Saturday, March 12, 2005



By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Saturday, March 12, 2005 1:04 AM


What does it take to become a self-actualizing person? One who can function at a higher level than the average person?

Abraham Maslow, one of my favorite thinkers, was a psychologist who specialized in studying successful, healthy people. He wanted to know what made them tick and spent much of his life looking into what it was in them that made them rise above the crowd.

Maslow came up with two main criteria to describe these extraordinary people: (1) they had to be free from neurosis or major problems, and (2) they must have made the best possible use of their talents and strengths. He studied personalities like Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Einstein, and called them self-actualizing persons. Eastwood Atwater summarized Maslow’s findings this way:

“When compared to the average person, self-actualizing people tend to exhibit the following traits or characteristics: more adequate perception of reality; greater acceptance of themselves and others; greater spontaneity and naturalness; more focused on problems outside themselves; need for privacy and solitude; high degree of autonomy or independence; greater freshness of appreciation of the basic things in everyday life; more frequent peak or mystic experiences (though not necessarily in a religious way); increased kinships with a few friends or loved ones; democratic personality; highly developed sense of right and wrong; healthy, unhostile sense of the human; highly creative (though not necessarily in the arts); and a resistance to conformity.”

Quite a list, yet this is what makes self-actualizing persons so extraordinary.

I am sure that you saw reflections of yourself when you went through Maslow’s description of self-actualizing persons. This is because all of us have potential for becoming better than what we are at the moment.

We can never exhaust our potential to become all that we can be. This is why some of the world’s greatest thinkers and doers reached their peak later in life.

Self-actualized persons are not immune to pain, frustration, disappointment and failure. They are very ordinary in this respect. Their uniqueness lies in their ability to go beyond these things and grow in spite of it all.

Maslow had some suggestions on how to become a self-actualized person. In his last book before he died, he wrote:

“Experience life fully, be alive and absorbed with what you are doing at the moment. Learn to trust your own judgment and feelings in making life choices. Be honest with yourself and take responsibility for what you do. Whenever possible choose growth rather than safety or security. Recognize your defenses and illusions and then work to give them up. Even though peak experiences are transient, keep the inspiration of these moments of self-actualization alive in your everyday thoughts and actions.

“Remember that self-actualization is a continual process: it is never fully achieved. Commit yourself to concerns and causes outside yourself, since self-actualization comes more as a by-product of developing your full capacities than the egocentric pursuit of growth itself.”


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