Don’t we all want good lives? Of course yes, we seek it from birth unto death.
According to Maslow, “good life” is one which is directed towards self-actualization. This further leads us to the question, as to what self- actualization is and when does it occur?
The answer is when one maximizes one’s potential; doing the best that one is capable of doing.
How many of us really know our true potential and if we do know, do we maximize it to the level of self-actualization? Without knowing our strengths how do we achieve a good life?
So the pertinent question at this juncture is what are the factors that help to self-actualize?
- First and foremost, identify & list your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t wait for others to tell you. Know thyself, which we have often heard, is nothing but self-awareness. A very important step to a good life.
- Self-acceptance: One must accept oneself not only with the positives but also negatives, limitations & deficits. Remember, there is no one who is flawless. It’s just that some of us reflect only on our negatives, highlight them and feel miserable and when this misery causes distress, we become dysfunctional. Our wonderful self, instead of progressing, becomes stagnant or starts deteriorating. This happens for no fault of the environment or situation or event but because of our thoughts, feelings and attitudes about ourselves and the inability to accept ourselves as we really are.
- Avoid being defensive and posing artificiality. Let’s be honest with ourselves. We need not get into a defensive mode. It’s not only we who have to accept ourselves but others also should. So remember we are what we are. Let’s move away from pleasing others who impose artificial goals for us. Let’s move away from others’ expectations of how one ought to be. Let’s be our natural self as long as our actions and behavior do not come in the way of the progress of others or hinder society in any way. Let’s become self-directing, autonomous and responsible.
- Accept short comings that are immutable and make attempts to modify the changeable deficits and bad habits. For this we need to be mindful towards our negatives. By this small transformation we can make incremental progress towards good life.
- Be unconventional and creative in acquisition of knowledge and skills and do not fear to seek help or borrow knowledge from all sources.
- Be motivated by growth and not by fulfillment of needs alone .When one is motivated by growth, all needs will automatically get fulfilled abundantly. It is a logical consequence of growth and excellence. So, one has to be positive & optimistic too. Whether you look at Viktor Frankl in the concentration camp or Nelson Mandela in Robben Island, both of them were able to imagine a better future in those bleak moments and were oriented towards positivity.
- Finally have a purpose in life. Your goal should encompass and incorporate what you want to give back to your society. Then you are indeed a self-actualized person who is leading a good life. T.M Krishna the 2016 Magsaysay award winner says “we should use our independence and freedom at a higher level to include collective experience. Whatever one does, is meant to be about others and not me, imbued with the spirit of empathy.” So, let’s set goals to include the benefit of all humanity.
In fact all these qualities are seen in Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Baba Amte , Mahatma Gandhi, Abdul Kalam. They are the epitome of self-actualization.
Having identified the strengths and positives let’s make SMART goals:
- Time bound
Once listed, you need to prioritize and enjoy the journey, not just the destination.
It is important to clarify journey and destination.
Journey is the process not the result. This should be enjoyed, for here lies the joy of learning, of working and this helps us excel. I am sure all of us know that to excel means, to get everything we desire and that is the end goal i.e. destination or the fruits of our action.
To reach the destination directly is itself unacceptable. But there are also certain unacceptable behaviors people indulge in which must mandatorily be avoided. Students study in the last minute, cramming for the exams; spending time trying to win favors, sycophancy, pulling another down (crab mentality) social loafing and unfair ways of achieving marks or money.
On the other hand, the acceptable behavior would be enjoying the process and then accepting destination as the end result. One has to indulge in acceptable behaviors of enjoying the process of learning or working on a job, regular studying habits, updating knowledge, good time management, relating learning to life experiences, learning from the environment and relating to concepts learnt, helping others at work; being a conscientious, sincere worker honing one’s skills; having a purpose in life. Basically having an enthusiasm and thirst for living fruitfully.
To re-iterate, self-monitoring and self-modification is the need of the hour for progress and to be on the path of self-actualization and realizing our fullest potential.
So let’s begin our journey towards self-actualization with these basic principles to lead a good life.
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