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Don’t Focus on Happiness. Focus on Self Actualization

Don’t Focus on Happiness. Focus on Self Actualization

As a child, whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always replied, “The happiest person in the world.” Adults probably saw me as either someone starting too early on a path to self-actualization or as just a really strange kid.

Most of us are in pursuit of happiness, yet most base happiness on conditions. For example, many envision they will be happy if they were wealthy.

I have met some of the wealthiest people yet they suffered from depression, loneliness and anxiety.

I have traveled across the poorest countries and met some of the most impoverished individuals. Yet, they frequently laughed and seemed to enjoy life, despite owning almost nothing.

True happiness is never in pursuit of happiness. It is a state of existence, irrespective of circumstances and this is what focusing instead on self-actualization will empower you to do.

What is self-actualization?

The psychologist Abraham Maslow created the Hierarchy of Needs [1] theory, which depicts a five-tier pyramid of human necessities. It begins with the most basic needs at the base and progresses to the top tier.

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The model consists of:

Tier 1. Biological and Physiological needs – food, drink, air, shelter, warmth, sleep.

Tier 2. Security needs – protection from elements, safety, security, job, stability, freedom from fear.

Tier 3. Social needs – love, family, friendship, intimacy, belonging, affection.

Tier 4. Esteem needs – achievement, accomplishment, self-worth, self-respect, respect from others.

Tier 5. Self-Actualization needs – self-fulfilment, personal growth and peak experiences.

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What are the characteristics of people who have experienced self-actualization?

  • Unafraid of the unknown; they accept and embrace it.
  • Instead of following what society dictates, they remain true to themselves. They are not sheep, but they do not reject everything like the average rebel.
  • Despite being unconventional, they are not deliberately so in a way to shock or cause a reaction.
  • Accept themselves as they are, along with their flaws. They, however, recognize and work towards changing negative habits.
  • Not dependent on the company of others. They are self-sufficient and can be happy being alone.
  • More interested in the pursuit of deeper and more meaningful connections. As a result, they have deep relationships but only with a few people. That said, they have affection for all people and are not judgemental.
  • Instead of lamenting about problems, they focus more on finding positive solutions.
  • Practice gratitude and appreciate the smaller things in life.
  • Have a strong moral sense of right and wrong.
  • While most people focus on the lower tiers in the ‘Hierarchy of Needs,’ they are more focused on personal and meaningful growth.
  • Not driven by social pressures or superficial needs.
  • Search for a deeper meaning of life.
  • Despite it all, they are not perfect and they are happy with that.

What are the benefits of self-actualization?

Our society is governed by pressure and competitiveness which are exacerbated by TV, newspapers, magazines, movies, billboards, the Internet, friends, family, etc. on an hourly basis.

By striving for self actualization [2], you can positively manage your life, happiness, and dreams. Your anxieties, stresses, and worries will be recognized for what they are: man-made fears, which mostly exist in the future. Anything that hasn’t yet happened (or may not happen) is not worth worrying about.

How to achieve self-actualization

Stop comparing yourself to others

Don’t measure your worth based on what other people are doing.

Maybe one of your friends became a high-flying lawyer and another friend settled into the perfect married life with children. And perhaps you haven’t found your dream career or partner yet, but maybe that gives you the freedom to go travelling. Something neither your lawyer friend nor married friend would be able to do.

Remember that everyone’s path is different and everyone has days where they feel the same as you.

Stop using social media

A study revealed that 25% of participants [3] who used social media for an average of an hour a day, showed very high signs of depression.

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Social media promotes depression and jealousy. It creates indirect peer pressure. People feel inadequate by how others are (seemingly) over-achieving. They then feel pressured to validate how happy their lives are also by updating statuses or photos accordingly. It becomes a never-ending cycle where no one is ever truly being himself or herself.

Don’t log in as often or if you are truly strong, delete it. Those who are your real friends will know how to stay in touch.

This too shall pass

No matter how stressed or worried you feel, remember that it is temporary and nothing ever remains the same.

Be true to yourself

Follow your own sense of purpose and love yourself (even your flaws).

And you can still keep adopting positive habits, for instance, if you have been trying to become fitter or to stop smoking.

Experience life in the here and now

Sometimes it may feel like you are driving in the dark, with no brakes or lights. But one of the most beautiful things about life is its unpredictability. In that darkness, you never know what person, place or moment you may encounter with each turn.

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Be open-minded and welcome that darkness because even if the ride is bumpy, it’s still ok because you are still moving forward.

Realize you can be happy now

Many people think they will only be happy when they become wealthy, have the perfect partner, or the successful career. But they may make millions and still have anxiety. They may find “the one” and still feel depressed.

The only one capable of making you happy is you. Don’t sabotage your own happiness by imposing conditions on it.

Practice gratitude

It is easy to forget the beautiful things to be grateful for. Maybe there is a breathtaking full moon outside your window or someone did an unselfish act of kindness for you this week.

Have integrity

We all know right from wrong yet sadly, not everyone will choose to do what is right. You are responsible for not only your actions, but also for how those actions will affect those around you–positively or negatively.

Self-development

Practicing mindfulness and meditation. Meditating for as little as twenty minutes a day will inspire changes to your physical, emotional and mental state.

Final Thoughts

Did I grow up to be the happiest person in the world? Sometimes I think I did. For the times I think I did not, I think that is still ok too. Life is meant to challenge us, and there is still beauty in that.

Did I grow up to fulfil my own self-actualization? Sometimes I think I did. For the times I think I did not, I think that is still ok too. I will still keep striving to grow, learn and evolve into the best “me” that I can be. Life is the best unwritten script we can get; never underestimate where the adventure of those pages might lead to next.

Reference

More by this author

J.S. von Dacre

Writer at Lifehack

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Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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