Friday, May 1, 2015

Maslow Revisited: Self-Actualization and Character Development

Are you the person that you want to be? Who are you really? Is there something about yourself that you want to change? These are some questions that we all ask ourselves at some point, or many points, in our lives. Many of us want to improve ourselves and work on self-development, but where do we start?

We had such a good discussion on the topic of Maslow and his heirarchy of needs that we decided to revisit it and focus more on the idea of self-actualization.

What is Self-Actualization?

Maslow defined it this way: "What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization...It refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming."

In other words, it is meeting our potential and being the person that we really want to be.  Maslow believed that people are motivated (have an inward push or drive) by seeking (trying to find) fulfillment and change through personal growth.

What does Self-Actualization look like?

Maslow created a list of what he thought self-actualization looks like in a person.

1. They perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty;
2. Accept themselves and others for what they are;
3. Spontaneous in thought and action;
4. Problem-centered (not self-centered);
5. Unusual sense of humor;
6. Able to look at life objectively;
7. Highly creative;
8. Resistant to enculturation, but not purposely unconventional;
9. Concerned for the welfare of humanity;
10. Capable of deep appreciation of basic life-experience;
11. Establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people;
12. Peak experiences;
13. Need for privacy;
14. Democratic attitudes;
15. Strong moral/ethical standards.
Behavior leading to self-actualization:
(a) Experiencing life like a child, with full absorption and concentration;
(b) Trying new things instead of sticking to safe paths;
(c) Listening to your own feelings in evaluating experiences instead of the voice of tradition, authority or the majority;
(d) Avoiding pretense ('game playing') and being honest;
(e) Being prepared to be unpopular if your views do not coincide with those of the majority;
(f) Taking responsibility and working hard;
(g) Trying to identify your defenses and having the courage to give them up.

Self-Actualized people

Maslow created a list of people the he believed had met their full potential. He included people such as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Jane Addams, William James, Albert Schweitzer, Aldous Huxley, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Maslow believed that people are always growing and changing. He also believed that people are self-actualized by degrees (not everyone is at the same point), so he believed that there was no perfect person. But was there? Has there been anyone that has become everything that he was meant to be? 

When we look at the stories about Jesus in the Bible, we see that he meets all of the criteria for being a self-actualized person. He was a hard worker, cared for others, was honest, didn't try to meet the expectation of others, etc. And yet, according to the Bible, he was a perfect person. He didn't sin, but lived a life of pure devotion to God and His purposes, (he did everything that God wanted him to do).  

Why is this important?

There are two big reasons why this is important.

1. Jesus is our example

When we look at Jesus, we can see that it is possible to meet our full potential as unique human beings the same way that he did, by relying on and having a close relationship with God. Jesus often took time to pray and to study the word of God in the Bible. We can also see in his example that this often isn't popular with other people. He had the courage to stand up for what he knew was right and that shows us that we can and should as well. 

2. Jesus is our savior

Because sin separated humans from God, we needed a way to be reconciled (to have a close relationship again) back to Him.  Sin only leads to death, but because Jesus was perfect, he was able to take our place in death if we accept what he did for us. His sacrifice makes it so that we can be close to God again. Through him we have our sins forgiven and we are accepted as perfect. When people do this, they find that they are fulfilled. 


Perhaps Maslow is right, or perhaps he is wrong. Most people agree that humans are looking for fulfillment in their lives. We all search for something that makes our lives meaningful and happy. We believe that fulfillment and happiness can be found in accepting Jesus as our savior. More information about Jesus can be found at the following links:

(An audio presentation in English)

(A video in English)


English Journal Questions:

Do you agree with Maslow's list of characteristics?

Do you meet any of the criteria?

What area of yourself would you like to improve?


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