How to Understand Yourself Better


Ideas and Models to Help you Understand Yourself Better

  • The Flow Model
  • The Johari Window
  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
  • The Cognitive Dissonance Model
  • The Feedback Model
  • The Managerial Grid Model

The Flow Model (Being in the Zone)

In psychology, a FLOW state, also known as being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed with a feeling of energized focus, involvement, and enjoyment in the activity. Flow is characterized by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of forced effort and time.

Six factors have been identified as encompassing an experience of flow:

  • focused concentration on the present moment,
  • the merging of action and awareness,
  • a loss of self-consciousness,
  • a sense of control over the situation,
  • a distortion of the subjective experience of time,
  • the experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding.

These aspects. in combination, constitute a  flow experience. Flow leads to feelings of being so engrossed in the experience, that other needs become negligible

Flow Model

Mental state in terms of Challenge and Skill Level, according to the Flow Model

In modern times the Flow state was labeled by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in 1975. However, the concept has existed for thousands of years under other names, notably in some Eastern religions, such as Buddhism.


The FLOW state shares many characteristics with Hyperfocus. However, Hyperfocus is not always described in a positive light. Examples include spending “too much” time playing computer games or watching television.

Hyperfocus can lead to getting side-tracked and pleasurably absorbed by one aspect of a task to the detriment of the overall objective. In some cases, Hyperfocus can “capture” a person, perhaps causing them to appear unfocused or to start several projects, but only complete a few projects.

“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.”

– Rainer Maria Rilke

The Johari Window

The Johari Window is a technique that helps people better understand their relationship with themselves and others.

To use the Johari Window, subjects need to pick several adjectives from a list, choosing ones they feel describe their personality. The subject’s peers then get the same list, and each picks an equal number of adjectives that describe the subject. These adjectives are then inserted into a two-by-two grid of four cells.

Johari Window
Johari Window

The Four Quadrants of the Johari Window

  • OPEN: Adjectives that both the subject and peers select go in this quadrant of the grid. These are traits that subject and peers perceive. The OPEN quadrant is the part of ourselves that we and others see.
  • BLINDSPOT: Adjectives not selected by subjects, but only by their peers, are placed here. These represent what others perceive, but the subject does not. The BLINDSPOT contains aspects that others see, but the subject is unaware of these aspects and how they are perceived by others.
  • HIDDEN: Adjectives selected by the subject, but not by any of their peers, are placed in this quadrant. These are things the peers are either unaware of, or that are untrue but for the subject’s claim. The HIDDEN quadrant is the private space we know, but is hidden from others.
  • UNKNOWN: Adjectives that neither subject nor peers selected, are placed into this quadrant. They represent the subject’s behaviors or motives that no one participating recognizes. These traits either do not apply or because of collective ignorance of these motives. The UNKNOWN quadrant is the unconscious part of us that neither ourselves nor others see.

The Johari Adjectives


The Johari Window was created by psychologists Joseph Luft (1916–2014) and Harrington Ingham (1916–1995) in 1955. They named their model “Johari” using a combination of their first names.

“To the man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail.”

– Abraham Maslow

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs uses the terms “physiological,” “safety,” “belonging and love,” “social needs,” or “esteem,” and “self-actualization,” to describe the pattern through which human motivations generally move. In order for motivation to arise at the next stage, each stage must be satisfied with the individual.

This model is used to describe how effort and motivation are correlated when discussing human behavior. Each of these individual levels contains needs that must be met in order for an individual to complete their hierarchy. The goal in Maslow’s theory is to attain the fifth level or stage: self-actualization.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Physiological Needs

“Physiological Needs” is a concept that was derived to explain and cultivate the foundation for motivation. This concept is the primary physical requirement for human survival. Humans are compelled to fulfill these physiological needs first in order to pursue intrinsic satisfaction on a higher level. Physiological needs include:

  • Health
  • Food
  • Water
  • Sleep
  • Clothes
  • Shelter

Safety Needs

Once a person’s physiological needs are relatively satisfied, their “Safety Needs” take precedence and dominate behavior. If a person does not feel safe in an environment, they will seek to find safety before they attempt to meet any higher level of survival. Safety and Security needs include:

  • Personal Security
  • Emotional Security
  • Financial Security
  • Health Security
  • Safety needs against war, natural disaster, family violence, childhood abuse, institutional racism, etc

Social Belonging

After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third level of human needs are seen to be interpersonal and involves feelings of belongingness. This need is especially strong in childhood, and it can override the need for safety, as witnessed in children who cling to abusive parents. “Social Belonging” includes:

  • Friendships
  • Intimacy
  • Family
  • Acceptance among social groups, large or small.


Esteem needs are ego needs or status needs. People develop a concern with getting recognition, status, importance, and respect from others. Most humans have a need to feel respected; this includes the need to have self-esteem and self-respect. Esteem presents the typical human desire to be accepted and valued by others. Psychological imbalances such as depression can distract the person from obtaining a higher level of “Self-Esteem.”


“Self-Actualization” refers to the realization of one’s full potential. Maslow describes this as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be. Self-actualization can be described as a value-based system when discussing its role in motivation.

Self-actualization is understood as the objective of a reward-based system that is used to intrinsically drive completion of certain values or goals. Individuals who are motivated to pursue this goal seek and understand how their needs, relationships, and sense of self are expressed through their behavior. Self-actualization can include:

  • Partnering
  • Parenting
  • Utilizing & Developing Abilities
  • Utilizing & Developing Talents
  • Pursuing Goals


In his later years, Abraham Maslow explored a further dimension of motivation. One finds the fullest realization in giving oneself to something beyond oneself. “Transcendence” refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and the cosmos.”

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow (1908 – 1970) in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation.” His theories parallel many other theories of human developmental psychology, some of which focus on describing the stages of growth in humans.

Maslow’s theory was fully expressed in his 1954 book “Motivation and Personality.” The hierarchy remains a common framework in sociology research, management training, and psychology instruction. Maslow’s classification hierarchy has been revised over time. Today scholars prefer to think of these levels as overlapping each other. This new understanding means that the lower levels may take precedence back over the different levels at any point in time.

“It isn’t normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement.”


Self Reflection Tools

Models to Help you Understand Yourself Better that will be added in future installments.

  • The Cognitive Dissonance Model
  • The Feedback Model
  • The Managerial Grid Model

Are there any other models you would like to see included?

Mini MBA of Big Ideas

“Strategies for Influence” explores and shares a Mini-MBA of Big Ideas from the Leaders of Influence that can help you with your Career, Business, and Leadership. Click on any of the links below to explore the Big Ideas that have influenced our work and culture.

Mini-MBA of the big ideas that have shaped Careers, Leadership, and Business.

“If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.”

– Abraham Maslow

Share this Information to increase Your Influence

Share this page with your network to increase your Influence. Then explore the additional Coaching Information from some of the world’s top experts. Click the links below:

“But it is impossible to enjoy a tennis game, a book, or a conversation unless attention is fully concentrated on the activity.”

– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Ideas and Models to Help you Understand Yourself Better – Videos

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The Johari Window Model

Why Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs Matters

“Self-actualized people…live more in the real world of nature than in the man-made mass of concepts, abstractions, expectations, beliefs and stereotypes that most people confuse with the world.”

– Abraham Maslow,

Image Credit: w:User:Oliverbeatson [Public domain] ; FireflySixtySeven [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]