PERSONAL GROWTH —What is it? How to make it happen!


—What is it? How to make it happen!

By Dr. Daniel Acuff

personal growth


As we turn the corner from 2019 to 2020 most of us have probably given up on New Year’s resolutions. But the truth is most all of us are still very interested in what we could do to make our lives even better and happier.

After a lifetime of learning and “growing” the persons we are, we still aspire to climbing higher on whatever ladders we can find that lead to greater and better.

Ask any adult what “personal growth” is and they would probably come up with an answer. “Oh it’s like reading books and becoming smarter”. Or, “I think it’s when you set personal goals and achieve them”. Or, “Personal growth means taking classes or workshops and learning to be a better person.”

But few would agree on one workable definition or approach.

What is needed is a framework that covers the basic dimensions of our lives. That framework is HUMAN NEEDS.

The psychologist Abraham Maslow, in his 1962 book, Toward a Psychology of Being, offered what became known as Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”. He proposed that each of us has five levels of basic needs. He created a pyramid with “Physical Needs” at the bottom, then with “Safety”, “Love”, and “Esteem” in ascending importance. His theory was that until an individual has been able to meet the most basic physical survival needs he cannot adequately pursue more emotional/social needs such as love and self-esteem. If he can meet these higher order needs he or she can attempt to reach what he termed, “Self-Actualization” which is the desire for self-fulfillment, the desire to become more and more of what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.

While Maslow’s work provides somewhat of a framework that might guide us in our journey toward self-fulfillment, it is not comprehensive enough; there are too many blanks.

My own research, along with Dr. Robert Reiher, indicates that, while it’s true that certain basic needs have to be met before we can pursue higher order needs, what’s missing is a more detailed approach. In our view there are TEN HUMAN NEEDS. And any approach to one’s “personal growth” can benefit by deciding which of these ten needs an individual can best work on.


As we examine each of the ten needs, ask yourself “What can I do to “grow”, to enhance myself related to this need?”

MY PHYSICAL NEEDS: The Obvious: Healthy diet, clean air and water, exercise. Not so obvious: The need for touch, physical contact, physical intimacy. What healthier practices can you commit to?

THE NEED FOR SAFETY: Each person in life and in relationships needs to feel physically and emotionally safe and free from excessive worry or stress. The source of stress might be financial concerns, for example. It might also be emotional abuse or even physical threat or actual harm.   Where might you feel vulnerable and unsafe? What could you do about that?

GROWTH: To actually become more, and to learn is an innate need. You can satisfy your need for growth by taking on one or more of these ten needs as a project for personal enhancement.

REALITY: Mentally ill individuals often lose touch with what’s really so and what’s not. As “normal” people, we can’t function without a solid grasp on what’s real, what’s imagined, and what’s not real. This need is seldom addressed. It is related to the need for safety in that it is the need for stability and the avoidance of doubt, uncertainty, even chaos. In relationships the extreme would be how erratic Liz Taylor and Richard Burton were in Who‘s Afraid of Virginia Wolf. Everyone needs to be able to depend on what’s so in their relationships and what’s not.

STIMULATION: Stagnation and boredom are not only unpleasant but unhealthy. It’s healthy to stay busy—especially on projects, tasks, and activities that are interesting to you. Are you in a rut? What could you do to dig yourself out of that rut and add some excitement to your life?

RELEASE: Few people are aware of this need. The need to release can take various forms. It might be letting go of something from your past that still disturbs you. It might be—appropriately as much as possible—expressing strong emotions such as anger, fear or love. It might be practicing meditation to let go of stress.

CONTROL: The need for control or power is critical. Some individuals have given away their power by becoming subservient to someone or some way of thinking that is not healthy for them. We need to be the masters of our own ship. Power operates in each of these aspects of our lives: Physical, Emotional, Social, Ethical and Spiritual. Where in your life might you take better charge of your destiny? How can you gain more power and control?

THE SELF-ESTEEM NEEDS: We classify the following three needs under self-esteem because if a person feels and experiences being loved, accepted, and successful, that person will inevitably have high self-esteem.

LOVE: The need to feel loved is exceedingly important. This may take the form of important people in your life touching, hugging, kissing you, telling you that they love you, and showing their love via taking care of you in different ways. Sex needs to be making love, not just the physical act. Self-love is typically a natural result of being loved in these ways. It is said that the best way to receive love is to give it. Start smiling at people for no reason. How can you create more love in your life?

ACCEPTANCE: Have you ever been rejected? Not fun. Especially in childhood and the teen years feeling accepted by the members of your family and your peers is critical to healthy growth. Remember the “I’m ok, you’re ok” mantra of years past? Everyone needs to feel ok. Do you accept yourself the way you are and the way you are not? That is, have you become ok with most of what might be seen by yourself and others as shortcomings?

SUCCESS: You can’t just take on success as a whole. What’s needed is to break down success into its life domains. Do you feel successful Physically? Mentally/Intellectually? Socially? (Includes such as career, finances) Ethically? Spiritually? Mentally unchallenged? Why not take on a new skill or learning a language for example? In which of these “success domains” could you take on a project to improve yourself?

There you have it. Go back over each of the ten needs and select at least two of them to focus on for your own personal growth program. Two suggestions to help you succeed: First, draw up a solid plan that includes the details of what you are going to do to reach the goals you select. Second, communicate your plan and your commitment to its success to a partner and enroll them into being your support. It’s easy to fail by yourself; it’s more difficult when a partner is committed to what you are committed to.

* Dr. Acuff’s Ph.D. is in philosophy, sociology and education. He has been a seminar and communication workshop leader in front of more than 3,000 participants. Dr. Acuff will be leading a personal enhancement workshop beginning January 29 at LCS. Get ready to explore together a wide variety of topics and issues germane to what it means to be here, now, alive and inquisitive, wanting even more insight, growth, health and happiness. For info and to register:

El Ojo del Lago – Home Page


For more information about Lake Chapala visit:

Ojo Del Lago
Latest posts by Ojo Del Lago (see all)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *