If you’re not familiar with self-actualization, the idea comes from Maslow's theory of human motivation. Maslow hypothesized that unsatisfied needs drive our behavior. Needs like food, water, and safety need to be met first, then we strive to achieve social connection and self-esteem. Once all these needs are met, we move on to seeking self-actualization—or achieving our full potential. Later, an additional need was added that is about contributing something purposeful that is greater than ourselves. This is also referred to as "Beyond Self-Actualization", "Transcendence", or “Selfless Actualization” (Greene, & Burke, 2007).
Maslow suggested that lower-level needs are 'deficit needs'. We need them to survive, so they take priority. Self-actualization and beyond are 'growth needs'. Personal growth is considered to be a crucial precursor to well-being (Ryff, 1989). We may focus on actualizing our potential and extending our abilities to serve others. We might have:
The desire to make bad situations better
The desire to create something that makes the world better
The desire to reward and praise others
How to Become Self-Actualized
So how do we become self-actualized? Here are some tips:
1. Cultivate Openness to Experience
When we think in black-versus-white, we miss opportunities to learn, grow, and experience things that could bring more meaning to our lives. That's why self-actualization involves being open to alternative information and points-of-view (Greene, & Burke, 2007). We’re served by looking at problems in creative ways and from different perspectives. So try to be more open to experience if you're aiming for self-actualization.
2. Reflect on Your Values
If you aim to self-actualize and become your best self, it’s important to first get clear on your values (Greene, & Burke, 2007). If we strive to reach goals that go against our values or morals, we could end up feeling worse off—unfulfilled and unhappy. Learn more about how to use values to manifest your dreams here.
Video: Overview of Self-Actualization
3. Move Beyond Love & Esteem Needs
When we think of self-actualization, many of us actually are thinking of esteem needs (Krems, Kenrick, & Neel, 2017). Maybe we strive for love and belonging or to career success. There is nothing at all wrong with that. In fact, according to Maslow, we need to satisfy these needs before moving on to self-actualization. Once we feel like we are loved and respected it may be easier to shift our focus to personal growth and selfless pursuits.
4. Live Authentically
Each of us desires to achieve different goals and manifest different dreams. By exploring what it is we really want, we can feel more fulfilled in pursuing it. Need help figuring out what you really want? Our Manifest Your Goals & Dreams Program can help.
Self-actualization is a peak experience that many of us strive for. But it should also be thought of as a life-long pursuit. It is about growth and giving back. But with some effort, we can certainly experience all that self-actualization has to offer.
Greene, L., & Burke, G. (2007). Beyond self-actualization. Journal of Health and Human Services Administration, 116-128.
Krems, J. A., Kenrick, D. T., & Neel, R. (2017). Individual perceptions of self-actualization: What functional motives are linked to fulfilling one’s full potential?. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 43(9), 1337-1352.
Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of personality and social psychology, 57(6), 1069.