Humanistic psychology was founded in the 1950's by a number of great psychologists including Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Rollo May, and Clark Moustakas. The humanistic approach was both unique and revolutionary because it tried to study the positive human qualities and it focused on the individuals' self-healing capability. This was a contrasting methodology to behaviorism and psychoanalysis, which were the two major schools of thought during that time. By 1961, the American Association for Humanistic Psychology became official. Today, the theories of humanistic psychology continue to influence society in areas like business, education, and therapy. The humanistic approach and the idea of self-efficacy are critical in terms of helping people improve themselves, strive to grow, and succeed.
Abraham Maslow was one of the leading forces in the beginning of humanistic psychology. Maslow's hierarchy of needs prioritizes human needs into five levels. The hierarchy is in order of physiological needs, safety, love and belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization. Maslow proposed that until a person's basic needs are met, the person cannot fulfill his or her higher needs. Self-actualization, the state in which one is motivated to reach his or her full potential, sits at the top of the hierarchy. Maslow said that during the self-actualization stage people can experience moments of spiritual insight. Maslow's hierarchy concentrates on the importance of satisfying one's basic needs before being able to please a higher need. The setting must be right in order for self-actualization to occur.
The other key figure in the beginning of humanistic psychology was Carl Rogers. Rogers believed that every human is born with a natural strive to grow and an instinct to make the right decisions. But as one grows up, his or her surroundings cast a negative influence on the individual. The upbringing is when the self-concept of a person is in danger. The self-concept is the personality, behavior, and overall perception and assessment of one's ability. Rogers alleged that negative influences during the upbringing are harmful to the self-concept. Because of the negative influences the individual loses his or her genuine feelings and becomes the person he or she is forced to be. Rogers held that if the self-concept of an individual is inaccurate then that person is different from his or her true self. And in order to repair one's self-concept, one must not worry about what others would like him or her to be. Rather the individual must focus on who he or she is, and increase his or her positive experiences. Rogers believes that every person should accept and value one another. Rogers make it clear that there is a difference between accepting a person and accepting their bad behavior. If a person does something wrong, one should direct respect and comfort to the individual but not their wrong behavior. According to Rogers, unconditional positive regard, empathy, and genuineness are the essentials to having healthy relationships and to developing a positive self-concept.
Later in the 1980's Edward Deci and Richard Ryan proposed the self-determination theory, which states that each person has three basic psychological needs: the need of competence, relatedness, and autonomy. These three needs are of intrinsic motivation caused by one's internal needs. Intrinsic motivation usually leads to more competent behavior, while extrinsic motivation is caused by an external reason, like a reward or punishment. Competence is the need to feel able to produce a desired result in a situation, identical to Albert Bandura's self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the individual's belief in his or her ability to produce a positive result in a situation. Relatedness is the need to be social and have relationships with people. Autonomy is the need to feel independent, in control, and self-reliant. Similar to Maslow's self-actualization, the needs of the self-determination theory are intrinsically motivated and aim for personal growth.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Rogers' self-concept, and Deci's and Ryan's self-determination theory, all teach us central points about human motivation and personal growth. These theories imply that without the appropriate setting, perception of self, and motivators, one cannot achieve personal growth. And according to Bandura's self-efficacy the answer to accomplish personal growth is within the individual and his or her belief in oneself. This demonstrates how together the humanistic approach and the idea of self-efficacy are perfect tools to help an individual grow and succeed in his or her ambitions.