A brief introduction to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Humanistic Psychology focuses more on the good in people, rather than what is dysfunctional about them. It asserts that there is a natural goodness in us that we really want to fulfill.
In this way, it is only natural that we will attempt to reach our highest potential in life, provided we are able to satisfy our most basic needs first. Beginning with fulfilling our basic physical needs, such as having enough food, then shelter, then on to other needs, such as feeling loved, holding ourselves in high regard- a regard which may be based on how others see us, and how we see ourselves.
Once we have a stable foundation built upon satisfaction of our preliminary needs, our attention is freed up to think of something higher- we have dreams in life, something which we feel that we should be doing, and if accomplished, will leave us feeling truly fulfilled.
Though it is true that we are often working on filling various levels of need at the same time, we could simply evaluate which need is receiving the most energy, and that would be the current level on the hierarchy.
And of course, none of this is to say that everyone will reach their true potential simply because the desire is inherent; rather, we will only be able to work on the highest goals IF we accomplish the lower ones, and many things can interfere along the way. For example, one could become distracted, or unfortunate events could prevent one from being able to focus on self-actualizing. We might harbor negative beliefs about ourselves, which would stifle the desire to be all that we could be.
Ultimately, simply saying that a need is inherent and therefore natural to us, does not guarantee its eventual accomplishment. Nevertheless, one could hardly imagine a better situation in life that having all your basic needs filled and even being able to achieve your dreams. It is pretty safe to say that a self-actualized person is a truly happy person.