“Self Actualization” is something I have aspired to achieve in my life, ever since reading Abraham Maslow’s theory on Self-Actualization back in college in 1981. Wow, only took me 32 years. And so it is I celebrate my 56th birthday today, November 25, 2013 feeling like I have finally achieved the success I have always aspired to achieve! Now I know that’s a pretty bold statement to make. And I make it from a place of humilty, even though it may not sound like it to you…lol, it doesnt matter to me. It’s all about me…about my definition of success, my feelings of joy, bliss, freedom, beauty within, that I now experience in my life everyday! No, not every moment…my ego still likes to try and run the show and it’s very sly and sneaky. But all I have to do is notice my thoughts & feelings (ego based) that are not aligned with my true inner essence of joy & beauty, and wala…I’m back there, where I choose to live in an actualized state of being. All I have to do is be present in each moment and surrender to my connection with my Spirit, and wala…I am back there…alive & awake in my true essence, uneffected by the external factors in life, that used run & define me! I highly recommend it. So…happy Birthday to me. Best birthday gift I could ever hope to receive! And it was within in me all this time. Even better!
What Is Self-Actualization?
What exactly is self-actualization? Located at the peak of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy, he described this high-level need in the following way:
“What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization…It refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.”
While the theory is generally portrayed as a fairly rigid hierarchy, Maslow noted that the order in which these needs are fulfilled does not always follow this standard progression. For example, he notes that for some individuals, the need for self-esteem is more important than the need for love. For others, the need for creative fulfillment may supersede even the most basic needs.
Characteristics of Self-Actualized People
In addition to describing what is meant by self-actualization in his theory, Maslow also identified some of the key characteristics of self-actualized people:
- Acceptance and Realism: Self-actualized people have realistic perceptions of themselves, others and the world around them.
- Problem-centering: Self-actualized individuals are concerned with solving problems outside of themselves, including helping others and finding solutions to problems in the external world. These people are often motivated by a sense of personal responsibility and ethics.
- Spontaneity: Self-actualized people are spontaneous in their internal thoughts and outward behavior. While they can conform to rules and social expectations, they also tend to be open and unconventional.
- Autonomy and Solitude: Another characteristic of self-actualized people is the need for independence and privacy. While they enjoy the company of others, these individuals need time to focus on developing their own individual potential.
- Continued Freshness of Appreciation: Self-actualized people tend to view the world with a continual sense of appreciation, wonder and awe. Even simple experiences continue to be a source of inspiration and pleasure.
- Peak Experiences: Individuals who are self-actualized often have what Maslow termed peak experiences, or moments of intense joy, wonder, awe and ecstasy. After these experiences, people feel inspired, strengthened, renewed or transformed.