“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
Abraham Maslow was a fascinating American psychologist that wrote a lot about the topic of self-actualization, along with many other things. Many of you may have seen or studied Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, an explanation of different physical, psychological and physiological levels we go through in life. The lowest, most basic needs that must be met in order for us to progress to a higher level are our physiological needs; food, water, shelter, etc. The next level is our Security Needs, then Social Needs, then Self-Esteem, then at the top of the pyramid is Self-Actualization. That is the topic for today. At this level, individuals are said to reach a state of harmony and understanding, because they are engaged in achieving their full potential. These different levels often define the level of happiness and fulfillment a person is experiencing in life. Each of us can be at different levels at different times in our lives, constantly moving up and down the pyramid. It is important to understand that where you are does not determine your long term happiness because as we all know, things are constantly changing.
I highly recommend researching Mr. Maslow and finding more ways you can understand your current state and work to reach a higher level of fulfillment in your life.
Self-actualization, the definition at Dictionary.Reference.com, is:
“The achievement of one’s full potential through creativity, independence, spontaneity, and grasp of the real world. Also called actualization. Origin: 1935-40, The World English Dictionary, self-actualization, the process of establishing oneself as a whole person, able to develop one’s abilities and to understand oneself.”
Below is a list of 8 ways to self-actualize by Abraham Maslow. Following the 8 ways are my own personal insights. Enjoy.
Abraham Maslow’s 8 Ways to Self-Actualize
1. Experience things fully, vividly, selflessly, with full concentration & total absorption. Throw yourself into the experiencing of something. Concentrate on it fully and let it totally absorb you. Whatever you are doing in any given minute, you can choose to do it this way. I do not believe this is something that is easy at first. You must let go of all thoughts, become totally present in the moment, and let it absorb you and take you to an unexplainable place. I believe in this place, you will be operating out of a spirit dimension and experiencing things you didn’t even know were possible.
2. We always have a choice between growth & safety. By choosing to act out of safety, we are choosing to act out of fear and the need for defense. Alternatively if we choose to act out of growth, could also be considered risk, this allows us to experience progress and growth as individuals. These are choices we make constantly throughout our day to day activities and sometimes the choice we make is solely out of habit. I challenge you to choose more growth today, take a new path, try new things, and see the abundance and ingenuity that exists in you.
3. Be prepared to be unpopular. Let your true, authentic self-emerge. Choose to let go of the external cues that tell you how you should feel, think, say, etc. Allow your individuality to come through, speak your mind from your own personal experience and do not let the majority determine your experience. Knowing that this is an O.K. place to be is probably the most important. From a young age we are forced to go along with the majority and to not speak out. But it’s time we stand up and let go of the fear we let cripple us. Be bold and know that if people are thinking you’re a little ‘out there’, just go with it and live out of the conviction of your own heart and spirit.
4. Strive to be ruthlessly honest. Always seek to be honest in every situation. This does not mean you have to be rude. True honesty is genuine and takes responsibility. By taking responsibility and being honest, you are challenging others to do the same and creating an environment where it’s safe to be honest.
5. Follow your instincts. If you are experiencing a pull in one direction or another, go with it. Learn to let your intuition, gut feelings and subtle cues guide you throughout your day. Listen to your body and your desires. You will be amazed how many wonderful things it can lead you to and alternatively how many negative things you can avoid.
6. Always be improving. Use and grow your gifts. Take responsibility for who you have come here to be. Desire only that which serves you. Be free to be who you want to be in life and work hard at achieving just that.
7. Seek out peak experiences. Seek out more of those experiences that make you feel alive, that make you feel inspired and those that cause enthusiasm. Find your bliss. Make these experiences so frequent that most of your day exists by going from peak to peak and loving every moment of it. By doing this you will inspire others to see the joy and fulfillment they can also have.
8. Drop your ego defenses. Find out who you are, what you are, what you like and don’t like, what is good and what is bad for you, where you are going, what your mission is. Finding out more about yourself allows you to identify the defenses you have built, based on past experiences, hurts, and fears, and allows you to find the courage necessary to give them up, thus opening you up to be vulnerable and sincere with life and experience things in a new way.
Based on SimplePsychology.org, Maslow (1968): Some of the characteristics of self-actualized people can be seen below:
Although we are all, theoretically, capable of self-actualizing, most of us will not do so, or only to a limited degree. Maslow (1970) estimated that only two percent of people will reach the state of self-actualization. He was particularly interested in the characteristics of people whom he considered to have achieved their potential as persons.
By studying 18 people he considered to be self-actualized (including Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein) Maslow (1970) identified 15 characteristics of a self-actualized person.
Characteristics of self-actualizers:
1. They perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty;
2. Accept themselves and others for what they are;
3. Spontaneous in thought and action;
4. Problem-centered (not self-centered);
5. Unusual sense of humor;
6. Able to look at life objectively;
7. Highly creative;
8. Resistant to enculturation, but not purposely unconventional;
9. Concerned for the welfare of humanity;
10. Capable of deep appreciation of basic life-experience;
11. Establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people;
12. Peak experiences;
13. Need for privacy;
14. Democratic attitudes;
15. Strong moral/ethical standards.
Throughout the process of becoming self-actualized, we are not striving to be perfect, as there is no such thing, nor are we trying to be something we are not. We are simply seeking to make enlightenment, growth, and true self-identification a priority in our lives.
“I think of the self-actualizing man not as an ordinary man with something added, but rather as the ordinary man with nothing taken away. The average man is a full human being with dampened & inhibited powers & capacities.” (Abraham Maslow)