We know that a positive mental attitude is so important to living a fulfilling and happy life, and for helping you to reach your highest potential in all areas of life.
But humans also possess the in-built desire for self-actualisation. This can be defined as “a process of ongoing actualisation of potential, capacities, talents, as fulfilment of a mission, as a fuller knowledge of, and acceptance of, the person’s own intrinsic nature, as an increasing trend toward unity, integration, or synergy within the person.” I know it’s a mouthful!
But this theory was conceptualised by Abraham Maslow, the ‘founding father of humanistic psychology’. As a psychologist, he actually based his studies on healthy people. He discovered that they are very much driven towards this concept of self-actualisation, which is about being the very best that we can be.
Maslow drew together a hierarchy of human needs, with the base being our fundamental biological needs for food, water, shelter and sexual satisfaction or expression.
The next layer up of the pyramid represents our requirement for safety, stability and security, which are crucial in helping us to cope with what the world throws our way. Once these needs are met, according to Maslow, we can move up to the next level, which is love! This level of the pyramid represents our need as humans to love and be loved. The level above this is all about self-esteem, acceptance, approval from others and recognition for the work we do. These are all inextricably linked to our self-respect and self-esteem.
The very final step at the top of this pyramid is self-actualisation, the ability for us to use our creative gifts and talents for self-fulfilment. The path to self-actualisation isn’t direct and instant, but rather a chain of small steps gradually gathering pace. But it starts by us taking strict responsibility for our own health, fitness, life choices, positive attitude and present direction. Once we agree with ourselves to take full responsibility for our lives, then we can make the commitment to becoming the very best that we can be and reaching our highest potential in life.
Having studied in detail the habits of self-actualised people, Maslow discovered many powerful similarities between them, which he summarised… do any of these sound familiar to you?
1. Self-actualised individuals can easily spot fakery and dishonesty in other people’s personalities, and are excellent judges of character. They have a heightened sense of reality and remain objective about their own potential, strengths, weaknesses and possibilities in life. This understanding and awareness of self, allows them to focus very definitely on their aims, ambitions and how they feel about certain situations. They don’t shy away from risks and unpredictability.
2. Self-actualisation helps people to better accept themselves and others. They are able to acknowledge their own weaknesses without self-castigation, and don’t excessively punish themselves with feelings of sadness, guilt, anxiety and defensiveness that impact on their day-today happiness and relationships with others. If they do experience emotions like guilt or hatred, they figure out a way to overcome it.
3. Spontaneity is a characteristic of self-actualised people, both in their behaviour and in how they think. Their driving factors, thoughts and awareness tend to be unconventional and they’re not necessarily rebellious, but like to remove themselves from the status quo and not always follow social conventions.
4. Self-actualised people possess a higher ability to focus away from themselves, and towards their life’s purpose, usually to benefit the greater good. They have the ability to unselfishly concentrate on fixing problems that will help many other people and not just themselves. They tend to have a fairly well defined mission and purpose in life, which they set about fulfilling.
5. Self-actualised individuals value their own time and space, and are very comfortable in their own company, where they can preserve their energy and works towards self-betterment. They have a talent for rising above the ‘noise’ and removing themselves emotionally from what tends to rile the masses. They also find pleasure and purpose in self-discipline, sports and activities, being responsible for their own actions, avoiding following the crowds down the route of self-indulgence and finding excuses for their poor choices. They don’t give away their power to others or let anyone else control them.
6. The simple pleasures of life that many others take for granted, tend to be greatly appreciated by self-actualised people, like nature, art and music. They enjoy being inspired by their surroundings and find beauty in everyday things. They’re often have creative imaginations, much like a child’s.
7. Although they can sometimes feel emotions like irritation, intolerance and revolt towards others, self-actualised people generally feel a strong empathy and fondness for other people, and have a great ability to relate to them.
8. Self-actualised people usually have a smaller group of firm friends, but enjoy particularly deep, close and loving relationships with them, as well as an ability to remove egotistical issues from their friendships. They display more kindness and tolerance towards others, but don’t have any time for inflated egos, pretentiousness or hypocrisy. They are also tolerant of other people’s beliefs, morals, education, political standing, ethnicity and skin colour. They have strong ethics, and avoid making jokes at the expense of others, or making anyone else feel belittled. Instead, they prefer witty, appropriate humour to raise a giggle.
All of the above may be based on Maslow’s studies of self-actualised people, but his work and theories had a big impact on me when I read them, as I was able to relate to many of them.
Over the past four years, I have placed a greater focus than ever before on my physical and mental health and fitness, and it has honestly been the most fulfilling, life-enhancing and happiest decision I have ever made. I don’t let a day go by without being grateful for my choice to study nutrition and use it to help myself and others. The journey to optimal health and fulfilment will throw plenty of distractions, challenges and sacrifices along the way and not everybody wants to support your efforts if it places the spotlight on their bad habits, but they only enable us to grow, strengthen and discover more about yourself.
For me, it’s all about choosing to live the best quality of life possible, ignoring unnecessary distractions and reaching my highest potential in this life. No regrets. Having loads of energy, rarely getting ill, maintaining a positive mental attitude, all as a result of being at my healthiest and happiest, has had endless beneficial effects on my relationships, career and self-esteem.
Your health is the very building block of every other aspect of your life. If your energies are focused inwards or on feelings of self-judgement, guilt and negativity about your food and lifestyle choices, or your body and looks, for instance, it’s inevitable that other areas of your life will suffer the consequences.
A soaring structure requires solid foundations, and for humans, this is our physiological and mental wellbeing. And the importance of really valuing your health and achieving your very best quality of life cannot be underestimated.