive and universal creativity of unspoiled children.

Are you creative? Sometimes it takes naiveness to become a creative person. A naive person will not judge any idea as impossible. Instead, they will start exploring and trying out the possibility.

10. You will start working on your people skill.

When the vision gets bigger than you, you really only have two choices: give up on the vision or get help
~John C. Maxwell (25 Ways to Win with People)

John C. Maxwell also said that “one is too small a number to achieve greatness”. You need more than yourself to achieve greatness. Even if you do not have great people skill, you will have to start working on them.

Concluding Thought

Dilemma #3: Do we need to wait for perfection before fulfilling a vision beyond ourselves?

Do you need to be perfect? Do you need for all your needs to be fulfilled before start fulfilling others? Nope. As I have told above, this is not so much on perfection, it is on awareness. When you are no longer fulfilling your deficiency needs, you will no longer be bothered with your limitation. Instead, you will be looking forward for growth. The question you should ask is “how can you win with the limitation you have right now?

We all can start wherever we are to fulfill a vision beyond ourselves. Look at the potential that you have right now and work on that. Look at what you can give to others and start giving. You do not have to be perfect, but you need to make a step forward. Dan C. Rinnert has an interesting blog tagline, Believe! Act! Achieve! You need to believe, you need to act, then you will achieve.

Any thoughts? Any other dilemmas? Please do share in the comments.

For your success,

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  1. A compelling discussion as always.

    The airlines say it best.

    Put your own oxygen mask on first before you try to help anyone else.

    I believe that.

  2. I guess I’ve never considered the proposition as you posed the question of what comes first – helping ourselves vs. helping others. As with most situations, I think that the answer varies from person to person.

    However, I’m not sure that the issue is diametrically opposed. For instance, if you help yourself (by personal growth and development or spiritual awareness) you will become motivated to help others. Conversely, if you are helping others, then you are helping yourself to grow by an indirect means.

    A great premise and one that is worth considering.

    Chris – soupornuts.com’s last blog post..Productivity begins with a plan

  3. The airlines are right.

    Put your own oxygen mask on first before you help anyone else!

    Well thought out article, Robert!

  4. Does the egg or the chicken come first? It’s an interesting choice. You have to become a chicken first before you can lay an egg. There is a point where you have to reach a certain level of achievement before you truly can help someone reach a higher level.

    It’s also selfish to not reach out to others, struggling. Even though,it might be uncomfortable to reach out. Some people might not want help and bite your hand. While others are praying for someone to be an example that they might be able to follow.

    I hope the person, I look at has for help has achieved what they are talking about or they only regurgitating what other people say. I want someone who has walked the walk.



  5. Robert A.

    Thanks Corinne! The airline did the right thing. Another illustration is starving baker. It’s not right if you as the baker is starving, while you are selling bakery.
    I guess we all need balance.

  6. Robert A.

    Hi Chris, I believe the answer is balance.. how you balance the two! helping yourself and helping others.
    Thanks for your statement, I really take that as one of my principle.

  7. Robert A.

    Thanks for the encouragement Corinne!

  8. Robert A.

    Hi Larene,

    Yup, that will determine the effectiveness of how a person will be able to help.

    But I believe that we can learn from those that struggle on walking the truth as well. For them, we can learn and share at the same time. It’s like a brother/sister in a pilgrim’s journey.

    Another key interesting point you raise up as well, not everyone want to receive our help as well. And we do not need to force your help, it’s a waste of time. Give only to those who want to receive.

    Thanks for sharing your thought.

  9. What a dilemma.

    You spin my head, my friend.

    By the way, I love the quotes you have shared. 🙂

    Raymond Chua’s last blog post..T Harv Eker Helped Me With My Financial Blueprint

  10. I really like your different perspective on this, Robert. I think you may be on to something in thinking that you can fulfill needs on the pyramid in a different order.

    However, I *don’t* think it’s possible to move forward in any of the higher levels if your basic physical needs aren’t met. In my work with charitable organizations I see evidence every day of people living in physical deprivation and the toll it takes on those higher-order aspects of their lives, such as their ability to give and receive love.

    If you have a different experience of this, I would love to hear about it.

    Maria – Never the Same River Twice’s last blog post..NSRT in Personal Development Carnival

  11. Quite a good article Robert. I feel that if the very basic necessity is not fulfilled, eg. food, shelter, it is rather hard to go fulfill the higher hierachy of needs. More so if what you do have a bearing on your spouse and kids.

    My 2 cents

    PersonalMoney’s last blog post..Problems With Self Made Wills

  12. Robert A.

    Hi Raymond, lol, thanks for the comment! 🙂

  13. Robert A.

    Hi Maria and PersonalMoney,

    I think both of you has the similar point on fulfilling it in the right order, from the lower need to higher need.

    I do agree that in certain degree, we need our lower need satisfied before going to higher need, but… “how much do we need to get before we satisfied?” Human tendency is requesting for more and more for themselves. Those are the tendency they will have as long as their need stuck in the deficiency need (the first 4).

    Sometimes it is necessary for us to keep our focus/attention away from the first 4, and looking into the above 2. The need for self-actualization and self-transcendence. This will focus on what I can grow, and what I can give? Once we start growing and giving, the priority for the first 4 will be lessen. Your return will be back as well, you will fill your lower need in a much better way, you will be both happy and successful.

    That’s my 2 cents.

  14. wow

    I really really enjoyed this piece. This is the first time in my life that I am approaching a more concious way of life, operating with real purpose and I recognize so much of what you wrote here.

    For me, I helping others has really helped me. When I started my site, I innocently enough hatched a brand new vision/concept in my life and never did I once think that i order to share what I do I had to really get in touch with who I am and to really connect with others in order to learn

    It sparked a journey that includes alot of what you listed here but I realized that I had done a lot of work to get to a point where I can share with others.
    I think in order to help others, you ultimately have to help yourself. It makes you capable of offering the best of you.

    I like how Corrine said “Put your own oxygen mask on first before you try to help anyone else.”

    Such truth.

    Excellent post Robert!

    JEMi | Tips for Life, Love, You’s last blog post..Survival of a Broken Heart: A How-To Guide

  15. Robert A.

    Hi JEMi, thanks for dropping your comment! That is really great to see that many people in the blogosphere really work toward their self-actualization and even more in helping others.

    Your statement there is really describing the right thing to do…
    “I think in order to help others, you ultimately have to help yourself. It makes you capable of offering the best of you.”

    Growing ourselves so that eventually we are capable to give our best!

    Thanks and cheers,

  16. Robert,

    I saw a mention of this post at cheerfulmonk.com – this is awesome. I don’t practice now, but was a psychotherapist and I’ve always loved Maslow’s theory.

    I had a client a LONG time ago who talked to me about exactly what you were saying – that people don’t necessarily need to have the bottom needs fulfilled before they work into the top ones.

    I’ve been pondering that for a LONG time! And I “get” it now. Thanks for this post!!

  17. Robert

    Great post. Instead of Maslow and Hierarchy of Needs, I’d suggest focusing on consciousness, or awareness if you prefer. I started i-sorcerer not even a month ago to share what I had been grappling with/reading about for some time, as well as a means of focusing all of my attention on “self actualization”. For me, after a long bitter period of self-recrimination, I rediscovered “I am aware that I am aware.” In short, that my thoughts are ego-driven and symptomatic of self-delusion. There is no “I” per se. We aren’t separate; within us all is source, and that source is creative intelligence. Next Monday on i-sourcerer a five part series on creative intelligence kicks off. Check it out.

    Cory’s last blog post..Enthusiasm’s Kin

  18. Robert A.

    Hi Cory, thanks for the message and commenting. I’m looking forward to your series. Please keep in touch!

  19. wow really heavy stuff! it really depends on the person, what he needs, what would make him better. there are those who need to help others in order to have self actualization, and there are those who would only do more harm to others if they don’t find themselves first.
    .-= kefir´s last blog ..Caring for Your Kefir Grains =-.

  20. Nyambura

    Wow! I am really glad I bumped into this article. I woke up this morning and the one thought I could not get out of my head is ‘getting a vision bigger than yourself’. The article is rich with wise nuggets that I have to take away and of course, it has earned a place in my list of Favorites! Felicitation!


  1. Links for Super-Charged Living - April 5, 2008 | My Super-Charged Life - [...] to a Cause    Ten symptoms of having vision beyond yourself How to Live a Life of [...]
  2. cheerfulmonk.com » Does “Common” Really Suck? - [...] at Reason-4-Smile has a related post: Ten symptoms of having vision beyond yourself. In it he quotes from Wikipedia…

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