Has any authority figure ever come up to you and told you that you have the potential for so much more, but are not reaching for it? Or have you yourself ever felt that despite achieving all that you have, there’s a lot in you that needs to be explored and reached for, but you are pulling yourself back somehow? The first step to self-actualization is often realizing this. Once you have done so, the actual journey can begin.
Why Do We Need Self Actualization?
Self-actualization is a theory created by Abraham Maslow that “represents growth of an individual toward fulfillment of the highest needs; those for meaning in life, in particular.” .
Basically, think of who or what you are today and what you could be, ideally, down the road that leads you to search for the truth in yourself, for the true potential in yourself and for the all the good and altruistic tendencies in you. A person who has achieved self-actualization knows all of life’s meaning and purpose – be it basic needs or a higher calling.
According to Maslow, self-actualization is a step-by-step process: first you satisfy your basic needs (things like money, shelter, food), then comes the need to satisfy the social desires (love, friends, family) and then comes the most difficult step: to be as self-confident a person, as mentally and internally strong, as you can be, no matter the challenges or circumstances. So the need for self-actualization is simple – to be the best that we can be.
Essential Skills Needed To Reach Self-Actualization
Perhaps the first step to self-actualization is the fact that you are not yet your ideal self, but that’s okay. You first need to learn to accept who you truly are, however lacking you may be in certain aspects. . The second thing to realize is the path to self-actualization is perhaps a winding, interesting but never-ending road – there’s always more to learn, even if it’s about your own, true self.
So here go the essential skills you need, and the steps you need to take to reach self-actualization, as guided by Maslow :
Skill 1: Accept Yourself Holistically, And Just Be You
You are unique, be it in your achievements, talents or even fallacies. There isn’t anyone like you – and the mistakes you made, they are nothing but milestones in your way to success.
Be who you truly are and want to be. Cloaking your true nature in a bid to please others will work only so much, and for so long. Ultimately, the ones around you need to see and accept the real you but before that you have to see and accept the real you, yourself.  Don’t be or say or do what others want you to, think about what is right and wrong – and always follow the path that seems right to you. The key thing to do here is to remember that it has to be selfless, ego free and on the path of righteousness.
Remember not to compare yourself to anyone – no matter how much better, more successful or simply “more” someone else is. You are you, and you are your best canvas. Remember that you write your own destiny, and that you are the one in control of who you want to be. Tell yourself that, in front of the mirror if you need to.
Skill 2: Be Honest, Brutally, With Yourself And Gently With Others
The decisions you make in life need to come from an honest and truthful place – be true to yourself always. Not to say that being dishonest with others is a good thing, but if you start lying to yourself, there’s no end to the vicious cycle you’ll end up trapping yourself in. What you do, why you did it and what you will do next all needs to come from a place of stark honesty and nothing else. 
Maintain a diary of your actions and their explanations. Many of us often tell little white lies about our lives to others. The reason mostly being that we are dissatisfied with ourselves, or ashamed of something we feel we lack, and so we often cover-up and hedge and pretend to be something we are not. Problem is that when we lie to others, we end up believing it ourselves and then the line between truth and honesty tends to get blurred. The path to self-actualization is paved with bricks of truth, always.
Skill 3: Think Of Challenges As Obstacles, Not Insurmountable Walls
Sooner or later you will face resistance in your solitary walk to self-actualization. People may not like that you have changed, they may not like that you are choosing to pull away from them or the life you were leading earlier – and they will try to pull you back. Still others will brand you as stubborn, or principled, or too idealistic or just plain wacko.
You have to let these things slide off of you. You have to rise above it all and not be bothered by it. Do not change your way in case challenges are thrown your way, do not shift to the path of least resistance to “smooth” things over. No one said that this road was going to be easy, but the results and the journey in itself will make you the happiest you can ever be. 
Skill 4: Live In the Moment, And Be Grateful For All That You Are
People on the path of self-actualization have truly understood that their time on this planet is finite, as is everybody’s. And this finiteness is also very dubious: you never know what the next moment will bring, or when you’d suddenly meet your Maker. Living in each and every moment is one way to ensure that when it is your time to go, you go with nary regret. 
Remember to be grateful for all the little things in life – the sun on your face, the fragrance of rain-wet earth, the loved ones in your life, all the good things that happened to you and all the bad things too (for they made you learn and rise up to the occasion) and of course, for just being you.
Skill 5: Never Stop Questioning or Learning, Ever
The meaning of life, for people who have reached self-actualization or are well on their way to it, is a never ending quest. This quest is not materialistic or even ambitious in its nature, rather, it is simply a thirst for knowledge, for self-development and for being better than who you were a day, hour or even minute ago. 
People who want to reach self-actualization have already accepted the best and the worst about themselves. Now they are on road to better themselves, to help someone along the way if they can, and to make a positive change in the world if they so can. They know, understand and accept that there is no such thing as perfection and that life, despite all the challenges and hardships, is a beautiful gift meant to be enjoyed to the fullest in the literal sense of knowledge too.
The Pitfalls That You Need To Avoid On The Path To Self-Actualization
People on the path to self-actualization have learnt to take failure in their stride, accept and even delight in their imperfections and have a control over their emotions.  Here’s what not to do:
- Stop mulling on your failures or “deficiencies”: No one is perfect, accept that and accept yourself.
- Stop “not knowing”: Ignorance is as big a sin – learn about yourself, the world and keep the quest on.
- Nip that self-pity: So you didn’t achieve a goal or two or ten – shake it off and start striving again. Feeling sorry for yourself will not get you anywhere.
- Kill your ego: Your ego and your high opinion of yourself will get you nowhere if you want to be on the path to self-actualization. Kill your ego and be as selfless as possible.
- Do not be too materialistic: No, we are not asking you to give up your worldly possessions or pursuits. But don’t make them your sole goal, there has to be a higher calling than that sometimes.
All in all, if you stay true to yourself and your beliefs, try to be as good and morally upright a person that you can be and keep on the quest to be a better person – you are on a good road to self-actualization, and will soon reach your goals. Remember that is not the end, just a great new beginning!
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