Self-actualisation, derived from humanistic psychology represents the optimal psychological condition for all humankind; basically, it is an inherent tendency within ourselves to grow and reach full potential. The desire for self-fulfilment is a basic drive for human beings.
Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs explains what motivates human behaviour but we must meet the needs at the base of the pyramid before can we reach our full potential.
So how do we actualise?
Well first things first; we need our physiological needs met; that is, the things that we need to ensure survival. Once we have worked our way up the triangle (and we will probably go up and down it several times throughout our lives because, well, that’s life) we can then attempt self-actualisation.
And what are the traits of self-actualised people?
Maslow studied the traits of some of the people he believed to have achieved self-actualization; Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, to name a few. Here are some of the shared characteristics that he found:
- They are realistically oriented. 2. They accept themselves, other people, and the natural world for what they are. 3. They have a great deal of spontaneity. 4. They are problem-centred rather than self-centred. 5. They have an air of detachment and a need for privacy. 6. They are autonomous and independent. 7. Their appreciation of people and things is fresh rather than stereotyped. 8. Most of them have had profound mystical or spiritual experiences, although not necessarily religious in character. 9. They identify with mankind. 10. Their intimate relationships with a few specially loved people tend to be profound and deeply emotional rather than superficial. 11. Their values and attitudes are democratic. 12. They do not confuse means with ends. 13. Their sense of humour is philosophical rather than hostile. 14. They have a great fund of creativeness. 15. They resist conformity to the culture. 16. They transcend the environment rather than just coping with it.
How can we begin to self-actualise?
Only you can truly know this. You must follow your passions. What is your heart dictating you do? But here are a few suggestions from Maslow himself:
Abraham Maslow’s 8 Ways to Self-Actualize
- Experience things fully, vividly, selflessly. Throw yourself into the experiencing of something: concentrate on it fully, let it totally absorb you
- Life is an ongoing process of choosing between safety (out of fear and need for defence) and risk (for the sake of progress and growth): Make the growth choice a dozen times a day.
- Let the self-emerge. Try to shut out the external clues as to what you should think, feel, say, and so on, and let your experience enable you to say what you truly feel.
- When in doubt, be honest. If you look into yourself and are honest, you will also take responsibility. Taking responsibility is self-actualizing.
- Listen to your own tastes. Be prepared to be unpopular.
- Use your intelligence, work to do well the things you want to do, no matter how insignificant they seem to be.
- Make peak experiencing more likely: get rid of illusions and false notions. Learn what you are good at and what your potentialities are not.
- 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. Opening yourself up to yourself in this way means identifying defences – and then finding the courage to give them up.
So, what are you waiting for? Go actualise!
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