The Road to Self-Actualization
If you are struggling to understand your life’s purpose, you are not alone. The road to realizing your full potential is not an easy one. But what does it mean to be self-actualized?
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs may be a familiar concept to you. This five-stage model is drawn as a pyramid – from the bottom up. Our basic needs (such as psychological and safety) must be satisfied before progressing on to our growth needs (such as our sense of belonging and self-esteem). Only as we satisfy each stage of the model will we be able to move up in the pyramid to satisfy the next level of need. Placed at the very top, which Maslow considered to be the highest form of needs fulfillment, is self-actualization.
So how easy is it to reach the top of the pyramid? Well, Psychologist Abraham Maslow added that only one in every hundred people truly reach self-actualization. This is especially accurate now considering that society rewards individuals who are high in self-esteem, rather than in self-discovery.
Many of us do a great job at satisfying the four previous needs on the road to self-actualization – we are proficient at feeding ourselves, making sure we have a place to safely rest our heads, nurturing relationships, and making ourselves feel good. However, some of us end our efforts there and tolerate not understanding and knowing who we truly are.
Why are we here? What are we meant to do? What is our life purpose?
Before finding the answers to the above question, you need to know yourself from within. The following section will help you identify the steps to finding a deeper understanding of who you are, and ultimately, help guide you in defining your life’s purpose.
How to achieve Self-Actualization
1. LIVE FULLY
Immerse yourself in your everyday experiences. When we completely submerge ourselves in what we are doing, we experience “peak” experiences (experiences that would occur at the top of the pyramid). Maslow taught us that reaching these peak experiences causes us to feel pure joy, a heightened sense of curiosity and awe, and a feeling of ecstasy.
Ask yourself – What experiences have I had that have sent me over the moon? Why bother participating in activities that only give you satisfactory feelings? Why not partake in things that really give you goosebumps?
Note – Goosebumps are bumps that appear on a person’s skin when they are cold or experiencing a feeling of strong emotion. This emotion could be anything from fear to pleasure to nostalgia and even awe.
Living fully means satisfying your needs to the fullest. It means immersing yourself in everyday experiences that give you satisfaction.
2. RECOGNIZE YOUR UNIQUENESS AND STAY POSITIVE
Recognizing your unique qualities and what they can offer those around you can prove to be quite powerful. So, how can you determine what is unique about you? The answer is by accepting your imperfections and keeping a positive narrative of yourself.
Accept your flaws and imperfections. We are all human, and humans are all but perfect. The sooner you are able to grasp this, the sooner you will allow yourself to be fearless. By being fearless, you are opening yourself up for self-growth. Consequently, self-growth will lead you to new and valuable experiences, which will promote these “peak” experiences that everyone keeps raving about.
Practicing optimism and positive self-talk will remind you of the great things only you can offer to the world. Having the ability to see the bright side to life will not only keep gray clouds at bay, but it will also motivate you to attempt new things, which will lend a hand in deepening your understanding of yourself. Once you have a better grasp of who you truly are, you will be better armed when finally tackling the great question of – What is my life’s purpose?
3. MAKE HONEST CHOICES
How will making honest choices help you in defining your life’s purpose? If we examine our daily choices, are they in line with our core values and beliefs? Perhaps, we don’t quite know yet what our core values and beliefs are. Well, by choosing to make honest decisions regarding our everyday lives, we are working on recognizing what is important to us.
If you make honest choices and are mindful of your selections, you will begin to decipher and sort through what is important to you.
Nike, just like most companies, has a mission statement. The benefit of a mission statement is that whenever a company has to make a decision, big or small, they can refer to their statement to make sure every decision they make is in alignment with their mission. An organization’s mission statement will strongly reflect the company’s core values. Nike’s mission statement is, “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” Through Nike’s products, branding, marketing, and strategic business decisions, we see their mission statement shines through.
Developing your own personal mission statement will help you make genuine and authentic choices for you to honor your purpose in life. One quick tip is to save your personal mission statement in your notes app on your phone, that way you can refer back to it whenever you have to make a tough decision.
4. LET GO OF YOUR EGO
Those who are self-actualized are able to feel self-acceptance, self-love, and self-value. The mere 1% that have been able to reach self-actualization are aware of their desires for social acceptance and societal pressures, but they hold a true understanding of themselves, instead of a distorted idea of who they should be according to exterior influences.
Your ego can play to your advantage – it can help boost your self-confidence and heighten your sense of self-worth. Having said that, letting your ego take precedence of your true self, also carries a dark side.
Your ego enhances your need to be right, your desire to win and supercharges your need to be superior. If the dark side of your ego takes charge of your everyday life, it will not only inhibit you from seeing different perspectives, it can also prevent you from opening up to new practices.
Letting go of the shadowy desires from your ego will open up your mind to new experiences that will increase your willingness, openness, and curiosity. In turn, these skills will lead you to your self-discovery and following your life’s purpose.
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