Self-Actualization through Self-Improvement
Self-actualization...rarely happens...certainly in less than 1% of the adult population.
The term self-actualization, in laymen terms, is quite simply: "Becoming all that you can possibly become". The idea was brought to prominence in Abraham Maslow's 1943 paper titled 'A Theory of Human Motivation' in which Maslow developed a systematic and hierarchical structure of basic human needs. Today, Maslow's hierarchy of human needs is used in self-improvement and personal development circles as a paradigm of how to achieve goals, find pleasure in life, refine one's self-concept, and maximize one's full potential.
In Maslow's hierarchy, human needs are divided into two main umbrella categories and further into smaller sub-categories. The two umbrella categories are deficiency needs and growth needs. The deficiency needs are placed into a pyramid structure with the most essential physiological needs, (air, water, and food) on the bottom of the pyramid and other needs placed higher in the pyramid based on their value to survival. At the very top of the pyramid is the small category of growth needs called self-actualization.
A tenet of Maslow's philosophy is that the entire array of deficiency needs must be satisfied and mastered before you are ready to move forward and pursue the top level or the growth needs. In essence if you want ultimate fulfillment and meaning in your life, you must satisfy all of the deficiency needs from breathable air to having quality friendships to mastering self-confidence.
The basic idea behind Improve-The-Self.com (and a lot of other self-improvement websites) is to serve as a guide to climbing Maslow's pyramid efficiently and effectively and to give you the highest quality self-improvement advice on to how to master even the most stubborn of your deficiency needs. Eventually however, you will reach a point where all of your needs are satisfied and you can focus on the more esoteric and meta-physical things that lead to
and complete self fulfillment. If you're at a juncture in your life where you are ready to progress from meeting all of your needs to pursuing self-actualization, here are a few traits you'll want to note:
- An objective and accurate perception of reality; a realistic outlook towards life.
- An acceptance of and degree of comfort in oneself and others: being "safe in one's own skin".
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- A spontaneous attitude towards life.
- The focus of the self-actualizer is in solving the problems as he/she can best do so, rather than on self-pity and self-centeredness.
- May not be deliberately unconventional, he/she tends to be independent and refuses to follow trends or the current cultural climate just so he or she can fit in; highly autonomous and independent.
- Has an uncanny ability to experience the mundane and translate it into a profound experience, and consequently develop a deep appreciation for even the simplest of things.
- Has a deep concern for others and humanity in general.
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- Deep interpersonal attachments and values relationships and puts a premium on true friendship rather than collecting acquaintances.
- Has a sense of humor that is not enjoyed at the expense of another. The self-actualizer can poke fun at him/herself, but never makes a joke that makes another feel disrespected or devalued.
- Has high creativity levels.
- Can tolerate, and actually savor, being alone.
- Has "peak experiences". According to Maslow, both the self-actualizer and the non-self-actualizing individual can experience moments of fullness, pure satisfaction and deep contentment in life. These experiences are called "peak experiences," as mentioned in the list. These are described as moments of pure ecstasy, harmony and meaning. Some have even described it as "being one with the universe". These moments offer a window into the experience of self-actualization. Moments of goal achievement, extreme pleasure in nature, spiritual experiences, and other experiences that make one feel so alive, so ecstatic can be considered a "peak experience".
Complete mastery of one's own life is truly a very noble pursuit. Even if you manage to reach a point where all of your lower/deficiency needs are actually met, it is easy to either get content and complacent with your life or to get caught up in the paradigm of "always getting more". When you do eventually reach this point, the remainder of your journey will be up to you and only you. While you won't be alone per se, you will definitely only be led by your own faculties, your own good judgment, and ultimately, your own legacy!
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