What You Need More Than Money: Self-actualisation 10 min read

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Imagine solving all your money problems: food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, education, with extra for enjoyable activities like vacations, yacht cruises, and endless shopping.

Then what?


In 1997, at just 27, Matt Damon won an Oscar for Best Screenplay for “Good Will Hunting.” Later, while sitting on his sofa and staring at the award, a strange thought came to him. He imagined another version of himself who didn’t get the award, but who would work tirelessly for decades, only to win the award in their 80s or 90s, with all of life behind them.  And suddenly, a shocking realisation hit him: That would have been an unbelievable waste of his life.

“It can’t fill you up. If that’s a hole that you have, that won’t fill it.”, he explained in an interview (referring to the futility and vanity of chasing an award).

This realisation leads to crucial questions: What can fill the hole? What do we really want, deep down? What will we ultimately seek in life? Is it accolades and life without problems, or something more fundamental to our human experience?

What Is Self-Actualisation [And Why Does It Matter?]

It’s no longer a mystery: many wealthy and successful people are deeply unhappy. Despite financial security, they often struggle with broken relationships, lack of real connections, and emptiness. Tragically, this pain can sometimes lead to suicide.

Power-hungry leaders may reach the top, yet feel isolated, mistrusted, and unfulfilled. Their relentless drive for control often alienates others, leaving them without meaningful connections. The drug addicts who chase fleeting highs, still find that gaping hole beckoning once sober.

This reality becomes even more striking when we look at the other end of the spectrum. Some folks who struggle with basic needs like food or shelter might yet find no such hole in their lives: they may find joy in simple things – dancing, singing on TikTok, maintaining strong relationships across social networks, and enjoying their passions

So, what does this mean?

Abraham Maslow had a striking understanding of this situation, shown in his famous Hierarchy of Needs. At the bottom of the hierarchy are basic survival needs like food, water, sleep, and shelter. At the top is self-actualisation.

While money is great at taking care of the bottom of the pyramid, it almost becomes useless at the top – it seldom, if at all, leads to self-actualisation.

“Self-actualisation is not about material possessions. It’s about what you have within. It’s about how you feel about your life – how you live and spend your time.”

Self-actualisation is about becoming your best authentic self and living in a way that feels truly meaningful to you. It’s about finding and living your passions and purpose daily. For some, it means creating beautiful art; for others, solving important problems or building a loving home. It’s the feeling of doing exactly what you’re meant to do, using your unique talents in a way that lights you up inside.

Maslow suggested that only about 2% of adults fully self-actualise. However, self-actualisation is a journey, not a final goal. It could start at any point in your life. Just as physical wealth accumulates, you become more self-actualised as you go about growing, learning, and becoming more true to yourself over time. 

Self-actualization starts from within. It’s about your mindset and actions. It is about how you live, how your time is spent.

Time: The Essential Resource for Self-Actualisation

Time is our most valuable resource in the pursuit of self-actualisation. It’s finite, and nonrenewable. How we spend it ultimately shapes who we become. Unlike money, we can’t earn more time or save it for later. 

Yes, money can buy conveniences that free up our time and financial anxiety. Provide access to experiences and opportunities for growth. However, the pursuit of money often comes at the cost of time. Many find themselves trading their precious hours, health and the joy for excessives and paychecks, potentially neglecting their growth and the people in their lives.

The amount of time you dedicate to self-actualisation determines your level of personal fulfilment. Money provides access to material goods, but time is what allows you to truly live and make life meaningful. 

Maslow thought that self-actualised people weren’t just about the physical things; they put time into good relationships, found work they loved, and helped out in their community. They figured out how to balance their personal life, career, and relationships and ignore everything else as noise.

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What Are The Signs That You Are Self-Actualised?

You know you’re on the path to self-actualisation when:

  • When you don’t buy things because your friends did.
  • When your self-worth isn’t tied to your net worth.
  • When you’re not enslaved by debt or the constant pursuit of more.
  • When you don’t seek validation from everyone that comes your way.
  • When you can sleep soundly at night and indulge in a midday snooze.
  • When you can lose yourself in books, soaking up wisdom from the world’s best thinkers.
  • When you can say “no” to career opportunities that don’t align with what makes you unique.
  • When you can enjoy simple pleasures without feeling the need for luxury.
  • When you’re present for birthdays, school plays, and quiet moments in between.
  • When you can stroll without purpose, letting your mind wander freely.
  • When your choices align with your values, unburdened by ethical compromises.
  • When you can pursue passions without worrying about their profitability.
  • When you can step away from social media without fear of missing out.
  • When you can live comfortably without constantly comparing yourself to others.
  • When you don’t have to work all your life on a job that you hate because it pays a lot.
  • When you can make decisions based on personal growth rather than financial gain.

And that’s the essence of self-actualisation. 

The Challenges of Self-Actualization

The journey to self-actualisation isn’t a smooth walk into paradise. It’s a bumpy road full of detours and potholes.

Here’s why:

  • You’ll have to speak your truth against what others expect from you. This can be scary and lonely.
  • It takes time to figure out who you really are. You’ll make decisions, and mistakes.
  • You might lose friends or disappoint family. Some people won’t understand your choices.
  • There will be times when you doubt yourself and want to give up.
  • You’ll have to face your fears and weaknesses head-on. This isn’t comfortable.
  • Your life might look messy for a while as you figure things out.
  • You might derail from your original vision.

However, if you stick with it, you may find out that it is worth it to live a life that feels real and true to you.

Why You Need Meaningful Limits To Become Self-Actualised

To become self-actualised, first figure out what you’re good at and then set some boundaries. This helps you focus on what’s important to you, like learning new/relevant skills, being a good parent, making art, or whatever matters most. By working on things you’re naturally good at, you can improve yourself without getting too tired or stressed out, ultimately leading to fulfilment and happiness

Self-actualisation is not about doing whatever you want, nor is it about staying within your comfort zone. Rather, it is about growing within the appropriate boundaries.

For example; I’m not great with numbers, so jobs that need a lot of maths skills probably aren’t for me. But I realised I’m good with words, picturing things in my mind, working well with my hands, and understanding my own feelings. That made me think I’d do well in jobs like writing or photography. This is why I am pushing my limits in these areas.

Therefore, you will need to establish limits for your:

By setting these purposeful limits, you’re not restricting your growth – you’re defining it. You’re creating a life that’s uniquely yours, guided by your own principles rather than external pressures or endless options.

This approach – being bound willfully – allows you to live with intention, clarity, and purpose. It’s the path to being fully yourself, to make a meaningful impact, and to craft a life that resonates with your authentic self.

Conclusion: Find And Become Your Truest Self

After college, I didn’t know what to do. My degree didn’t match my personality and the life I wanted to live.

I thought hard, asked friends, and searched online. At first, nothing clicked.

So I took a break. I turned off the noise and just sat with my thoughts.

I asked myself:

Do I want to choose how I spend my time? Yes.

Do I want to be free to make my own choices? Yes.

Do I want to express myself? Yes.

Did I want the opposite of these things? No way.

I crossed off jobs that scared me or didn’t fit. In the end, writing and photography stood out. These became my tools to build the career I wanted. Ever since then, I have developed in many ways, built more helpful relationships, gained more knowledge, and branched off into other related skills like marketing, sales, and design. 

Even though I have not made a lot of money at this point in my life, I still feel fulfilled whenever I complete and publish an article, take photographs of people or things, offer my services to others or spend time with my family and friends. 

Having limits of what I wanted – and didn’t want – helped me.

At first, my ideas were fuzzy. Still is. But you can only get better by starting somewhere.

Getting self-actualised is like getting rich. You acquire it gradually through painstaking efforts.

Picture who you could become, then work to become self-actualised. 

Book Recommendations To Help Become Self-Actualised

  • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth
  • Maslow on Management, by Abraham H. Maslow
  • Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl
  • The Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius
  • The Art of War, by Sun Tzu

Did you enjoy reading this or do you have any questions? Please let us know in the comments section. Also, don’t forget to share this content with friends and family, they may also find it helpful. Thank you.

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David Ifeanyi is a mindful SEO content writer, photographer, and photo retoucher with over 3 years of experience. 

His works help people value themselves and their experiences more. Over the years he has inspired countless people to embrace their uniqueness and become better versions of themselves.

David has worked with several brands, including Tobi Digitals, ReelCliq, and Black Aperture. And has been a huge player in the growth of Pawns Digital Agency.

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