Self-actualization is a trait that sits on top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Triangle.
Maslow suggests that although we are all capable of reaching the state of self-actualization, we do not all reach it in our lifetimes. There is a select few who achieve this wonderful state of mind. He studied the characteristics he believed are needed to achieve this state of nirvana and came out with some surprise findings.
The pinnacle of his famous needs triangle highlights the individual’s ability to reach the full potential as a person. His list included the following famous personalities as examples of people having achieved their potential amongst many others:
Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Eleanor Roosevelt.
He suggested that we study people’s peak experiences, defined as a moment in your life when you are ecstatically happy. This is when you feel the most alive and real. A person is concerned with “being” and is unaware of any other feeling such as deficiency or what others think of him at that particular moment.
Various other psychologists in this field found that peak experiences are not a result of conscious planning. These peak performances appear to be a natural progression of the inherent art of the performers.
“Musicians must make music, artists must paint,poets must write if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves. What human beings can be, they must be. They must be true to their nature. This need we may call self-actualization.” – (Motivation and Personality, 1954)
The following points highlight the characteristics of self-actualizers:
- They perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty:
- Accept themselves and others for what they are
- Spontaneous in thought and action
- Problem centred (not self-centred)
- Good sense of humour
- Able to look at life objectively
- Highly creative
- Resistant to enculturation, but not purposely unconventional
- Concerned for the welfare of mankind
- Capable of deep appreciation of basic life-experiences
- Establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people
- Peak experiences
The following points highlight behaviour leading to self-actualization:
- Experiencing life like a child, with full absorption and concentration
- Trying new things instead of sticking to safe paths
- Listening to your own feelings in evaluating experiences instead of the voice of tradition or authority or the majority
- Avoiding pretence (‘game playing’) and being honest
- Being prepared to be unpopular if your views do not coincide with those of the majority
- Taking responsibility and working hard
- Trying to identify your defences and having the courage to give them up.
Maslow’s findings in the respect of the success of high achievers are significant in that his research shows the importance of reaching that state of just being and not concerned with the self being a relatively “natural” state. True satisfactory success and the drive to attain high achievement is something which is located within us.
To achieve this state of just being and of feeling at one with the world, the main attribute needed is that you have to bring out the best in yourself by allowing your creative juices to flow.