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Without Self Actualization, Life Is Like Empty

Without Self Actualization, Life Is Like Empty

We sometimes get to a point in our lives where we question the meaning of our goals, dreams, potential and general life direction.

The meaning of our lives is the basis of leading a fulfilling experience – from our connection with others, our inner being and our place in the world around us, to our simple physiological needs.

Self-actualization is about moving up to the next level and being the best we can be in order to give meaning to our life – something everyone strives to do whether consciously or not.

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What Exactly is Self-Actualization?

The concept of self-actualization was coined by the psychologist Abraham Maslow [1] who studied the theory of human needs. He believed that happiness derives, not from animalistic or mechanical behaviours nor the unconscious impulses we possess, but rather the drive to develop our understanding and wisdom of our full potential and capabilities.

Why We Need to Put Emphasis on Self-Actualization

Maslow believed that everyone is fundamentally hard-wired to self-actualize. Most people are at different stages – some can self-actualize at an early age or others reach the stage later in life but for most of us, we are have a need to better ourselves on a subconscious level throughout our lives.

In other words, it’s our want to grow whether we do this intentionally or unintentionally. We may do this through reading more widely to gain a better understanding of a subject, or simply choosing to see certain things from a different, more positive perspective.

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It’s this self-actualization that we need in life to feel fulfilled and feel like we’re growing and developing as a person.

The Characteristics of Self-Actualization

If you’re still not sure how this translates into your own life, there are some characteristics of self-actualization that you can probably identify with. These are:

  • Perceiving reality in a skilled way: being able to see what’s happening to you and what’s going on around you with a balanced and accepting approach.
  • The ability to accept yourself and others: understanding ourselves in a non-judgemental way as well as those around us.
  • Being appreciative of life: appreciating what life is in all its faults and glory – in your own life, others’ lives and even the nature that surrounds you.
  • The ability to create deep and meaningful connections: creating relationships that bring meaning and depth; helping us grow and bring further understanding to the essence of connection with others.
  • Following guidance from our values and inner goals: that feeling of living your life according to what you feel is right for you; knowing you are on a path that reflects your ultimate goal of happiness and fulfilment.
  • The ability to express your emotions in a clear and freeing way: feeling confident and positively aligned with the way you express yourself that benefits you and those around you.

Of course, we aren’t always portraying these characteristics at all times but when we do we feel like we’re in a state of being our best selves. This is why going through states of self-actualization helps us live a meaningful life and leads us to a happier life.

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In What Ways Can I Encourage Self Actualization?

Self-actualization may seem hard to do especially when we’re going through hard times or when we’ve picked up negative habits about how we think about ourselves and what’s going on around us.

But there are things you can do that will encourage you to grow and create the mindset of being your best self.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

We all have a tendency to do this but it’s a habit that doesn’t serve us. Understand that we are all on our own unique journey and it doesn’t matter where other people are in comparison to us. Once you make this important realisation you can be free to enjoy your path in life as the adventure it really is. It’s about your own progress not anyone else’s. Self-actualization is understanding that you are looking from a standpoint independent of other people.

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Understanding the Power of Your Mindset

You may feel like your bad mood is the cause of other people or external circumstances that you can’t control, but it’s actually how you choose to react to conditions. You have the ability to adjust accordingly because your mindset is incredibly powerful. Choosing to see things for your benefit no matter how negative it may seem will help you self-actualize much more easily.

Learning to Love Yourself

You may have heard this a million times before, but accepting yourself completely is the only way you can be the best version of yourself. This means accepting both your strengths and weaknesses. It’s from this place that you can truly move through the world in an authentic way – it’s about creating peace of mind about yourself and getting rid of this negative version you’ve made up.

Know That the Journey is Never Over

Self-actualizing is knowing that you never really stop growing – you will never reach perfection and that’s okay because that isn’t what life’s about. Life is about continually expanding ourselves, our knowledge and our perspectives. Once you accept this, it will become easier to relax and achieve the happiness you deserve.

So, the journey to self-actualizing is actually the journey to empowerment. It’s about denouncing the negative perspectives we’ve adopted about ourselves and being willing to see things differently. It’s only from this space that we can live a life that has true meaning, fulfilment and being aware of our full potential and capabilities.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash.com via pexels.com

Reference

[1] The Pursuit of Happiness: Abraham Maslow

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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