Every now and then you come across someone who is flying high. Everything they touch seems to turn to gold. They’re comfortable in themselves. They’re charismatic and confident, apparently overcoming considerable challenges with ease. Their charmed lives appear to be so smooth, happy, healthy and wealthy. In short, they seem to have it all.
These people aren’t just lucky – they’ve reached what psychologists call self-actualisation, a state you enter when you achieve your goals and realise your dreams.
Self-actualised people have found a meaning to their lives and fulfilled their highest needs. Whether they’re a painter, politician or poet, they’ve reached their creative, intellectual or social potential. Here’s how to climb the steps to self-actualisation.
Make self-care a priority
Life coach Becki Houlston says self-actualisers take good care of themselves. Far from being selfish, this ensures they are strong, healthy and well enough to look out for others. ‘Self-actualisers have boundaries,’ she says. ‘They may prioritise quiet time for themselves or go away for a weekend on their own, if that’s what they think they need.
‘When your heart says no, say no!’ she urges. ‘If your neighbour asks you to look after her dog when you already have a difficult week, say no. Often when your heart says no, you say yes, and you resent your decision. ‘Stop being hard on yourself. If you’re horrible to yourself, your spirits will be low, your energy will be low and you won’t want to spend time alone. If you’re being kind to yourself, you will be happy to just sit and meditate and ignore your mind. You are so much more than your mind. ‘And by doing this, you will nourish your relationship with yourself. You have to know the self to actualise the self. It’s like driving a car. You have to be inside the car to drive it. You can’t drive from the outside.’
Improve the present
Toby Ingham, a psychotherapist, suggests asking yourself the question: what would a better version of my life look like? ‘A great part of self-actualisation is about developing a clear vision of where you want to get to,’ explains Toby. ‘It’s like spring-cleaning a house. You can’t do the whole thing in one go, but you can draw up a plan of what you can do to make the house feel better. Little things add up.
‘You could look at the choices you make. Ask yourself if there are relationships that aren’t good for you, or if you could improve your lifestyle habits, such as getting more sleep, or switching off the television set and reading a book.’
Link goals to values
Phil Olley, a performance coach and author, suggests taking each aspect of your life – for example, personal relationships, family, career, finances, hobbies and socialising – and asking yourself what you want and what you need in this area.
‘It might be that you want to see certain members of your family more regularly, or you want two children, a dog and golf clubs in the back of your car,’ says Phil. ‘Once you have your wants and needs list, then strip them back to work out why they are important to you, in order to get to your values. ‘Once you have your values, you can set some goals that will tie in with those values. Let’s say they are “health” and “making a difference” – you could change your diet, start getting a decent night’s sleep, and train to run a marathon, or half-marathon, for charity.
‘Other goals could be those such as getting your children or yourself into university, writing a book, saving up for a house or organising a fundraising event. Apply your resources of time, energy and money to each goal and you’re on your way.’
As psychologist Abraham Maslow believed, human needs operate at different levels in a hierarchy, with the basics of food, water and air along the bottom of the triangle, followed by safety and security and emotional needs such as love, esteem and self-respect, then self-actualisation is at the top of the pyramid. Much like the peak of a mountain, it’s the summit you aspire to, but you can’t get there without conquering the lower levels first.
Words: Christine Fieldhouse
This article was originally published under the title ‘The path to you’ in Issue 16 – By the light of the Moon