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Most People Have Great Potential. But Very Few of Them Unleash It

Most People Have Great Potential. But Very Few of Them Unleash It

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.” [1].

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.

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    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. [2]. 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 [3]:

    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.

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    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. [4] 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. [5]

    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.

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    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. [6]

    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. [7]

    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.

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    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. [8]

    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. [9] 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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    Last Updated on October 20, 2020

    Can People Change When Changing Is So Difficult?

    Can People Change When Changing Is So Difficult?

    Hope is not a strategy when it comes to change. Commitment is what is needed to make real change happen. Can people change? Absolutely, but exchanging your excuses for commitment is necessary to get started.

    Human nature leans toward habits, which can become ingrained over the years, but that doesn’t mean habits can be undone.

    The good news is that your personality and behaviors can be changed, but it is up to you. Below are some tips to help you get started with change.

    1. Figure out What You Need to Change

    If you’re reading this, you’re probably already aware of something you would like to change. That’s great! The first step toward change is acknowledging that you have something you need to change.

    Look at the repeated problems in your life, the issues that seem to come up time and time again. Do you keep gravitating toward the wrong relationships, but you blame the people you are choosing, rather than looking at your problem in the selection process?

    Do you jump from one job to another, yet blame co-workers and bosses, rather than look at what you may be doing to cause problems and dissatisfaction on the job?

    We are creatures of habit, so look at the negative patterns in your life. Then, look inside to see what’s causing these repeated life problems to occur. If you can’t figure it out on your own, consider going to a counselor for better understanding. Once you recognize the area that requires change, you can move to the next step.

    2. Believe That Change Is Indeed Possible

    There are people out there who believe that personality is unchangeable. When confronted with their problem, such as constant negativity, they lash back with “that’s just who I am.” It may be who you are, but does it need to be?

    Change in personality and behaviors is possible. Nobody stays the same from one year to the next, let alone across a decade, so why not move change in the direction that is best for you? Be proactive about the change you want in your life, including the belief that change can occur.

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    Look for success stories and people who have changed and done what you so deeply desire to do. Seeing that others have been where you have are and have accomplished the change you desire will help you in your process to accomplish that change.

    3. List the Benefits of This Change

    In order for people to change, they need to buy into the premise that the change is necessary for their betterment. For example, maybe your goal is to be more productive at work. There are many benefits that could come from this, including:

    • Getting more done in a shorter amount of time.
    • Having more time for your family.
    • Getting a promotion
    • Being liked and appreciated by your boss.
    • Being part of the success of the company.

    One of the best ways to help yourself stick to the commitment of change is to make a list of the benefits that the change will bring in your life. Make one list of the benefits for your life and another for your loved ones. Recognizing the full spectrum of benefits, including how your change will affect those closest to you, will help you stick with the process of change.

    When you have moments of weakness, or fail on a particular day or time, then getting back on track becomes easier when you review your list on a regular basis. Posting your “benefits of change” list somewhere where you see it often, such as a bathroom mirror, will help you be reminded of why you are doing what you are doing.

    4. Make a Real Commitment to Change

    Make a commitment to the time frame needed for the change to happen. If you want to lose 50 lbs., then set out a realistic plan of a few pounds per week and a timeline that reflects those goals.

    It will take you a lot longer than a month, but setting realistic goals will help you stick to your commitment. Change happens one day at a time. It is not immediate, but over the course of time because of your dedication and commitment to the process.

    It also helps if you make your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.[1]

    People can change using SMART goals

      An example of this would be a person who wants to become an active runner so they can tackle a half marathon. The first step would be to research what other people have done for training plans to achieve this goal.

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      Runners World lays out specifics for a beginner to train for a half marathon: “Target the Long Run: Every other week, increase your long run by 1.5 miles until you’re run/walking 13 to 14 miles. On alternate weeks, keep your long run to no longer than three miles. Your longest long run should fall two weeks before your half-marathon. Plan to take about 15 weeks to prepare for the big day.”[2]

      These kinds of specificities will help you create a personalized plan that is achievable and time-bound.

      You can learn more about writing SMART goals here.

      5. Create a Plan of Attack

      You need a set of steps outlined to succeed. This is why 12-step programs are so successful. You can’t simply walk into a meeting and be cured and changed. You need to mentally process the change in order for the change to be lasting and effective.

      Create a plan for your change. Be realistic and investigate what other people have done to change.

      For example, if you are dealing with anxiety and want to change that, then seek out therapy methods to address your problem. Stick with the therapy plan until your change process is complete. Simply hoping the anxiety will someday go away is not a plan.

      6. Commit to Action

      It is wonderful to set a goal for change and to write it down, but if you don’t act, then your mental commitment means nothing. There is no actual commitment unless action follows. To best kick start our change, the key is to act now[3].

      For example, if you committed to lose 50lbs, then now is the time to go join a gym, hire a trainer, and walk into a weight loss clinic to get support. We can make up our mind to be determined to change, but if action does not follow soon thereafter, then you will likely fail.

      If you wait until later that week, you will get caught up in doing your daily routine, things for works, taking care of others, or whatever it may be; there will be distractions that will derail you from taking action later. There is no better time to take action than when you make the decision to change.

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      For example, if you decide you want to finally write that book that is in your mind, but you don’t have a working laptop, then go and get a laptop today. Then, set aside an hour each day after work (and on your calendar) so that you can write. Instead of going out with friends after work, you are committing to achieve this goal, and you have time set aside to make that goal happen.

      7. Find a Support System

      When people want to change, finding a support system is key. A great way to find support is through group therapy or support groups. If you have a substance abuse issue, for example, you can find groups that specialize is supporting you through recovery and change.

      If you prefer to find support in the comfort of your own home, then you can look for online support forums and Facebook groups that deal with whatever change you are looking to pursue.

      Your ability to be successful in change is dependent on your ability to dive in; support systems help you with the initial dive and staying committed thereafter. and will help you stay committed to the process. Don’t underestimate the power you have by partnering with others who are seeking the same change.

      8. Get Uncomfortable

      Change should be uncomfortable. You are entering new territory and stepping out of your comfort zone. Your mind and past habits will be resistant to the change, as it is uncomfortable and difficult.

      If you give up because of the discomfort, then you are destined to fail in your pursuit of change. Embrace the discomfort associated with change and recognize that it puts you one step closer to accomplishing your goals.

      9. Stick to the Plan

      When people decide to change, sticking to it is difficult. If you get derailed from your plan, don’t berate yourself. Instead, allow yourself some margin of error and then get back on track.

      You can’t expect to go on a diet without splurging sometimes. The key is “sometimes.” The sooner you get back on track, the more successful you will be in accomplishing your change goals.

      Other researchers on the topic of change believe this process is about dedication and commitment to the change desired in our day to day lives, as Douglas LaBier from the Huffington Post so aptly stated:[4]

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      “Change occurs from awareness of what aspects of our personality we want to develop, and working hard to “practice” them in daily life.”

      Here are some tips on sticking to a plan:

      Engage in Self-Reflection

      Reflect on things that have derailed you in the past and problem solve them before they happen.

      Jot down those things that tend to get you off track. Now, list ways to combat the derailments before they happen. For example, if you are wanting to lose weight but you work late hours, then commit to morning workouts.

      If you know that in the past you would continually hit the snooze button and subsequently miss the workouts, then hire a trainer for early morning workouts. You are less likely to miss your workout if you have real money attached to it and someone counting on you to show up. You could also schedule morning workouts with a friend, so you know there is someone showing up and you don’t want to let them down.

      Brainstorm solutions for your past derailments so that this time around you are ready to stick to the plan and the commitment you have made to change.

      Define Your Commitment

      Commitment is a daily mental and physical plight when it comes to change. If your commitment is to lose weight, then be specific about how you are going to achieve your change. For example, you decide you are going to stick to 1,800 calories a day and a 1-hour workout every day.

      Then, write those goals down and chart your daily progress. Hold yourself accountable.

      Final Thoughts

      Can people change? Hopefully, by now, you believe that they can. If you have a sense of commitment and persistence, change is possible with any life experience.

      Start small, create specific goals, and don’t wait to get started. You’ll be amazed how far change will take you.

      More on How to Make Changes in Your Life

      Featured photo credit: Jurica Koletić via unsplash.com

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