‘Research shows that when people live lives that are different from their true nature and capabilities, they are less likely to be happy than those whose goals and lives match.’ Abraham Maslow developed a hierarchical theory of human motivation in Motivation and Personality (1954).
Maslow’s self-actualizing characteristics
- Efficient perceptions of reality. Self-actualizers are able to judge situations correctly and honestly. They are very sensitive to the fake and dishonest, and are free to see reality ‘as it is’.
- Comfortable acceptance of self, others and nature. Self-actualizers accept their own human nature with all its flaws. The shortcomings of others and the contradictions of the human condition are accepted with humor and tolerance.
- Reliant on own experiences and judgement. Independent, not reliant on culture and environment to form opinions and views.
- Spontaneous and natural. True to oneself, rather than being how others want.
- Task centering. Most of Maslow’s subjects had a mission to fulfill in life or some task or problem ‘beyond’ themselves (instead of outside of themselves) to pursue.
- Autonomy. Self-actualizers are free from reliance on external authorities or other people. They tend to be resourceful and independent.
- Continued freshness of appreciation. The self-actualizer seems to constantly renew appreciation of life’s basic goods. A sunset or a flower will be experienced as intensely time after time as it was at first. There is an “innocence of vision”, like that of an artist or child.
- Profound interpersonal relationships. The interpersonal relationships of self-actualizers are marked by deep loving bonds.
- Comfort with solitude. Despite their satisfying relationships with others, self-actualizing people value solitude and are comfortable being alone.
- Non-hostile sense of humor. This refers to the ability to laugh at oneself.
- Peak experiences. All of Maslow’s subjects reported the frequent occurrence of peak experiences (temporary moments of self-actualization). These occasions were marked by feelings of ecstasy, harmony, and deep meaning. Self-actualizers reported feeling at one with the universe, stronger and calmer than ever before, filled with light, beauty, goodness, and so forth.
- Socially compassionate. Possessing humanity.
- Few friends. Few close intimate friends rather than many surface relationships.
‘BUT CAN I DO THAT?’ Further paraphrasing from Wikipedia, there may be a common feeling that the possibility of ‘self-actualization’ is reserved for those people who have been lucky in life and don’t have to struggle for their day-to-day survival in a dead-end job. Notwithstanding, Maslow (2011) suggested that it was very much about the attitude the individual brought to his/her life that might be the crucial catalyst for where one’s life and self-growth goes. There are many examples of when people have been in basically the same circumstances, but have turned out very differently, which might indicate that attitude can have an enormous bearing upon one’s fate…
…”the aesthetic needs” which include a need for “symmetry, order, and beauty”…
Feature Photo: Dipika Kohli, Atelier S P A C E | DK in Copenhagen and Aarhus, 2015