What are self-actualizing characteristics?

Tonight (20150923), I feel a little hurt because a young man whom I just helped in the morning, complained a minor thing regarding my help. I do not have the obligation to help him, but I did so because he appeared to salvage his irresponsibility (of forgetting his tool of work) by seeking my help. I do not expect gratitude, yet he returns me a complain. It makes me feel unsafe to help him in the future. Again, this is a lesson for me to be kind with a protective shield.

Then, I was curious of my motivation of helping others. After all, understanding motivation of people in study, work, and life is essential to ensure the optimum process, output and happiness.

According to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:
level 1: the physiological need – air, food and water
level 2: the psychological need – safety, love, self-esteem
level 3: self-actualization.

While Abraham Maslow is perceived to be idealistic, if not Utopian, he was aware that not many people were self-actualized.

Abraham Maslow views that we must first meet our lower needs before we can meet our higher needs. Safety is of level 2, whereas a genuine desire to help others is a form of of self-actualization. Not easy, but not impossible!

To meet each level of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, everyone needs money. Perhaps, the amount of money required for highest level is less than that for lower levels, but without successfully and completely fulfilling lower levels, it is challenging to meet the highest level 3. That’s why it is good to remember that money is not everything, but almost everything — from the cradle to the grave — requires money.

Abraham Maslow interestingly observed that we fear our best (meeting the level 3 needs) as much as we fear our worst (not even meeting the level 1 needs); this mind-boggling duality is describable as the Jonah complex. Jonah / Nabi Yunus was a timid merchant who seeked to flee God’s important mission to Nineveh. This is an analogy for the fear of one’s greatness or avoiding one’s true destiny or calling.

Since psychological health needs the presence of self-actualizing traits as described in Motivation and Personality (1954) by Abraham Maslow, I need to do my best to develop the following self-actualizing characteristics so that I can be my best (shoot for the sky), yet grounded in reality:

  1. Clear perception of reality (including a heightened ability to detect falseness and be a good judge of character)
  2. Acceptance (of themselves and things as they are)
  3. Spontaneity (a rich, unconventional inner life with a child-like ability to constantly see the world anew and appreciate beauty in the mundane) ~ be innocent to study a problem as it is without baggage.
  4. Problem-centred (focus on questions or challenges outside themselves – a sense of mission or purpose – resulting in an absence of pettiness, introspection or ego games)
  5. Solitude-seeking (enjoyed for its own sake, solitude also brings serenity and detachment from misfortune/crisis, and allows for independence of thought and decision)
  6. Autonomous (independent of the good opinion of other people, and more interested in inner satisfaction than status or rewards)
  7. Having peak or mystical experiences (experiences when time seems to stand still) ~ this is termed as flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, transcendent moments (by Abraham Maslow) in which everything makes sense and we sense a unity in ourselves and with the world
  8. Human kinship (a genuine love for, and desire to help, all people)
  9. Humility and respect (belief that we can learn from anyone, and that even the worst person has redeeming features) ~ Remember that "If three of us are walking together, at least one of the other two is good enough to be my teacher" (三人行,必有我是焉)
  10. Ethical (clear, if not conventional, notions of right and wrong)
  11. Sense of humor (not amused by jokes that hurt or imply inferiority, but humour that highlights the foolishness of human beings in general)
  12. Creativity (not the Mozart-genius type that is in-born, but in all that is done, said or acted)
  13. Resistance to enculturation (ability to see beyond the confines of culture and era)
  14. Imperfections (all the guilt, anxiety, self-blame, jealousy etc. regular people experience, but these do not stem from neurosis.)
  15. devotion to values that are greater than self-actualizers themselves (based on a positive view of the world; the universe is not seen as a jungle but an essentially abundant place, providing whatever we need to be able to make our contribution) ~ examples of values are truth, beauty, goodness, simplicity, gratitude, creativity, harmony, etc.

The more self-actualizing characteristics a person develop, the more likely s/he becomes unique.


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