We are just about one and a half months into 2021. How is everyone doing? I don’t know about you, but January's days felt obnoxiously slow. Let’s do a gut check. Answer this question honestly:
What are you doing for yourself today?
I have at least one thing in my schedule today that I am doing for my own personal gains
Nothing, but I have something purposeful planned for myself tomorrow
Nothing, but I have something purposeful planned for myself next week
Nothing in the near future to look forward to
No matter how you answered, no one failed this test. I just wanted you to take 60 seconds to think about yourself today. I want to make sure that you are making time for growth in your life. No, I am not talking about the kind of growth that requires a bigger size jeans. I am talking about the kind of growth that comes through self-actualization. Growth that brings a smile back to our face and purpose back into your life.
Self-actualization is the highest level of psychological development in which a person is able to achieve their full intellectual, creative and social potential. Self-actualization is found when people are seeking personal growth and fulfillment.
The term self-actualization was first coined by Kurt Goldstein. Abraham Maslow further developed the term and it is now popularly referred to by the public and in psychology as the top tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization.” Abraham Maslow
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a motivational theory in psychology. It is a five tier model of human needs that is typically depicted in a pyramid diagram. Maslow argued that our behavior is motivated by our most basic needs such as eating, sleeping, safety, belonging and self esteem first and foremost. These basic needs must be satisfied to a reasonable level before being able to realize self-actualization, which he considered to be the highest level of psychological development in which a person is able to achieve their full intellectual, creative and social potential.
Maslow was keen to the notion that there are defense motivations and growth motivations. Defense motivation occurs when a person is driven by the intense need to fulfill the deprivation of their basic needs. Their existence is devoted to surviving. All their resources go towards these needs first. Once a person no longer has to focus on things he is deprived of they are therefore freed to focus on self-actualization. Even though it appears to be a rigid hierarchy, the specific order in which our needs are met is more flexible in reality. Our external circumstances are continually considered in our motivation patterns. It is possible even that all of our needs simultaneously influence our motivation. Ironically Maslow never depicted his theory with a hierarchical pyramid. He believed that growth was the centerfold of self actualization. Growth is made possible only through exploration. Exploration is how we uncover joy. Joy is how we live the best version of ourselves. My friends, life is not a competition to the top of a pyramid. What happens when we finally get to the top? Is that the moment in which we simply stop existing and start living? The top of the pyramid ain’t any prettier than the bottom. Life is meant to be lived, to be experienced.
“Life isn’t a trek up a summit. It’s more like a vast ocean, full of new opportunities for meaning and discovery but also danger and uncertainty,” said Psychologist Scott B. Kaufman.
Kaufman suggests that perhaps we should be using a sailboat and not a pyramid to depict self-actualization. Definitely a compelling case in my opinion.
Luckily, Maslow was wrong in thinking that achieving self-actualization is rare. In fact, it turns out that many people realize self actualization. Self actualized people are highly unique and autonomous, although they are not selfish. They are extraordinarily creative, humorous and even though they seek new fresh challenging experiences, stability grounds them. They are not easily disrupted by impulsivity. According to research done by cognitive psychologist, Scott B. Kaufman, 10 of Maslow’s original 17 defining characteristics of self-actualized people still ring true for people today.
10 Characteristics of Self Actualization
Continued Freshness and Appreciation (for life’s experiences)
Acceptance (of self and others)
Equanimity (in the inevitable ups and downs of life)
Efficient Perception of Reality
Humanitarianism (in nature)
Seek out peak experiences
Good Moral Intuition
You can take Dr. Kaufman’s characteristics of self-actualization scale online if you are curious how you measure up.
In closing, I want to reiterate that growth, therefore self-actualization, is constant. It flows like a river, a moving target, never once static. Obstacles are inevitable. Doing things outside your comfort zone are highly likely. Surely though, your exploration, your growth, will be worth the joy. There is no better time than now to start the journey of becoming the best version of you. You deserve to live a rich purposeful life. It doesn’t just come to your door like an amazon package. You have to take the first step yourself, and when you do there are people like to support you. If you are ready to take a step outside your comfort zone and experience life again book a call with me today.
About the Author
Kelly Hater, owner of Mama Bear Domain, has over 15 years of coaching experience along with a B.S. in Health Promotion specialized in Exercise Science.
She specializes in helping clients overcome mom burnout, providing a clear, decisive plan that leads her clients on a path of success. Her clients no longer let mom guilt steal their identity and goals. Moms deserve to be happy and live a fulfilling life. She personally has overcome overwhelming struggles herself. Get the accountability needed to take action. As a mom of two she gets it. Get your E-Book Mom, Open Your Eyes to Self-Awareness.
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 Maslow, AH. (2017) A Theory of Human Motivation. Dancing Unicorn Books. ELibrary.
 McLeod, S. A. (2020, March 20). Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Simply Psychology.
 Kaufman, SB. (2020) Transcend The New Science of Self-Actualization. New York: Penguin Random House LLC. ELibrary.
 Kaufman, S.B. (2018). Self-Actualizing people in the 21st century: Integration with Contemporary Research on Personality and Well-Being. Journal of Humanistic Psychology.