Are you feeling unfulfilled in some aspects of your life? Do you feel like something is missing? If so, you may be seeking self-actualization.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, self-actualization is one of the topmost needs. However, many people are still unsure what these needs are, much less how to achieve them.
According to experts and professionals, here are examples of self-actualization needs that we need to keep in mind:
Kristin Davin, PsyD
Psychologist, Choosing Therapy
Because of the demands and stressors of everyday life, most people have more pressing issues rather than a focus on reaching their full potential or becoming self-actualized despite wanting to do this.
But there are ways in which a person can start to travel down this path, in small, incremental ways that promote personal growth and ongoing development throughout one’s life.
Being able to do this often provides the motivation to continue to move towards what Abraham Maslow refers to as our ‘ideal self’ and become what each person is capable of becoming.
If a person can start making changes in their life, they too can live their lives in ways that truly resonate with their beliefs and how they want their life to look like.
Here are a few examples in which people can start to achieve self-actualization:
You have created a more purposeful and meaningful life
When a person is able to create more purpose in their life or live purposefully, they feel they are living their best life.
Related: How to Live a Meaningful Life?
There are many examples of this, like:
- Spending time giving back to a cause you strongly believe in.
- Spending time doing something you are passionate about even if you don’t make money doing it.
You become comfortable with the uncomfortable
This is how people grow and thrive. Though fear of doing something may be present, they transcend it and do it anyway.
Growth comes from sitting with being uncomfortable and recognizing that by doing this, you continue to grow and will eventually become comfortable. You learn to sit with uncertainty.
You recognize the realization of your potential
You recognize the realization of your potential, which helps you fully develop your abilities. In doing this, you have gratitude and appreciation for life.
You are more concerned or focused on what will help you to grow
You are less concerned about what other people think of you and more concerned or focused on what will help you to grow.
The pettiness of life doesn’t weigh you down. There is a focus on self and putting your energy into doing something you want to do regardless of what other people think.
You are able to fully use your talents and strengths without being deterred by your challenges
You are able to fully use your talents and strengths but at the same time recognize the challenges you have — but are not always necessarily deterred by them.
Yes, they may hold you back a bit or challenge your thinking, but you still move forward, doing the best you can with what you have.
You continue to strive to be the best version of yourself. The challenges and failures of life are what truly encourage personal growth.
Self-awareness creates greater self-acceptance
With self-actualization comes greater self-awareness. Awareness of yourself creates greater self-acceptance — accepting your faults, challenges, or limitations but continuing to move forward.
You have reached a place where your ideal self is actually the person who you are
You have reached a place where your ideal self — who you want to be — is actually the person who you are; your behaviors reinforce your ideal self.
There is congruence between these two concepts. Although this takes time, taking small steps will help get you there. Your ideal self may be that person who is doing enough to feel that way. This allows you to continue to thrive in life.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, The Relationship Therapy Center
In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow came up with his now famous hierarchy of needs.
It’s a common misconception that he was the one who stacked and illustrated them like a pyramid — with all the basics like food, clothing, and shelter making up the baseline — and self-actualization at the peak.
Maslow died of a heart attack while in the middle of his work, and it was those who continued with it after his untimely demise who came up with the pyramid concept.
So, what is self-actualization?
The dictionary defines it as:
“The realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need present in everyone.”
And another definition:
“The psychological process aimed at maximizing the use of a person’s abilities and resources. This process may vary from one person to another.” (Couture et al., 2007)
Here’s where it gets tricky: Human beings have all sorts of different talents, drives, and ways in which they feel whole and fulfilled, so this is definitely not a situation where one path fits all.
Notice that in each of these definitions, there is no mention of maximizing rewards for monetary gain (although “resources” could be construed that way).
Because our society places higher esteem and greater monetary rewards on different jobs and credentials, not everyone can achieve a state of self-actualization and get paid — or paid a livable wage —– for the things that fuel them with the most inherent value and satisfaction.
In fact, some may dismiss ways that could get them closer to self-actualization — from creative to physical pursuits — as trivial and self-indulgent, especially when they have their hands full with work or family life.
Self-actualization is intrinsic; it has no bearing on acceptance from others
Self-actualization is something intrinsic; it has no bearing on validation or acceptance from others.
As people continue to progress through life, learning and growing in the process, they may move in and out of self-actualization states through the different stages and life experiences.
Self-actualization needs vary from person to person
Self-actualization needs vary from person to person, but the overarching theme is one of true self-acceptance. The cost of ignoring this pull towards something else, something that could land an individual in a state of self-actualization, comes with consequences.
As people push themselves in meaningful areas, they are more likely to understand themselves. Come to grips with their strengths and weaknesses, and have a deeper, richer overall experience.
The freedom of self-actualization
There is immense freedom that comes along with self-actualization. When people learn to fully accept themselves — the loveable and the shameful parts — know their capabilities, trust and understand themselves, life is more enjoyable.
- Free from the expectations of society.
- Free from comparison.
- Free from caring what others think and all the superficial ways of chasing happiness and fulfillment.
Self-actualized people frequently have moments of transcendence
According to Maslow, self-actualized people frequently have what he called peak experiences, which he defines as moments of transcendence. Moments of transformation and wonder. A peak experience can be found in a flow state, getting so lost in something meaningful that space and time cease to exist.
As humans, learning to walk our own authentic path is a challenge; many would rather walk the path others take and find themselves deeply unfulfilled as a result.
Steps to self-actualization
Know and accept yourself
The path to self-actualization starts with knowing and accepting yourself. It may sound easy, but in some cases, it is far from it.
These are lodged so deeply within some of us:
- Childhood traumas
- Deeply buried wounds
- Other misconceptions
Many excel at being dishonest with themselves or have become completely detached from themself.
Therapy is one of the best ways of coming to terms with all of this and learning to love and accept yourself. It’s not always easy — in fact, it can be quite painful at times — but it’s worth it.
Other ways to get closer to self-actualization are to:
- Carve out time to do things that you find meaningful and fulfilling.
- Learn how to be present at the moment.
None of the things you choose to do need to be expensive or grand. And if you’re unsure, try something new. Go for a hike, take on a new craft, or teach yourself a new skill.
Exploring the physical world around us lends itself to new ways of exploring our inner world.
Shut out the outside noise and go within a willingness to be uncomfortable
Self-actualization is not something that can be forced. It’s not something that only the rich and successful can attain. The path to achieving this state may seem long and windy, full of dead ends and overgrown, or nonexistent at times.
But those who take the time to shut out the outside noise and go within, with genuine love, compassion, curiosity, and above all, a willingness to be uncomfortable — and remain present and loving in their relationship to self even when it gets hard — those are the people who are more likely to reach self-actualization.
Katie Ziskind, BS, MA, MFT, LMFT
Licensed Holistic Marriage and Family Therapist | Owner, Wisdom Within Counseling
You’re doing something simply for pure self-fulfillment
Self-actualization is at the very top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow talked about how our basic needs must be met first, and if these are not met, we cannot work our way up to the pyramid.
If you don’t have access to shelter or food, you will be unlikely to find a niche hobby you can do in your free time.
At the very top of the pyramid is self-actualization. It’s something that Maslow talked about as a drive or desire within all of us. Not all of us achieve self-actualization within our lifetime, but we can always reach for a sense of joy for ourselves.
Self-actualization is about not needing any social gratification or public attention from anything you do. Instead, you are simply doing something for the pure joy and happiness it brings you.
Doing something you’re passionate about just because it brings you joy and excitement is a form of self-actualization, not because:
- It will make your life better.
- It will make you money.
- More people will like you or think you’re intelligent.
Being able to let go of the judgment of others and transcend is the key. A person who lives from a place of self-actualization based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is living life daily as their authentic self.
There’s vulnerability and authenticity, but it can be highly freeing and inspiring to others. A person who is self-actualized or close to being self-actualized does not fear the judgment of others or rely on the judgments of others to build their own happiness or joy.
You stop caring about what other people think of you and just go about your life
Deep down, all these describe a self-actualized person:
- They are confident with themselves.
- They know what they can and can’t give.
- They truly enjoy the things that help them feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and connected spiritually on a personal level.
- They stop caring about what other people think of them and just go about their life because they enjoy doing those things.
- They are often more mindful and appreciative of the small things in life because they are not on the hamster wheel that culture and society try to force us to be on.
- They may laugh more, be lighthearted, and find joy in the small things.
- They are very comfortable being themselves in a variety of different environments and are, most importantly, comfortable being alone.
Related: How to Not Care What People Think
Our society tries to make us think that we need other people’s approval or need certain things, such as what is pictured in an advertisement on TV.
However, a self-actualized person often mentally rises above self-doubt and various temptations and influences of advertisements, being comfortable with themselves just as they are.
Meditation can be a tool to develop more self-actualization skills
For some, yoga and meditation can be a tool to develop more self-actualization skills and remain in a state of self-actualization for a longer period of time.
When reaching for self-actualization, being around other people who are supportive of your journey can be powerful. If you choose to live a simple, minimalist, and authentic life that can bring you so much joy, it may cause judgment from friends and family.
Being around other self-actualized people who don’t seem to mind that you live a minimalist lifestyle or also live in a minimalist self-actualized lifestyle can be healing.
- You love traveling.
- You want to live a simple life and not have much stuff.
- You want to pick up a unique hobby and master it.
From self-authenticity and self-compassion, this level of acceptance bubbles over into friendships and relationships with family. When you are self-actualized, you may find you have deeper, more connected relationships.
This is a form of self-actualization:
You love gardening (digging in the dirt and seeing the beautiful flowers pop up brings you joy). And when the flowers bloom, you sit in your garden and enjoy them, like all that matters to you is that you enjoy watching them.
Doing something simply for pure self-fulfillment is a form of self-actualization, along with being able to release the need for society’s approval.
Head of Growth, Instrumentl
Self-actualization is becoming aware of and developing one’s fullest potential. It is a lifelong journey that involves growth and development in all areas of life, including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
Below are examples of self-actualization needs:
To be seen as valuable
Your self-actualization needs are about being valued. It would be best if you felt valuable. When you recognize yourself as valuable, you may be able to achieve your goals and dreams.
For instance, in the workplace, you may feel the need to be appreciated for your knowledge and expertise.
To do what’s important
Self-actualization needs to involve doing what’s important to you. When you do things that matter to you, you’re likely to experience satisfaction.
This is often seen in people with a calling or passion in life. They feel a need to do something that has significance, and they are often willing to make sacrifices to pursue it.
To feel good about yourself
To feel good about yourself, you need to accept who you are, regardless of whether others approve of you.
Feeling good about yourself helps to look at your strengths rather than focusing on your weaknesses. It’s often easier to appreciate yourself when you focus on your positive qualities.
To grow and develop by taking risks
Self-actualization is also about continuing to grow and develop as a person. It’s not static; it’s a lifelong journey. As you learn and experience new things, you become more of who you are meant to be.
This can involve:
- Expanding your horizons.
- Taking risks.
- Learning from your mistakes.
CEO and Founder, Westgate Executive Branding & Career Consulting Inc.
While in Vancouver, Canada, at a conference, I got stuck in an elevator with 11 other people I didn’t know for more than 65 minutes. My room was on the 22nd floor, and I did not feel safe!
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs reminds me of an elevator because to get to the top floor, where self-actualization manifests, you must travel through the other floors.
Physical safety, psychological safety, belonging and recognition are all fundamental human needs and must be met before traveling to the top floor, where self-actualization is located.
Like an elevator, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs constantly moves up and down. You are the passenger, and getting to the top of the elevator is determined by whether your safety needs are met.
Only once those lower-level needs are met will you travel up the shaft to the top of the pyramid to self-actualization experiences. This is not a one-time condition because each day, we must feel safe, not hungry, and physically comfortable.
So, organizations that ensure your lower-level needs every day are met will benefit from the high productivity of employees when they can reach the self-actualization state.
The state of feeling “in-the-flow” as you do your work
Self-actualization experiences are creative and innovative, which is when you feel in flow. Feeling “in the flow” is the experience of losing track of time and feeling timeless as you do your work, create your art, and solve the most significant problems.
Meeting the employee’s safety needs
Innovative organizations know this and create structures to help their employees reach that state.
How can organizations create in-the-flow self-actualization conditions? Taking care of the safety needs of employees is one.
For example, one organization I am familiar with provides a breakfast program for its workforce. Why? Because most of the workforce is comprised of young parents who are intensely busy, especially in the morning, as they prepare their children for daycare and school.
In a survey, the employees rated the breakfast program as having a higher value than flex time, as one example.
Related: How to Motivate Employees
High-integrity organizations are more likely to engender self-actualization
High-integrity organizations create a sense of trust among their employees and managers and strictly adhere to their codes of conduct, addressing conflict swiftly.
Organizations with high turnover, poor safety performance, and absenteeism (as examples) may not create conditions that engender a sense of trust.
When trust exists, employees perform optimally, especially when their values align with the organization’s mandate.
Job offer due diligence
When vetting an organization to join as a volunteer or employee, you can easily access its key performance indicators, which are lagging indicators of performance.
Examples of predictive cultural performance are:
- Low absenteeism
- Low turnover
- Impeccable safety statistics
- Low senior leadership team turnover
Leading indicators include a code of conduct and companies that invest in the community and run a philanthropic foundation.
When you’re unsure if an organization is a high-integrity company as you consider the job offer, there are other strategies to evaluate the organization.
Become a customer of the organization, speak to former employees, and talk with current employees in the company’s sales, customer service, and investor relations departments.
People-focused and sales-centered, the people in these divisions will likely take the time to speak with you as either a prospective employee or as a potential customer.
High-integrity organizations are more likely to engender self-actualization conditions in their firms because they understand the correlation between:
- Organizational performance
As the famous actor Kevin Spacey said: “If you’re lucky enough to do well, it’s your responsibility to send the elevator back down.”
Innovative companies know this and prosper, along with their employees, shareholders, and customers.
Co-Founder and Marketing Director, Authority
Maslow described self-actualization as a person’s need to realize their full potential. This includes developing their abilities and talents and becoming the best that they can be.
While Maslow’s original theory focused on physiological and safety needs, later revisions added several other categories of needs, including self-actualization.
Some examples of self-actualization needs include:
- The need to feel fulfilled.
- The need to grow and develop as a person.
- The need to contribute to something larger than oneself.
The need to feel fulfilled
A need to feel fulfilled may manifest itself in a desire to find a career that is personally meaningful or to pursue creative hobbies and interests.
For example, someone who needs to feel fulfilled may find satisfaction in working as a teacher because they think they are making a difference in the lives of others.
The need to grow and develop as a person
A need to grow and develop as a person may manifest itself in a desire for new experiences or a willingness to try new things.
For example, someone who has a need to grow and develop as a person may be more likely to take risks or to seek out new challenges.
The need to contribute to something larger than oneself
A need to contribute to something larger than oneself may manifest in a desire to make the world a better place or to help others in some way.
For example, someone may volunteer for a cause they believe in or donate money to charity.
Self-actualization is often thought of as the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. However, it is essential to remember that all levels of the hierarchy are interdependent and that none of them can be considered more important than the other.
It is a never-ending process of growth and development and an essential part of being alive.
You have fulfilling relationships and a sense of purpose in your life
According to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization is the highest level of need and is only possible once all lower-level needs have been met.
A concrete, real-life example of self-actualization would be someone with a stable job, a comfortable home, and enough food and money to meet their basic needs. They would also have fulfilling relationships and a sense of purpose in their life.
Once all of these things are in place, the person would be able to focus on self-improvement and personal growth.
This could manifest itself in many ways, such as:
- Taking up new hobbies
- Continuing their education
The key is that the person would be actively pursuing growth and development rather than simply existing daily.
Founder and CEO, Brenton Way
Self-actualization needs are a fundamental part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. These needs are “the desire for personal growth and fulfillment.”
According to Maslow, self-actualization is what we are all striving to achieve. It is the ultimate goal in life. However, it is essential to note that not everyone will reach self-actualization.
In fact, Maslow believed that only a small percentage of people would ever truly achieve it.
There are several different examples of self-actualization needs:
The need for achievement
One of the most common is the need for achievement. This refers to the drive to accomplish something in life, to meet our full potential.
For example, someone who is motivated by the need for achievement is often driven to succeed in their career. They may also be highly competitive and always striving to be the best at what they do.
The need for knowledge
Another common self-actualization need is the need for knowledge. This refers to the desire to learn and understand as much as possible.
People who have a strong need for knowledge are often curious and inquisitive. They may also be constantly seeking out new information and experiences.
The need for affiliation
Another example includes the need for affiliation (the need to belong to a social group). One scenario for this could be a person joining a study group to learn more and meet new friends.
In general, self-actualization needs are about becoming the best we can be and reaching our full potential. They are often about personal growth and development.
While not everyone will reach self-actualization, it is still something that we all strive for. Self-actualization needs are complex and often elusive. But they are an important part of what motivates us as human beings.
Chief People and Operations Officer, Checkr, Inc.
Self-actualization in Maslow’s hierarchy discusses a person’s need to reach their full potential. This includes becoming the best that they can be and achieving their personal goals.
In order to do this, individuals must first satisfy their lower-level needs, such as safety and security. Once these needs are met, they can begin to focus on self-actualization.
There are a few different ways that people can satisfy their self-actualization needs:
Expressing creativity through painting or writing
A person can satisfy their self-actualization needs by being creative. This could mean painting, writing, sculpting, or any other type of art. It could also mean coming up with new ideas or ways to do things.
Continuing to grow and learn
People can also satisfy their self-actualization needs by continuing to grow and learn. This could mean taking classes, reading books, or learning new skills. It could also mean exploring new hobbies or expanding your knowledge in different areas.
Helping others by simply being there for someone when they need you
Another way to satisfy self-actualization needs is by helping others. This could mean volunteering for a cause you care about or working in a job that helps people. It could also mean simply being there for someone when they need you.
Joining in on social movements
Finally, a person can join in on social movements to satisfy their self-actualization needs. This could involve protesting for something you believe in or working to make a change in your community. It could also mean educating others about important issues.
Founder and CEO, Convrrt
You have a strong sense of self-acceptance
Self-actualized individuals frequently have a strong sense of self-acceptance. They are able to accept themselves, flaws and all, for who they are.
This is a crucial characteristic since it enables individuals to live a real life. They are not attempting to be someone else. They are confident in their own skin and do not attempt to conceal their shortcomings from others.
Many people who have attained self-actualization, for instance, may freely discuss their issues with mental health or addiction. They are not frightened to share their experience because they recognize that it is a part of who they are and accept themselves for it.
Managing Director, Tiger Financial
Your way of thinking shifts from being self-centered to becoming problem-centered
People with self-actualization need to have more accurate perceptions of reality and are better equipped to deal with ambiguity because of this. They can embrace people and themselves for who they are as a result.
Additionally, their requirements provide individuals the freedom to act and think spontaneously:
- Their way of thinking shifts from being self-centered to becoming problem-centered.
- Their perspective on life changes from being subjective to being objective.
- They have quite original ways of thinking.
- They operate abstractly, but not in a too outlandish one.
- They are more concerned about the well-being of humanity as a result of their requirements.
- They improve their capacity for appreciating the fundamentals of life.
- With their loved ones, they can forge incredibly strong interpersonal bonds.
- Their experiences are at their zenith, and most of them encounter extreme rare events.
- They have a greater demand for personal issues.
- They have democratic ideals, and their moral and ethical standards are very high.
- They consistently have new associations with cutting-edge mental elements.
Morality, creativity, problem-solving skills, and the drive to achieve something are the main components of self-actualization.
Example: Maslow himself described Dr. Albert Einstein as one of the few individuals who had attained the condition of self-actualization, which serves as a very clear illustration of self-actualization needs.
We may now affirm the necessity of improving oneself while contributing to society. The desire to improve upon and go above and beyond what you are currently doing. If we use Apple as an example, consider their development.
Since the beginning, they have only focused on enhancing the client experience. They have been attempting to fulfill their needs for self-actualization in all of their endeavors.
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