We all try in some way to protect ourselves. When you go for self-defense classes, the idea is to protect yourself from the potential of being harmed by others. But what have you done lately to protect yourself from the string of thoughts that goes on in your mind? The Buddhists call this the Monkey Mind. It’s the part of you that can’t stop thinking and stressing about life and it’s your worst enemy. When the original Buddha went to work on trying to find solutions to mankind’s suffering, he found the answers were very clear and that much of our suffering is self-imposed. Let’s look at some of the sufferings I am talking about.

If you are scared to step up the ladder to success, the main fear you will have is that you won’t be able to live up to other people’s expectations. Fear of failure is very real. Often it stops us from trying new things. We don’t want to be made to look foolish. Thus, we invent all kinds of reasons why we don’t want to do something in our lives. We fear being mocked, but all of this fear is going on in the mind. It may be as a result of things that have happened in the past or even in your childhood. However, your childhood has gone now. You don’t have the same excuses, but still, your mind harbors these excuses because it’s more convenient for you. The Monkey Mind is that part of your mind that remembers all of these failures and makes a huge thing out of them. It remembers past conversations. It talks you through emotional turmoil. You may play through things that people have said to you, so the way they have treated you. The problem is that over the course of a lifetime, this can amount to a lot of wasted thought and a great deal of anxiety. And although you may think it was caused by outside influence, it wasn’t. It was caused by your mind’s reaction to those outside influences.

Take two kids. One is afraid of donkeys. He is afraid of donkeys because a donkey at the zoo bit him. Thus, he carries this thought with him for the rest of his life and avoids donkeys. The other kid loved the donkeys. He enjoys donkey rides. He enjoys taking part in helping charities that help donkeys. He was there when his friend got bitten but it didn’t affect him or his affection for donkeys. So, what’s the real difference? The difference is that the kid who got bitten relives that moment over and over again in his head until it multiplies and makes donkeys a threat. He fears them. They are not fearsome creatures but, for this boy, they have become fearsome creatures because of his experience and the repetition of thoughts in his mind.

Quite often there is a logic behind the fears that hold us back. A grown up with self-esteem problems may look back at her childhood and see constant criticism. She has grown up with it from her parents and her siblings and has never really experienced anything else. Thus, she expects criticism and thinks that she deserves it. She will have played those thoughts over in her mind because to her, they were an important part of growing up. Her sister, on the other hand, was able to shrug off criticism and believed in herself. She hasn’t spent the majority of her life going over the thoughts that her parents put there or being worried about what siblings said. The problem here is that the child with self-esteem issues will have her self-confidence affected even more by the success of her sibling. She measures herself against the success of her sister and sees herself as a failure.

The monkey mind does all kinds of things to make you suffer. Imagine these thoughts and perhaps the influences someone grew up with becoming a part of who that character is. Each situation is placed into boxes or compartments in the mind, but it doesn’t stop there. Unfortunately, human beings have something called a subconscious. This records reactions. Thus, if child one reacts to life with no confidence and has self-image problems, she will thus approach new problems with the same mindset simply because that’s the recorded way of doing something for her. The other sister, who is not impeded by other people’s thoughts may grow up to be a little selfish or egoist, but she feels sufficiently validated by life not to experience that doubting mindset.

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There is a hierarchy of needs that each human being needs to be aware of. When Maslow came up with his hierarchy of needs, he took into account much of what he had learned at University but also his own life because he was being brought up in a time of doubt, just after the Second World War, when people’s lives needed some kind of order. This urgency for something to happen in the psychology world was brought about by Maslow’s need to help people whose lives had been shattered by war. His work included finding out what motivates people and what their needs were in order to be happy. The model that he created is still one that works today and shows human needs to be in different categories, which is very logical. First, you have the needs, which are physiological. In other words, people need to feed themselves the right kinds of foods in a varied diet. They need sleep, as sleep helps to heal the body and mind and certain hormones are released during the process of sleep that do just this. They also need exercise to ensure that their body stays in great shape. His second group of needs involved safety.

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People need to live in a safe environment. They need to have predictable patterns to their lives that allow them to be secure. For example, you may feel safe living in a nice house or protected by the local police, but safety goes further than that. You may not feel safe getting on a plane. You may not feel safe when you get into water that is too deep. Thus, safety encompasses all of these things and sometimes hampers the way forward as well as being very necessary to make you feel secure and happy. Your body has the ability to jump into panic mode to protect itself. You have an intuition that helps you to make wise decisions. You have the ability to avoid problems that may be difficult and take away the element of safety from your life, but safety is a need and some people will go to lengths to feel it and to experience feeling safe. As human beings, we tend to protect ourselves but sometimes get it wrong. Someone who protects himself from promotion because he fears it holds himself back. Someone who stops himself from being singled out through shyness will hold themselves back. You have to understand that being safe and feeling safe are two different things and perhaps there are things in your life that make you feel unsafe and that you avoid because you have this need to feel sure of your footing.

The next area that he dealt with was Love/belonging. Human beings have the need to be loved. Often, we make the mistake of believing we are entitled to love and feel rejected when we don’t get that love. However, the first place to start when you want to attract love into your life is self-love. If you don’t like who you are, why would you expect others to like you? Thus, you can see that this need is only fulfilled when you know yourself well enough to like who you are. Self-love has nothing to do with ego. It has more to do with self-respect, self-esteem and the ability to accept yourself as you are, warts and all! This will be fully explained in the chapters that follow, although it is potentially what stops you from being loved. If you do not feel loved in your life, then you have some work to do in order to feel that love flowing through your life. It’s okay. It can be done and will be explained.

I once met someone who was crippled. At that time in my life, I believed that this person needed me in some way because he had legs that didn’t work. There’s a certain empathy that you feel toward people who don’t fit into your idea of normal. I was completely taken aback when I found that not only did he not need me, he was actually a lot stronger than I was in that he knew exactly who he was and accepted himself. He drew people toward him because of his positivity, rather than the fact that he had legs that didn’t work. It was a lesson that I never forgot because he taught me that my empathy was misplaced and that I was being sympathetic to make myself feel better about who I was. When you have no self-esteem, you look to use others as a crutch, and you can see clearly from Maslow’s model that love and acceptance come very high in the scale of human needs. Thus, understanding the place of self-love is important to your happiness as well. It is this self-love that attracts others to you and helps you to feel belonging.

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Esteem is the next section of his needs model. We need to be respected, but we also need self-esteem. Therefore, we need to do all that we can to retain self-esteem. Even when people criticize you for something, it’s possible to retain self-esteem, not by being stubborn, but by having respect for the right of others to an opinion and the right to our own opinion.

You can never soar like an eagle if you allow other people to clip your wings. If you clip them yourself by having no self-esteem, you will never soar either. Thus, you do need to work on mindset, which is covered later in the book. To protect yourself in this regard, you have to learn balance in your life between the needs of others and the needs of yourself. If you bend too far in the direction of other people’s needs, you lose self-respect and if you never deal with your own needs, you shrink until people don’t even notice you anymore, let alone respecting you. Esteem is something you really can work on and there are exercises later in the book to help you to do this. Have you ever come across people in your life who are perfectly prepared to be doormats? They go far beyond what is necessary in a friendship or may even seek out the approval of others because they need to hear that they are good at something. The problem with this kind of belief is that it isn’t accompanied by self-love or self-respect. People who feel no sense of worth will ask others to validate their worth and are very negative in their viewpoint. They don’t make good friends either because of their neediness.

The top category in Maslow’s model is self-actualization. What does this mean? If you don’t know what it means, the chances are that you haven’t actually gone through the process. You need to feel that your life has a purpose and that you are living out that purpose. If your life has no aim, it’s hard to measure your level of success. Self-actualization means living the dream, but not the dream of others. It’s the dream that you have about the purpose of your life. People who try to adhere to the standards of others often never experience self-actualization because they base their values upon what other people think. At the end of the day, this bears little relation to reality. When someone gives a fortune to a charity for the sake of helping people who have a need and do it without making a spectacle of that gift, they are living out their purpose. When the purpose of the gift is the praise of others, rather than the charity itself, it becomes less self-actualization and more a question of seeking love and approval.

I can give you a very good example of this. John Poulter was a great student. He had a lot of potentials. His father expected him to become a lawyer and, in order to appease his father, John took his place at law school even though it wasn’t what he wanted. He felt no passion for the law and knew that if he ever did become a lawyer, he would be mediocre at best because his heart wasn’t in it. He had wanted to become an artist but knew that his father would never have approved of him doing that. The way that John’s life progressed meant that he had the esteem of others, but that he never really experienced self-actualization, until one day he worked out a way that this would be possible. The money he earned as a lawyer was sufficient to allow him the luxury of painting in his spare time. He set up a studio and began to attract attention from local galleries. When the first of his paintings sold, John felt that he was soaring on the wings of an eagle because he experienced self-actualization. He was doing something he felt passionate about and had made that a necessary part of his life.

You may say that it’s okay for those who have money to do that, but self-actualization is more about opportunity than money. Look at the work of J.K. Rowling. She wanted to become a writer and came from a fairly poor background and did exactly that. Other people have found self-actualization in smaller needs. A mother who dotes on her kids finds it in providing a meal for the family at the end of the day. Another person may find self-actualization in the simple task of being able to do something like design their garden or backyard. There are no limitations. You are not limited by the funds that you have when you decide to live the life that you want to live. It’s all about knowing the direction in which your life is going as you will find out in our chapter on self-actualization.

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When you put together all of Maslow’s recipe for a happy and fulfilled life, you will not really fall short of finding happiness because you will have all the elements in place to achieve just that. So, let’s recap on those needs:

Physiological needs – Food, water, sleep, exercise.

Safety needs – Living in a safe environment and being able to feel safe in everyday life.

Love/belonging – Knowing that you are loved and that you are capable of loving back. Belonging.

Esteem – Self-esteem, and esteem for others.

Self-actualization – Living the life that you want to live.

So now that you know all of the elements that human beings need in their lives, I can move on to making these things happen so that you can indeed soar like an eagle and enjoy the sense of freedom and happiness that every human being deserves.

I would suggest that you have a pen and paper at the ready because you will need to take notes and will also have exercises along the way that will require this. You may find that you can take the chapters out of order if you wish to, although the order that I have placed them in assumes that you are not happy with your life and that you want to improve it. I have started from basics and worked my way into explaining the different elements you need to improve upon, showing you how to do that.

The mini habits section near the end of the book shows you how you can become more productive with less effort. You may believe that this is not possible, though of course, there are always ways and means to improve your productivity and you may not be maximizing your time. I know that you are still skeptical about whether you can soar like an eagle, but I am absolutely sure that my book is the recipe for doing just that and that when you follow the exercises given, you will not only be able to soar like an eagle but will also look forward with impatience to every day that lies ahead. You will also appreciate your surroundings and the people that form part of your life.

Exercise 1 – Learn the Maslow model and write down the different priorities that a person needs in his/her life. Next to each of the titles, put in what you do in your life that fits into each category. You may find that you are lacking in some way, but that’s okay. That’s why you are here. Perhaps you feel that you don’t have enough love and a sense of belonging. Perhaps you don’t have self-esteem or the esteem of others. You need to recognize where your weaknesses are so that you can look at your paper again in several weeks and see if you have rectified anything on the list. I am sure that you will find that you have changed by making an effort to incorporate every one of Maslow’s chart items into your life.

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If you want to protect yourself from the environment in which you live, you do need every aspect of this need hierarchy in place. If you have an area that is blank, that’s really an area you need to work on so that you have something in every category and can up this as and when changes take place in your life following the exercises outlined in the chapters that follow. Be honest with yourself when you fill out the chart and ask yourself whether anything you do in your life can be counted as fulfilling any of the necessary needs. You will need to make changes as you go along, but each of these changes must add a certain percentage to the part of the hierarchy of needs to which it refers. Let me give you an example. If you find that at this time your life is not filled with love, then this is an area you will need to work on by investing time in learning to love yourself first and then letting the rest follow. You see, people who do experience self-love and acceptance are stronger than those who don’t experience that. It is the basis upon which they can nurture relationships. If you think of yourself as defective in some way, what do you have to give to others? If, however, you respect who you are, then you don’t need to prove that or beg for any kind of feedback from others to ascertain what they think of you.

The law of attraction means that you will encourage people into your life, but the kind of people and the kind of response will largely depend upon you and how you face the world. If Nicky had faced the world with the amount of negativity she felt inside her, the likelihood is that she would have alienated people instead of attracting them toward her. She was one of those students who was unhappy with herself. She needed constant reassurance from others to validate who she was. Without self-love, that’s what you are likely to do because you are looking for approval and belonging, but you haven’t approved of yourself yet and cannot belong because you don’t let yourself belong. You set yourself apart by being so needy. Self-love assures you of making positive relationships and of being able to offer the world everything positive and the world will then read your vibrations and positive things will come back to you. That’s how the law of attraction works. You can attract all kinds of things into your life if you want them enough but being sure of who you are, helps you enormously to know what makes you happy and what doesn’t. Self-love is discussed further in this book as it’s a huge part of the human needs list. You cannot be loved if you cannot love yourself. If you are, then you are not giving as much to the relationship as the person who loves you and that’s hardly fair. Your partner has needs too and these are clearly defined in the Maslow model.

Similarly, if you feel that you are not actualizing your life and have no sense of achievement, you can work on that too. This is what life is all about and if you go through periods of your life when you feel that your life isn’t purposeful or isn’t achieving anything, you are letting life get the better of you. You are only on this Earth for a limited amount of years. The earlier you do something to fulfill all of the needs on the Maslow model, the better. Otherwise, these years are wasted, and you don’t get to spread your wings like an eagle.

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What the eagle has that you don’t is total freedom. You can have this if you work your way through the chart of needs and make sure that you cater for those needs in some way, through the interactions you have with others and also through your own actions.

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