Self-actualisation is a term coined by psychologist Abraham Maslow, to fully describe the process of fully developing your personal potential.
The first thing to note about self-actualisation is that it is a process and not a goal. It is not something that you aim for: it is something that you do.
The second point is that self-actualisation is not restricted to high-profile, high-achieving individuals and you don’t have to be hugely intellectually talented to be able to utilise the process. As Maslow noted in his ‘Hierarchy of Needs’, the basic requirements of humans must first be met before a person can achieve self-actualisation — the need to be fully appreciate of the world and to find meaning in life.
Research shows that when people live lives that are sufficiently matched to their true nature and capabilities, they are more likely to be happy than those whose goals and lives do not accord with their natural ability.
Included in self-actualisation is benevolence — in other words, altruism and gifts to charity. Expressing your creativity, your quest for spiritual enlightenment, your pursuit of knowledge and your desire to give back to society are also examples of this process.
Do you recognise these characteristics in yourself?
* Peak experiences: do you experience moments of high excitement, harmony, joy and profound thought?
* High purpose: do you have a mission in life and try to attempt to solve problems that are external to yourself?
* Spontaneous: Are you unrestrained and uninhibited? Do you see opportunities and take advantage of them?
* Appreciative: Do you look at your life on a daily basis to see the good things that nature has to offer you? Self-actualisers never tire of looking at the sun going down, a beautiful garden, their home and the magic of family.
* Being interested in others at home and at work: Self-actualisers build committed relationships.
* Being alone: Do you enjoy your own company as well as being with others?
* Sense of humour: Can you make other people smile and also laugh at yourself?
* Thinking: Are you open-minded enough to consider new ideas but also able to reject them if they don’t stand up to critical analysis?
* Making mistakes: Self-actualisers accept that they make errors and that other people do so as well.
* Autonomous: Self-actualisers choose the life they lead and are independent and resourceful.
How to self-actualise at work
* Assess your work: Think about your work as a time of ‘potential’ rather than ‘restriction’. What is it about your work that you find rewarding and satisfying? Focus on the positive and not the negative.
* Be open to change: Do you find your work rewarding and meaningful? If not, then take responsibility for what you might be able to do about it. Don’t expect others to bring about change for you. You need to take responsibility and do this for yourself.
* Be yourself: Be happy with who you are. Know what it is that you want and don’t want and always follow through on your vision.
* Accept both your own fallibility and the fallibility of others: You will make mistakes but there is no point in going back to them. Instead, learn from them and move on. Likewise, other people will make mistakes – albeit maybe unintentionally but nevertheless, they are still made.
* Enjoy your moments: Do your best to repeat times in your life that you have previously enjoyed but in order to do this, you have to consciously remember those times. Get involved in the office or home community and make things happen around you.
* Focus on the good: Look for the good in others. We are all a package of both good and bad. Don’t just focus on the negatives.
* Assess every day: At the end of the day, think back to what you have achieved and have enjoyed.
So if you wish to develop your potential, either at home or at work, then remember life is a journey, not a destination. There is no magic bullet but if you focus on what goes right in your life and not what goes wrong, that will carry you through to where you want to be.
* Basic human needs have first to be met.
* Self-actualisation is the realisation of potential.
* Recognise who you are and you want to be.
— The author is a BBC Guest-Broadcaster and Motivational Speaker. She is CEO of an international Stress Management consultancy and her new book, ‘Show Stress Who’s Boss!’ is available in all good bookshops.