Self-Actualization: A Misunderstood Aspect of Emotional Intelligence

What Is Self-Actualization?

Self-Actualization: I still remember hearing those two words put together. It was in Psych 101 when the professor mentioned Abraham Maslow. Maslow is now famous for his theory of Hierarchy of Needs. This can be a very sensitive area especially for those who disregard the notion of modern psychology. Language is the problem.

Here is Maslow’s definition:

Self-actualization – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences. A desire “to become everything one is capable of becoming” (Maslow, 1987, p. 64)

This is the process of seeking and finding the best version of self as possible. It is multi-dimensional in nature in that the self actualized person has achieved all their basic needs but wants more. This is the stuff of prestige and legacy. Therefore, self-actualization is a process that is never fully realized. However, the person who knows exactly who they really are, what they really want and have a plan to achieve it is a person who would have high self-actualization. Consequently, these people set goals, are interested in helping others (if for no other reason this helps them), have a wide variety of interests, and success finds them as much as they find success!

How To Get Self Motivated

A discussion would not be complete without a comparison to Herzberg’s, “Motivators and Hygiene Factors.” Herzberg notes there are motivators for all people that lead to job satisfaction. The need for physiological things: food, a home, and social relationships are just the beginning. For the individual with stronger ambitions these factors do not have a long life. Employers must provide more than money and security. Humans are funny; when they have all their basic needs they discover this isn’t enough. We want more! I would argue this is the stuff of self-actualization.

How Can I Achieve My Goals? (Complete this exercise)

This is the motto of the self-actualized person. Setting and achieving goals is important but equally as important is deep personal satisfaction and a multi-faceted life. It isn’t all about work. These are the people who seek to strike a balance in their personal and professional life. But to be clear it is all about achievement! It is setting out to win and winning. These people do what they love in their work. They understand their core values and their natural abilities. Here is an exercise for you:

  1. Draw a vertical line and label it core values
  2. Draw a horizontal line and label it natural abilities.
  3. Label the top left quadrant 1, top right 2, bottom left 3 and bottom right 4

Now assess your own happiness (self-actualization). If you aren’t in quadrant 2 something is missing in your life. Whether you choose to do something about this circumstance is up to you. Skill is the wild card in this scenario. It is possible to be good at something that is not a natural ability or a value. You may earn your living doing this. If you aren’t fully satisfied in life this may be an opportunity to be addressed. The key is to determine why you were created.

“If you don’t know who you were created to be, you will become what you are paid to be.” Dave Rhodes

Finally, emotional intelligence is an area of specialty for me. If you’re interested in exploring self-actualization or any other aspect of emotional intelligence, check this out. For more on emotional intelligence, go back to the Blog page and click the first blog with the tag emotional intelligence and you’ll get more.

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