Self-Actualization and The Ideal Self – Who Do I Want To Be?
Connecting with one’s dreams releases passion, energy, and excitement about life. In leaders such passion can arouse enthusiasm in those they lead.
-Daniel Goleman, Primal Leadership
Self-Actualization is a concept that many of us were introduced to in Management 101. Abraham Maslow, noted American psychologist and the creator of the famed Hierarchy of Needs, placed Self-Actualization at the top of the human needs pyramid. This pyramid is often a component in discussions involving motivational theory. According to Maslow, Self-Actualization is the full realization of one’s potential. Potential is a unique combination of purpose, talents, and values. Realization is a combination of skills, knowledge, and experiences fueled by what Maslow described as a desire for self-fulfillment.
Most of us have a desire to live our dreams fully. We long to do work that is satisfying and that energizes us. For artists, it is a calling to create, for teachers to teach, for doctors to heal, for social workers to serve. The calling is unique to each of us. We want to be all that we can be. Why then are so many people living their lives unfulfilled and unhappy? Statistics show that only fifty percent of Americans are satisfied with their jobs, and among the fifty percent that say they are content, only fourteen percent say they are “very satisfied” (managementmalpractice.com). What holds us back from self-actualizing or living the life we want to live?
If we go back to Maslow’s basic principles we will recall that once the four basic needs are satisfied for Survival, Safety, Socialization, and Self-Esteem, then the need for Self-Actualization will arise. For many of us, this need will appear in the form of restlessness and discontent with our current situation. Just consider all the New Year’s resolutions that many of us make each year, those promises to ourselves that point in the direction of our desire. Sadly, though we often begin with the best of intentions, changing our behaviors is hard. What makes getting what we want most so difficult?
Goleman states that, making lasting change requires a strong commitment to a future vision of oneself, especially during stressful times or amid growing responsibilities. Let’s face it, most people we come in contact with find the world a stressful place to be, and if in addition, you happen to be one of the fifty percent that are not satisfied with the career or job that you’re currently in, you know how challenging it is to do what is needed to join those that are deeply satisfied. What I notice is for those that have that inner feeling of discontent or restlessness, it is not that they lack discipline, or the ability to develop a plan to change, or even that they have forgotten who they are at a core level. They may have lost sight of their Ideal Self.
When we don’t have that inner drive to move toward what is most important to us, making a resolution or an action plan can feel dry and will barely scratch at the surface of all that is possible for us. Connecting with our own inner compass is the necessary fuel that Maslow calls the desire for self-fulfillment.
So, if you have been feeling a sense of restlessness or discontent, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I feeling passionate and energized every day?
- What needs to happen so that I am engaged and deeply satisfied with my work?
- What needs to happen differently in my personal life to bring me more joy?
- Who do I want to be?
- What do I need to do to become all that I can be?
Now get busy, time’s a wasting, don’t live this life empty! Self-Actualize!