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Self-actualization and how to achieve it?

Updated on November 28, 2014

Self actualization is a term used for realization of one’s own maximum potential and possibilities. It is a basic drive present in everyone. Expression of one’s ability, desire for spiritual enlightenment or pursuit for knowledge is an example of self-actualization. In other words, the desire to give one’s best to the society is self-actualization. Researchers have found that when people live their lives that don’t utilize their true nature and capabilities, they are less likely to be happy. But the people whose goals and lives match each other are comparatively happier. For example, an individual, who has an inherent potential to be a great artist, will not be able to realize his or her talents if he or she is busy in attaining the basic human needs. So, the individual will not be happy unless he or she is able to utilize the inherent talents to become an artist.

The concept of self-actualization means different things to different people. For some it might be a self-motivation principle for realizing the potential of skills. For others it will have a much deeper spiritual meaning.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs –

In 1943, Abraham Maslow stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and when their one need is fulfilled, they seek to fulfill the next one. Therefore, he postulated a hierarchy of needs, which can be divided into four basic and one growth needs mentioned as follows –

  • Physiological needs like air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, and sleep
  • Safety needs like protection, security, law and order, stability, and freedom from fear
  • Love and belongingness needs like friendship, intimacy, love and affection, family, friends, and romantic relationships
  • Esteem needs like achievement, mastery, independence, status, prestige, self respect, and respect from others
  • Self actualization needs like realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, personal growth, and peak experiences

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is normally represented as a pyramid.

Characteristics of self-actualizers – Below are enumerated important characteristics of self-actualized persons -

Realistic attitude – They have a sense of realism. The self-actualized individual is able to view things logically and rationally.

Problem solving skills – Such individuals possess good problem solving skills to real world situations. They also like to help others in solving their problems when asked to help.

Senses of responsibility – Such individuals are strongly motivated by a sense of personal ethics and responsibility.

Senses of autonomy – Such individuals don’t conform to the other’s ideas of happiness or contentment. They live according to their own perspective in the present and appreciate the beauty of every experience.

Enjoy solitude - Self-actualized persons value their privacy and enjoy solitude. They also love the company of others but they enjoy being themselves that is essential for discovery of their potential.

Sense of humor – They have a thoughtful sense of humor and can laugh at themselves but they don’t ridicule or make fun at the expense of other’s feeling.

Sense of spontaneity – They are open, unconventional and spontaneous. Although, they follow generally accepted social norms but they are not confined by these norms in their thoughts and behaviors.

Realistic goals – Such persons set concrete goals for themselves and don’t see things as simply a means to an end. They enjoy the journey toward achieving a goal as well as its achievement.

Human kinship – Such people have deep feeling of sympathy and affection for everyone in general. They have a genuine desire to help fellow beings.

Interpersonal relationships – Self-actualizers foster deep ties with few people; their circle of friends is rather small; the ones they love profoundly are few.

Sound values – They have a good value system that conforms to the true nature of self, of human nature, and physical reality.

Detachments to enculturation – Such persons resist enculturation and maintain an inner detachment from the culture in which they live.

How to achieve self-actualization – The following are important key elements required to achieve self-actualization –

  • Avoid other’s expectations – In order to become self-actualized an individual should avoid expectations that are placed by others and society on him or her. Many people spend their entire life in achieving what others want from them rather than what they really want. So, to become self-actualized persons should find out what they want authentically from themselves. By releasing such expectations from others, an individual will be able to begin to discover who he or she is. Such a discovery is pivotal for living life as authentically as possible.
  • Introspection – When a person takes time for introspection, it leads to greater self discovery. By introspection, a person can come to know one’s real capabilities and potentialities, and come to term with fears and obstacles, which keep one from living ones best.
  • Meditation - To achieve self-actualization it is important for individuals to dedicate time to such practices as meditation in order to get in touch with the inner-self, which has immense wisdom to take advantage of. Meditation is a discipline to empower us to be able to sustain reflection and self-examination. It is through the process of patient and repeated self-examination that real self-actualization can occur.
  • Gratitude - The self-actualized person is very grateful for all that currently exists in his or her life. Gratitude allows individuals to see that everything that they are and everything that they have in this current moment is more than sufficient. Oftentimes, people feel as if they are lacking and this is because they fail to see the abundance in what they currently have. Living life being appreciative of what one has creates experiences of joy, and renewed reverence for life.
  • Developing potential – To be self-actualized a person has to become the best that he or she can possibly be. Every person in this world is special. Some persons being unique don’t imply that they have an advantage of physical beauty or money but, nonetheless, they have also developed special capabilities that make them unique. Each person is capable of achieving their heart's desire. In order to do so, they must ensure to invest energy into developing their potential to the fullest.

As a matter of fact, self-actualization is an ongoing process because it is not a fixed target that a person has to achieve but as the person progresses on the road to self-actualization, one realizes that one has more ability to develop further one’s potentialities and capabilities after reaching a certain milestone on the road.


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    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 2 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Dana, thanks for your valuable comments. If we truly find our purpose in life, we will have real satisfaction and happiness in actualizing it. And, in addition, we will experience personal growth.

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 2 years ago from LOS ANGELES

      This hub says everything iv'e been trying to say. I have noticed when some people become older in particular, a sense of sadness and incompleteness overcomes them. Most cannot articulate why they are unhappy. This is why I stress we must find our purpose which, is our true key to happiness. We caught up in everything the world demands of us and never discover what we need to do in order to have that feeling of self fulfillment. We take on jobs to pay the bills and get stuck in a rut. Even when you understand this it's still hard to get others to understand it.

    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 2 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Thanks for the comments.

    • profile image

      Margie 2 years ago

      I went to tons of links before this, what was I thgniink?

    • profile image

      Margie 2 years ago

      I went to tons of links before this, what was I thgniink?