A lot has happened to me and for me this year. In one phrase - God has blessed me exceedingly well this year...and it is just the beginning. In January, I set a couple of parameters for myself and even though there were conflicting with my nature (which i'd cultivated over the years), I knew I had to fight against it. The fight is still on but I'm not giving up. My journey to self actualization has only gotten fiercer, my desire for self-fulfilment is stronger than my desire for stagnance. This article about self-actualisation is our Inspire post for the week.
Upon watching the foreign film A Five Star Life, the ending will be an untraditional jolt to an American audience as it will deign to allow the heroine to journey into the credits in absolute contentment with her own company. The quote above is stated by Irene just as this last scene unfolds, and as I was collecting all of my sources for today’s post, I couldn’t help but realize with certainty that Irene is indeed the epitomization of self-actualization.
Why? You may ask. Does one have to journey through life alone in order to be self-actualized? Absolutely not. But what Irene exhibits is the knowledge of herself and the world around her. She is not limited by what society purports to define as a “happy life”, but rather investigates and discovers what happiness is indeed for her while accepting that others may, and many do, have a different definition.
Abraham Maslow introduced the psychological theory of Self-Actualization in the mid twentieth century when he shared his Hierarchy of Needs, placing self-actualization at the pinnacle. Put simply, to reach self-actualization is to reach your full potential. Maslow’s definition:
What a man be, he must be. It is the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. To become everything that one is capable of becoming.
The benefits of attaining self-actualization are plentiful:
1. Inner Peace
2. Master of One’s Emotions
3. Improve Physical Health
4. Improve Creativity
5. Increased Ability to Learn New Concepts
6. Become an Inspiration for Others
7. Contribute Positively to Society
Wonderful benefits no doubt, but how exactly does one become self-actualized? Great question. Actually, there is no end point, as anyone, and each of us is capable, who attains self-actualization is constantly ebbing and flowing with life as it is not a static state. But in order to attain it, Maslow believed we must first have attained the four preceding needs first in order to free ourselves to be open to exploration of what indeed our true potential might be. While the four may occur out of order, that is perfectly fine. Below is the checklist of what your “met needs” toolbox should contain:
- Physiological Needs Met: Access to good nutrition, adequate shelter as well as living in a physically healthy body that can function as you need it to without inhibition. You have enough money to make this a reality on a regular basis.
- Safety Needs Met: A home that provides safety, security and a consistent level of routine in order to allow you to free your mind to explore, wander and relax. Financial security is key for the first two needs on this list.
- Social Needs Met: Being a part of healthy, comforting, supportive relationships. Whether at work, home, with friends and most importantly with yourself. The ability to feel respected and be yourself.
- Self-Esteem Needs Met: Having cultivated and honed your expertise in one or two fields which eventually brings respect and validation of your talents, efforts and expertise. The validation need not come from outside sources, but self-knowledge that you have achieved something of value.
Once you have met the four needs, you are then able to be free, so to speak, to pursue what calls you, what tickles your curiosities.
However, once these needs are met, you still need to take the leap to arrive at self-actualization. How can the leap occur? What does it look like? The good news is that it will be slightly different for everyone. Psychologists suggest any of the following can do the trick:
- Be willing to try something new, travel paths unknown and face your fears.
- Be willing to trust your inner voice (intuition, gut, etc) and especially so if those in authority suggest something that doesn’t ring true for you.
- Avoid putting up walls by playing games and being dishonest. Honesty is crucial as it is in discovering the truth that you can unearth your true potential.
- Having the courage to be unpopular or ostracized simply because you are doing something different or out of the ordinary.
- Regardless of your age, dive into life as you did when you were a child. Lose track of time and indulge in what you love doing.
- Practice regular self-examination. Become in tune with your emotions and why they occur. Become knowledgeable of when your hackles go up (defenses) and then determine why, so you can maneuver and grow past them.
- Take responsibility for your life.
- Understand that a good life takes time and hard work. Practice a good work ethic regardless of who is watching.
You will know you have reached self-actualization when the following occur, are experienced or are able to be enjoyed sincerely:
While not choosing to be unconventional simply to be different, you are not swayed by the zeitgeist if it doesn’t sit well with your understanding of how you will achieve your full potential. Conformity is not in your vocabulary, but if what you prefer to do is what others do as well, you do not bolt.
Fear is not your master, and while you may be uncertain of outcomes, you approach problems logically. Your ability to understand that fear is simply due to unknowns is what provokes you to seek answers, and consequently what allows you to move forward as you answer the unknowns.
3. Sound Understanding of Reality
Embracing who you really are – your age, life experiences, abilities – is someone who is self-actualized. It doesn’t mean you can’t improve yourself, but you accept facts about yourself and the world around you. You also accept life’s uncertainty and can move forward confidently despite the inability at any given moment to know exactly how events will unfold.
Understanding that you are not the only person in the world, you are open to others living life differently. While you are not swayed, you are accepting of who other people are and do not try to change them so that you can be more “comfortable”.
5. Solitude & Independence
In order to be someone who as achieved self-actualization, you must have time to yourself, with your thoughts and time to explore without judgment. The self-actualized person is comfortable in their own company and needs it regularly in order to become in tune with their curiosities, calling and true potential. While they may be either extroverted or introverted and indeed recognize the need for social interaction, they are aware of the importance of solitude and privacy as well.
6. Insatiable Curiosity About the World
Viewing the world with absolute fascination, you understand the world has endless lessons to teach, beauty to reveal and questions to pose. You delight in these facts and thus are open to adventure and seeing more, doing more and thus are endlessly inspired and experience moments of pleasure and joy.
7. Experience “Peak Experiences”
Maslow coined the term “peak experiences” as moments of intense wonder, ecstasy and awe; after which you are strengthened, renewed and transformed. Sometimes a peak experience is what catapults you into the fifth domain of his hierarchy.
8. A Thoughtful Sense of Humor
You are able to enjoy humor that is enlightened and not at the expense of another. You do not ridicule or make fun to make yourself feel superior and another feel inferior. You are able to laugh at yourself and appreciate life’s many paradoxes.
9. Guilt is Not Experienced
Why? You are in touch with your emotions and not mastered by them, and because you have high ethical standards, you do what you know to best without worrying about what others will think. If a problem erupts or you discover your decision based on your understanding of the situation was wrong, you rationally deal with it and seek a solution that is within your power. You understand that someone else cannot make another feel something they don’t already feel themselves.
10. Strong, Quality Relationships
Rather than having innumerable friends and acquaintances, you cultivate a few friendships and relationships over time and with care. Popularity is not in your vocabulary, but rather healthy relationships in which honest communication, acceptance of strengths and flaws and an offering of support as each party involved strives for their true potential.
11. Live in the Present
While you will have goals as you seek to reach your true potential, you are able to be fully present in the moment and appreciate the everyday simple amazing moments that life provides.
The self-actualized life is a significant part of living a simply luxurious life. With a focus on quality over quantity, following your own path and letting go of what society offers if it doesn’t sit well with your journey and an insatiable curiosity to forever continue to learn and grow, you are already well on your way to becoming or continuing to be self-actualized.
Today I wanted more than anything to lay out specifics so that you can map where you are, discover how you arrived where you are and determine what you wish to focus on as you move forward. The most wonderful part is each of our journeys will be different, what we seek will be unique to us all and that is what allows for there to be endless inspiration in the world we live in for each one of us.
So whether you are like Irene and discover you wish to travel alone, or know with self-reflected certainty that a partner who seeks a similar path is your preference, give yourself the best gift you will ever bestow and strive for self-actualization.