Why is self-actualization so damn important?
While American Psychologist, Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) is noted for being the one who developed this hierarchy of needs, the concept of self-actualization was originally presented by Gestalt psychologist Kurt Goldstein. Maslow’s work addresses the basic, esoteric and when further developed, the existential needs of human beings. It’s about who you are and who you can become, through self-acceptance and ongoing self-development. It’s about reaching your greatest potential and the fulfillment that comes from having done so.
How self-actualization happens
In Maslow’s original work, when you’ve met your basic needs for survival, desires that concern safety and affection follow. You’ll then tackle your esteem needs. Once esteem needs such as self-confidence and self-respect have been met, only then can you expect to self-actualize. The hierarchy also serves as a model of development in which babies start at the lowest level with needs for food, water, and shelter.
You should also understand that the process of self-actualization is different for everyone, and not all individuals achieve all levels. And those who do self-actualize may not necessarily remain in that state. You may travel between several levels of the hierarchy over your lifespan, based on circumstances, choices, and mental health status. And sometimes unmet needs can cause you to become stuck at a specific level.
Self-actualization is the expression of who we are and who we can be
Maslow’s work focused on human potential. His belief that we are all seeking fulfillment through meeting these needs, ultimately is explained in the process of personal development and growth. Each of us has a burning desire to be something – that is potential. Our ability to reach that potential comes through development and growth.
It’s your ongoing story
The first part of self-actualization is accepting who you truly are, next comes understanding that your life journey for growth and potential has no end. To self-actualize, you must always seek to expand your horizons as a human being. To achieve success, you must continuously seek it. The potential to self-actualize is something that lies within us all. You must be willing to grow and then take the steps necessary to unlock that self-actualization.
I view everything in life with an eye for process improvement. How can I make it better. Can I grow from the experience. How can I further develop that part of me that had this experience – whether good, bad or indifferent. Self-actualization isn’t an end, it’s a process.
There is a balance in this process as in life, for light there must be darkness. You cannot know one without the other. And as you move up through the hierarchy of being, so do the issues you’ll face. At the most basic levels of biology, physiology and safety, you’ll struggle against sickness, hunger, and fear for your safety or security. At the belonging stage you’ll confront loneliness, or perhaps toxic relationships. With self-esteem there exists doubt, depression or arrogance. And then, at the final stage, you’re forced to confront the greatest questions of existence and transcendence. What’s the meaning of it all? What’s best in your life? What legacy do you want to leave?
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Tell me what your heart’s desire was when you were young and did you fulfill it?