When are you self-actualised?
How many of us consciously think about, and actively strive to become self-actualised; to achieve this state of “being-ness”? Probably not many of us.
Our focus in life is more about being successful, generating profits, making money, becoming wealthy, gaining recognition and acceptance, having a comfortable lifestyle, accumulating assets, having a padded pension fund, creating and leaving a legacy behind when we die, and so on.
Self-actualisation, a concept derived from Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s theory, is about the growth of an individual towards the fulfilment of their highest needs; particularly needs relating to a meaning in life; to realize one’s full potential. Maslow illustrates this journey of growth with his hierarchy (pyramid) of human needs.
Figure 1: Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs
Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Jane Addams, Albert Schweitzer, and Elanor Roosevelt are among the people whom Maslow considered to be self-actualised. Others, considered to have been self-actualised, include Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama. Amongst these, one could possibly also include Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. - and there are likely many others, less “famous”, that could be considered.
Did these people know or consider themselves to have attained self-actualisation? Or, did they attain this by “default” through committing their life to fulfil a vision, a purpose, an “inner calling”, a meaning for their life?
Some characteristics or qualities considered to be indicators or measures of self-actualisation are:
awareness of the interconnectedness of all things in life
letting go of the needs of the ego, that create the “rat race” lifestyle we live
creativity and innovation outside of the “norms”
unconditional acceptance of Self; the love of self
experience inner peace and contentment, happiness, fun
disconnection from material belongings and wealth; not dependent on “things” for one’s own well-being
People claimed to have attained self-actualisation and this state of “beingness,” also seem to have become famous. However, this does not necessarily apply in reverse. Status, fame, “celebrity-dom” and stardom do not necessarily or automatically result in self-actualisation. Many such personalities in our society continue to be driven by their egos, greed and the need to want and have more regardless of the status, recognition and wealth they already enjoy.
How does all this apply to all other of us “lesser mortals”; to you? Will we ever grow enough to achieve a state of self-actualisation? Is self-actualisation even available to everyone? If so, how does one realize this and live by, or out of, it?
Maslow’s theory indicates that a person grows by working through and satisfying one level of needs at a time before moving up to the next level - not necessarily having to fully fulfil everything at that level. What this reflects is that the attainment of self-actualisation, according to Maslow, is conditional; it has a dependency on “something” – that you achieve a result only when a certain set of criteria is satisfied ... which means that your state of being is determined by the circumstances of your situation. If something is conditional, then obviously it is not available unconditionally – this is not a play on words; it is a life-affecting point of reference.
But, what is the source of all the elements you strive to fulfil at each level? Where do you find them; where do they come from? And, how does one and why can one experience one’s:
love and caring of self
life vision, purpose, meaning
inner peace and contentment, happiness, fun
Yup, as you might guess – from all the “self-help”-esque – the answer is “from within”. A cliché because it is true.
If one finds them within it means that we are born with them; they are an inherent and integral part of what and who we are. They have no dependency on anything external of ourselves – reason why we can experience and live out of them.
The challenges and issues we experience and face in our life arise because we are searching for and striving to find what we already have within. The reason for our struggles and, indeed, failures to find them in anything else. This life “journey” or process is something I believe Maslow represents really well with his pyramid.
Our need to find what we already have is what creates and fuels human ego and greed, because we believe that we are dependent on “things” to make us whole and complete, to experience enjoyment, fulfilment, power and control, to create an identity of who we are. The reality however is that you already have within yourself everything you are looking for – from birth. Accepting that you already have everything means that you have been, and are, self-actualised.
Your self-actualisation therefore is and should become the base upon which you build your life, the base of your pyramid. That will eliminate any or all needs of the ego (and greed). This will enable you to enjoy the many, wonderful external “things” we (mankind) are able to create simply for what they are – just “things” - for the betterment of our lifestyle.
Living our life from this base will give us a sense of meaning and purpose. It will also result in eliminating our destructive behaviours of exercising power and control over anyone or anything, so as to satisfy our emotional needs and fears.
By reversing the fundamental objective reflected in Maslow’s pyramid – inverting the pinnacle and the base - the sequence or order of the needs above Self-Actualisation then becomes irrelevant. The importance of fulfilling these needs becomes a matter of feeding our physiological requirements for survival as opposed to them being a vehicle for self-actualisation.
Figure 2: Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs inverted
Uncover your inner, full potential, and live your life as a self-actualised Being.