What Is Self-Fulfillment?
Self-fulfillment is 'the ability to make yourself happy and complete through your own efforts.' It is 'the achievement of one's full potential through creativity, independence, spontaneity, and a grasp of the real world.' That's according to two separate online dictionaries, at least.
And looking at a breakdown of the term, it is, simply put, 'a complete filling up of yourself, by yourself'. That's according to me. Thus it’s about becoming everything you can become, but because none of us have the time to live to our full potential in EVERY respect, we have to decide what potentials we would MOST like to work at achieving in our RELATIVELY limited lifetimes.
In terms of psychology, self-fulfillment mirrors the self-actualization concept that Abraham Maslow explained in very clear terms in his Hierarchy of Needs theory. In brief, he believed that ALL PEOPLE must meet certain needs before being able to meet other needs. Biological needs (breathing and eating, for example) are the first needs EVERYONE has to fulfill before they can move onto having their Safety needs (feeling physically protected from others, for example) fulfilled. From there, Belonging needs must be met (feeling a sense of unity with family and friends), then Esteem needs (feeling the sense of 'achieving'), then Cognitive needs (becoming self-aware), then Aesthetic needs (attaining a sense of feeling good about your physical appearance), and right at the top of this needs-list are the Self-actualization needs. It's interesting that Maslow and many others regard the HIGHEST need that most people seek to attain as being the need for personal growth and self-fulfillment.
Maslow went on to describe those people who have attained this highest need as:
* having realistic perceptions of reality
* looking out for more than just their own selves and their own desires
* being open-minded and spontaneous in both their thoughts and actions
* valuing solitude in which to enjoy their own company and reflect on all manner of matters
* never ceasing to appreciate their life and the wonders of life in general
* having 'peak experiences'... moments of intense emotion which inspire their thinking and keep them psychologically healthy
Thus, according to Maslow, people wish to self-actualize BECAUSE they've reached that highest level of needs. However, what is it that is in all of us that determines our potential need to self-actualize? In other words: whether it remains dormant or becomes active, why do we ALL, nonetheless, seem to have, if nothing else, the POTENTIAL to self-actualize?
I don't know.
Based PURELY on my own surmisings, however, I must first say that I don't truly consider self-actualization as being a need.
I think it is, more accurately, a 'want'; but indeed, I agree that it is within all of us to - after our most primal needs are met - wish to become self-actualized in some capacity. But we don't NEED to become self-actualized, we merely WANT to (even though that want can be so intense in some people that it is mistakenly felt as if to be a need). The main reason for my defining self-actualizing as a 'want', however, is because I regard a 'need' to be some element about our lives which must be satisfied in order to assure our biological survival. Self-actualizing - or self-fulfillment - is that which we attain mostly for the sake of our individual happiness, but - sadly - nobody needs to be happy to live and to continue living. It just makes living easier. But maybe this is an answer (of possibly many answers) to the question. That said...
What Is The Source Of Our WANTING To Attain Self Fulfillment?
I postulate that the 'want' of self-fulfillment is an inbuilt part of us possibly because...
1) if we can survive in a manner that makes us personally feel we are using the best of our selves, it makes life more enjoyable (and thus easier) to live, therefore there's a greater chance we will fight harder to survive if our life is ever threatened in some way. Many elderly people die shortly after they stop having something that truly inspires them to live, and this idea supports this particular point quite well
2) it exercises our creative muscles, which are muscles we often need to use in developing plans to survive and problem-solve in other ways. So, again, it has to do with our personal survival, and perhaps even with the survival of our species. Because so many people have become self-actualized in the past, for instance, we now live in a world where we - the human race - EASILY dominate all other species on this planet; so because of the ability to self-actualize, humans are more likely to continue surviving if pitted against any other creature (except for another human being, but that's the great irony of this point, I suppose)
3) our survival is dependant on group happiness, and if more individuals in a group are especially happy (because they've become self-actualized) then the group as a whole will most likely be happier and thus be more productive and a more strongly-knit unit
4) one's own life is itself SIMPLY a process of evolution that begins with physical needs, then moves more and more intrinsically into our having to fulfill psychological needs or - in this case - the specific want of becoming self-fulfilled
5) we don't use our brains as much as we could (I'm not referring here to the MYTH that we only use 10% of our brains, by the way), so in order for our unconscious mind to NATURALLY push ourselves more thoroughly, mentally, we develop the psychological want of self-actualization as a result
Whatever the case though, I fervently believe we all need to achieve self-fulfillment for both selfish and selfless reasons... for the good of ourselves, but also for the good of our own group, or, in some cases, towards the advancement of the human species as a whole.
And that we all seem to have to find self-fulfillment in a self-actualized manner is one of those MAIN aspects about our species that separates us from all the other animals on this world.
One last point before moving onto the final section of this article...
Some scornfully maintain that the process of self-fulfillment is a selfish one. This is true, but remember that one's definition of 'selfish' is often quite different depending on who you're talking to regarding the matter. For instance, Ayn Rand describes selfishness as a virtue in saying 'the TRULY selfish person is a self-respecting, self-supporting human being who neither sacrifices others to himself nor sacrifices himself to others.' In other words, being selfish is about giving to yourself and giving to others, but not about taking or destroying another man or another man's creation. It is 'rational self interest', and this type of selfishness, I believe, is positive. Some would argue, furthermore, that what we do is only EVER for selfish reasons. In other words: If you're doing something kind for another person, and it brings you joy to do this, then that could easily be described as 'selfish'. Indirectly, you're doing something nice for someone else, but ultimately it's for yourself. However you look at it, I think it's important to remember that if what you're doing is both HAVING a positive effect in whatever the manner, and NOT having a negative effect, then you can call that act anything you want, but it'll always be an act worth putting into practice.
Notes On Attaining Self-Fulfillment
(And Some Excellent TED Video Clips On The Matter Too)
While the feeling of INSPIRATION is largely what pushes people to become self-actualized, the feeling of FEAR is usually what prevents one from ever attempting to do what they might most like to do, or become who they might most like to become. Fear, in regards to this topic, can consume you in many respects. You can have a fear of...
* taking risks, as you might wind up worse off financially or physically than you were before (although many would argue you take more of a risk by never taking risks)
* failure, which is peculiar, because failing DOESN'T mean you're 'a failure', it simply means you didn't succeed in some venture
* being mocked or humiliated, as many people have a low self-esteem, thus are pained by other people's jests or beratings
If you overcome your fears and find yourself inspired enough to realize your dreams, then remember there will be days when you become tired, lose sight, and feel overwhelmed; but the difference between those who get to their destination as opposed to those who don't is often simply the matter of one person pushing more determinedly through the hard times than not. It's still not guaranteed you'll realize your dreams, however, but then nothing is guaranteed in this life. And knowing when to slow down and recuperate is just as important as knowing when to knuckle down and not be overcome by obstacles that sometimes seem more magnified at the time. Often the hardest paths we take are the most rewarding. But lest I become a walking writing cliché, pardon my abruptly ending this paragraph now to step into the next one.
I'm now going to suggest a method that could prove quite radical (depending on how far you choose to take it) in regards to how you might become inspired to seek out your own self-fulfillment:
Instead of aspiring to find some person or some item or some situation to inspire you, why don't you put yourself INTENTIONALLY in a bad or difficult situation for a period of time, then return to your normal life. Doing this will automatically remind you to appreciate what you have, which should hopefully inspire you to then 'do even better'. You might volunteer for a time with people who are physically disabled, you might force yourself to go without electricity for a few days, you might visit a relative for some time who pushes your every button, etc. What you might do (and how much of it you might do) is your decision. Just remember that the longer you perform an exercise like this for, and the more extreme it is, the more you'll appreciate your day-to-day situation by comparison. The reason I thought of this exercise is because of a frightening story in the following video clip I watched, which then becomes a self-fulfillment video clip as you'll see. It concerns a man who almost died in a plane crash and the three insights he experienced as a result. What the majority of us don't realize is that we've mostly all ALREADY achieved a great deal of success in life, and sometimes seeing this (even if it's in comparison to something less pleasant) is sometimes necessary to inspire us to continue to improve on our situations even more-so.
A man who speaks amazingly about the day-to-day wonders of this world is Neil Pasricha, and I highly recommend you watch his video talk as he also has an interesting method of how you might see the good in your life if you've forgotten to.
Coming back to the topic of fear, the third video clip is one man's story about how he overcame his own fears to learn how to swim (and to swim incredibly well), to learn a new language, and to learn how to tango. His story, I feel, is particularly interesting because he doesn't simply 'work hard and stay focused'; he thinks very carefully about how to tackle different situations in his life that he wants to be successful in.
The fourth video clip is my FAVORITE of the bunch as it is the most informative and humorous one dealing with the topic of self-fulfillment. Alaine has some HUGELY interesting and profound ideas about success, but also about envy.
The fifth and final video clip is a talk given by a man who studied the topic of success and self-fulfillment for seven years (in which time he interviewed five hundred people on the matter) arriving at a conclusion that showed the PRIMARY eight reasons successful people become successful. Some of it you won't be surprised about, but it's worth watching this clip, especially considering it's only approximately four minutes in length.
As a final note on the issue of becoming self-actualized, I would recommend you never compare yourself (or your goals or your achievements) to others. If anything, compare your life to your own life... your past to your present. Look back at what you've accomplished and ask yourself if it's enough. If it's not, DO something about it.
I would like to end off with a quote that doesn't have anything specifically to do with this article. I just like it.
John Lennon once said, "When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down 'happy'. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment. I told them they didn’t understand life."
OTHER RECOMMENDED ARTICLES
* Psychology VS Self Improvement
* Happiness VS Contentment
* Self Confidence Improvement
* Character Defects
* Self Improvement Gyming
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