April 17

minute read

There Has to be More

Regardless of whether you’ve achieved all of your goals, or you struggle to set them. Most of us at one time or another have thought to ourselves, “There has to be more!”

Have you ever had any of the following thoughts?

  • I know I’m capable of more.
  • I have untapped potential.
  • Why do I set the same goals over and over only to fall short?
  • I’ve achieved most of my goals, why do I feel so unfulfilled?
  • What is my purpose in life?
  • Is this all there is?
  • There has to be more!

Why Are So Many People Unfulfilled

We live in an abundant world, and by almost every measure we are living at the most prosperous time in history.  And, yet it seems that despite the luxuries available to most people, we lack fulfillment. Why is that?

It’s because there is a difference between success and fulfillment. There is a difference between achievement and purpose.

Human Motivation

In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote an article for Psychology Review entitled A Theory of Human Motivation1. In that paper, he proposed that there’s a hierarchy of human needs.

Here is a list of the needs identified by Maslow:

  • Physiological needs – The most basic needs, which include food and shelter.
  • Safety needs – These include health, wellbeing, security, and the financial ability to provide those essentials.
  • Social needs – These needs are about love and belonging, and include family, friendship and intimacy.
  • Esteem needs – Included here are recognition, status, and importance.  These needs are about achievement and success.
  • Self-Actualization – This need is about reaching one’s full potential.  It’s about purpose and fulfillment.

The Hierarchy

The needs of human motivation are typically met in sequential order.  You are not likely to care about recognition and status if you don’t have enough food and water. 

But, as you reach your most basic needs, you’ll typically start to pursue next-level safety needs.  We naturally strive to move up to the next rung on the ladder of needs.

Once you satisfy the requirements of one level, there is a longing to move to the next.  In our current society, most people have their physiological and safety needs met. And, many if not most people have their social needs met, too2.

So, we currently live in a society where most people are focused on pursuing their esteem needs – recognition, status, and importance.  We are a society of achievers, living in abundance.

Again, that begs the question, why does it seem that so many people are frustrated, even miserable?  It’s because, as you meet your esteem needs, you start to want the next level. 

You begin longing for something more fulfilling and purposeful.  You long for Self-Actualization. It’s the natural progression of human motivation.

You Are on this Planet for a Purpose

Everyone has a unique set of values, characteristics, abilities, and experience.  We all have a unique purpose.

When our thoughts, goals, and actions align with that purpose, we experience fulfillment.  We experience meaning in our life.  We begin to live a life of significance.

Moving Up The Ladder

There is a sequence to growth in nature. The sequence is a movement from survival, to stability, to success and then significance.  One moves from survival to stability by fulfilling the basic and safety needs.

Once we are in stability, we begin to focus on fulfilling our social needs. And from there, we begin to focus on success, our esteem needs.  Then, as we consistently experience achievement, we begin to long for significance, purpose, and self-actualization.

It is natural to feel some level of discontent as you move between the levels of human needs. Esteem is just as real a need as basic and social needs. And, a longing for self-actualization is natural once your esteem needs have been fulfilled.

Where are you on the ladder?  What are your desires telling you?

If you’re struggling to meet your basic and safety needs, don’t focus on significance.  Instead, focus on stability.

Once, you’re firmly in stability go to work on your esteem needs. Pursue recognition and status. Achievement is a natural progression of fulfilling your human needs.

Now, if your basic, safety, social and esteem needs are met, it may be time to concentrate on fulfilling your purpose. Many achievers I know feel guilty for wanting more until they realize that significance is a legitimate human need.

What’s the Next Step

If you find yourself having achieved your goals and longing for more, you may be ready to move up the ladder to self-actualization. We all have unique gifts, talents, and abilities. You were put on this planet to use those gifts. We were put on this planet for a purpose. It may be time to identify yours.

If you’re looking to identify your purpose and develop a strategy to align your performance with that purpose, check you my weekly Strategic Performance Digest, it’s FREE.


  • 1. Maslow’s The Theory of Human Motivation
  • 2. One could argue that technology has made us more connected than ever, but lacking the intimacy necessary to fulfill our social needs.

Photo credit: Jack Sloop unsplash.com/@jacksloop