Self-actualization — is an individual’s realization of his full potential, the summit of realizing the optimal Self, including personal fulfillment. It is a natural human drive that exists in everyone.
Self-actualization is an age-old human quest. As far back as Aristotle we see dialog, debate and exploration toward realizing your best Self. Aristotle was convinced that a genuinely happy life required the fulfillment of a broad range of conditions, including physical as well as mental well-being. Sounds like Maslow’s Hierarchy right?
Why is Self-actualization such an enigma, so hard to achieve? I will attempt to shed a little light in this small one-minute space.
I think people overlook or dismiss the nuances and tiny pitfalls that keep us from deeply knowing ourselves and maximizing our true potential. We blame it on modernity—distractions, technology, etc… but this has been an enigma for years, long before technology or a “busy life” could be blamed.
One of the first persons to teach psychology at Harvard said; we have a habit of inferiority to our full self. Compared to what we ought to be we are only half awake. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources.William James (1899)
In 1962, Maslow (of Maslow’s Hierarchy fame) published his book, Towards a Psychology of Being that said less than 1% of the adult population manages to reach the top of the hierarchy—self-actualization.
I believe we need to stop looking for a school of thought, theories or a system of thinking or approaches and awaken to our true endowed intelligence.
Every time I went to the next progressively higher (and exponentially expensive) leadership training, I came back no better able to solve the deep-seated problems of people and the work environment.
Progress only came after deeply observing what was really going on and committing to working and making effort at the level of cause. More about Brian’s work at the level of cause here…
- Conflict management models didn’t help but understanding the human condition did.
- Leadership models and flow charts didn’t help but listening intently to people’s concerns did.
- Performance Improvement Plans didn’t help but giving people space to improve at their own pace did.
Bringing more humanity to work is what makes a difference in my office and in countless offices throughout the world.
Recognizing the human in front of you and increasing human-centeredness is what will help you get closer to Self-actualization and help others do the same. It’s a process rather than a goal.
The famous American psychologist Carl Rogers, who also worked with the concept of self-actualization, was very careful not to make it an end point. He rather worked at it daily as an endless process, similar to mastering something.
What we all want is deep and simple—a handshake and someone to hear us, but what we too often get is shallow and complex—a plan, model or flow chart that doesn’t help.
Let’s bring more humanity to the week ahead and begin to put the enigma of Self-actualization to rest.
You can read and hear more about this topic on my Start With YOU Podcast, Episode 22!