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Self Actualization is the intrinsic growth of what is already in the organism, or more accurately, of what the organism is.
Abraham Maslow

Most psychology is focused around the negative aspects of the human mind. The curing of those that become disturbed in the mind and destructive to the outer world are the focus of what most people view as the purpose of psychology. However, that is not at all the case, much of psychology is devoted to studying the average person, and there is even a small section of psychology exploring those individuals who have exceeded the expectations of a normal, healthy mind. Those people are sometimes called “self-actualized” or “enlightened”.

Self-actualization as an psychological  idea from the humanism school of thought was first coined by Kurt Goldstein and expanded upon by many prominent psychologists, most notably, Abraham Maslow. The idea is to become the best individual possible for one to be. To fulfill one’s full or true potential.  Now, while this idea is tossed around a lot, there is an actual method developed by Maslow as to how to accomplish this goal. Not only that, but he also studied people with the traits of Self-actualization and came up with a basic profile of their lifestyle and personality.

Self-Actualized people, based on 20 years of research by Maslow, seem to have these basic categories of traits:

Growth: Self-actualized individuals feel a need to have continuous personal growth in their lives. Every day is a learning experience.

Self-Identity: A transcendence above one’s culture and other influences, self-actualized individuals have a unique personality and exemplify it.

Privacy: These individuals also feel a need to have private time to reflect on their innermost feelings and then act upon them.

Spontaneity: Able to act out their impulses for their personal growth with spontaneity. Maslow even states that if given the choice between a safe or risky (with chance of growth), one should choose the risky choice at least a dozen times a day to help become self-actualized.

Morality: Strong sense of justice centering on fairness to all parties. Self-actualized people do not discriminate nor hate anyone. The have a great amount of love for people close to them, and a sense of affection to all people.

Driven: They have a mission in life, and are driven to accomplish it. Every day is experienced to the fullest and with a feeling of spiritual attachment to the world around them.

Peak Experience: Probably one of the more famous and profound traits of a self-actualized individual, they usually have one or more “Peak experiences”, which involve a profound moment of revelation and transformation.

Maslow describes it as such: “Feelings of limitless horizons opening up to the vision, the feeling of being simultaneously more powerful and also more helpless than one ever was before, the feeling of ecstacy and wonder and awe, the loss of placement in time and space with, finally, the conviction that something extremely important and valuable had happened, so that the subject was to some extent transformed and strengthened even in his daily life by such experiences.

So then the question becomes, how does one pursue self-actualization?

Gaining Self-Actualization

There are a lot of techniques to pursuing “enlightenment” that are out there, but here are some of my personal favorites:

  • Try something new everyday
  • Always say “yes” to invitations if they seem even the slightest bit interesting. You never know what may happen.
  • Surround yourself with interesting individuals who value new thoughts and experiences. Don’t just stick to one group of people.
  • Spend some time reflecting on your life everyday, whether it be meditating, philosophizing, or my personal favorite, writing in a journal.
  • Take the “tough” route whenever possible. The anxiety and fear will pass, even if it has to be done in small steps. Never fear the unknown.
  • Grow more tolerant everyday. If you find yourself disliking certain people or cultures, learn why and look for positives.
  • Develop your sense of individuality and morality everyday.
  • Do what you love, even if no one around you approves.
  • Learn to transcend the opinions of others, while simultaneously appreciating their input into your life.

Most importantly, keep growing everyday and always be searching for those moments of enlightenment. You never know when they may happen.


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