I know that most of us have thought of what we would say to Brandon Stanton with his camera angled perfectly to take a shot of us for Humans of New York (HONY).
I know what I would say: “Many people say it is hard to reach Self-actualization. My high-school teacher said he only knew 2 or 3 people in his 50+ years of life who had reached self-actualization. But I am here and I will tell you, I think I have reached self-actualization.”
Okay, maybe I haven’t completely reached self-actualization or only think I have reached it, but one thing is for sure: we are all on the path for it. Abraham Maslow says the good life is one that is on the path of self-actualization, the fundamental need.
Self-actualization is your growth toward fulfillment of the highest needs, specifically the meaning in life. It occurs when you realize your full potential and are in complete control of yourself, your desires, and grasp of the real world. My journey towards self-actualization comes from the pursuit of spiritual confidence and growing awareness of human nature. So what do you need to be self-actualized?
I highlight 4 characteristics of self-actualized people (with quotes from Maslow’s book on Motivation and Personality):
1) They are humble, yet walk with confidence. They are not afraid to be judged. They accept themselves for who they are with their unchangeable shortcomings of human nature. They know themselves so well that they do not care for what others think. However, their humility allows them to recognize and feel ashamed for their bad habits. They work to improve those for the rest of their lives even if it is far-reaching and unaccomplishable.
2) They do not fall in the line of conventional thinking or culture. It is true they live the conventional life like the average jock because their lack of conformity might make others uncomfortable. Because they do not argue over the trivial matters and are not troubled by the small things, they may live through the everyday rituals with the best of manner and grace. But if you were to enter their minds or truly get to know them, you know they are fully aware of themselves and their surroundings. Their mind is deep, reflective, and beyond reach in all matters of life. They say things that are unsaid and reflect on the unreflected. One is fascinated by their thought process and character.
3) Because they do not set expectations, they are the most grateful and content. It is hard to make them feel down or disappointed. When an expectation is fulfilled they are grateful because they never set the expectation or asked of it in the first place. No blessing is taken for granted. Each and every creation is seen with appreciation and wonder, as if seen for the first time. For them, the monotonous life is thrilling. According to Maslow:
“Self-actualizing people have the wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naïvely, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy, however stale these experiences may have become to others […] Thus for such a person, any sunset may be as beautiful as the first one, any flower may be of breath-taking loveliness, even after he has seen a million flowers. […]”1
4) Lastly, they live life with purpose and personal growth. They are well-informed and guided by the morals they set. Accepting the good and rejecting the bad, they are advisors and the advised, the accounting and the accountable. They rationalize and make up their own mind uninfluenced by others (not the marketer, the parent, nor the propagandist) . They do not enculturate, but find purpose through knowledge, growth, reflection, and acceptance of the unseen and ambiguous. They are always ready to learn, and humble towards those who can teach them.2 Instead of the self-actualized seeking out friends, people come to them and befriend them for their character. Their connections are the most profound, unbounded by any trivial matter. They can tear down walls of egoism more than other person would even consider.3 Their love is deep, their kindness is widespread, and their character unconforming.
But they are Humans with flaws and need for improvements. One who cannot recognize his weaknesses and work on his flaws, will never attain self-actualization. The self-actualized reflects on what is in them and brings positive change, never stagnant, never arrogant.
Words of wisdom for the one trying to attain self-actualization is to train the mind to be positive. Deliberate outside the societal discussions and modern day norms. Reflection comes before action; reflect and be grateful of the smallest of blessing and greatest of creations. Feel empathy for those around you and live with sonder. Know the source of your happiness; let it not be from the material things but things greater than your desires. And finally, know quality over quantity. Quality of life and the quality friends will be the grounding purpose of life.
- 1Abraham Moslow’s Motivation and Personality
- 2-3 Maslow: The 12 Characteristics of a Self-Actualized Person: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-sze/maslow-the-12-characteris_b_7836836.html