While recent surveys show most Americans have heard of the quote, “to be or not to be…” a high percentage of people cannot finish the last four words, and surprisingly most people struggle with attribution. So, do you know who said, “to be or not to be: that is the question”? If you said Shakespeare, you’re a part of that high percentage that got it wrong. It was Hamlet. But, you were partially right: Shakespeare did pen the words (so good job!). In this famous soliloquy, Hamlet is contemplating whether he should live or die over the inner turmoil of his family drama:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
We won’t get too deep into that, but I found it interesting. This quote, however, has been a place holder for theater, art, literature, and even philosophy. Why? I believe it embodies three core concept to life: Self Meaning, Self Acceptance, and Self Actualization.
Recently, I have been reading a book on management, and was reminded of some concepts I learned several years ago in a psychology class, particularly the work of Abraham Moslow. In the psychology world, Moslow’s work is profound and monumental; his book “Motivation and psychology” started a philosophical revolution out of which grew humanistic psychology. This changed the view of human nature from a negative point of view – man is a conditioned or tension reducing organism- to a more positive view in which man is motivated to realize his full potential. This is reflected in his hierarchy of needs and in his theory of Self-actualization
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A self-actualizer is a person who is living creatively and fully using his or her potentials. In his studies, Maslow found that self-actualizers share similarities. Whether famous or unknown, educated or not, rich or poor, self-actualizers tend to fit the following profile.
- Efficient perceptions of reality. Self-actualizers are able to judge situations correctly and honestly. They are very sensitive to the fake and dishonest.
- Comfortable acceptance of self, others, nature. Self-actualizers accept their own human nature with all its flaws. The shortcomings of others and the contradictions of the human condition are accepted with humor and tolerance.
- Spontaneity. Maslow’s subjects extended their creativity into everyday activities. Actualizers tend to be unusually alive, engaged, and spontaneous.
- Task centering. Most of Maslow’s subjects had a mission to fulfill in life or some task or problem outside of themselves to pursue. Humanitarians such as Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa are considered to have possessed this quality.
- Autonomy. Self-actualizers are free from reliance on external authorities or other people. They tend to be resourceful and independent.
- Continued freshness of appreciation. The self-actualizer seems to constantly renew appreciation of life’s basic goods. A sunset or a flower will be experienced as intensely time after time as it was at first. There is an “innocence of vision”, like that of an artist or child.
- Fellowship with humanity. Maslow’s subjects felt a deep identification with others and the human situation in general.
- Profound interpersonal relationships. The interpersonal relationships of self-actualizers are marked by deep loving bonds.
- Comfort with solitude. Despite their satisfying relationships with others, self-actualizing persons value solitude and are comfortable being alone.
- Non-hostile sense of humor. This refers to the wonderful capacity to laugh at oneself. It also describes the kind of humor a man like Abraham Lincoln had. Lincoln probably never made a joke that hurt anybody. His wry comments were gentle proddings of human shortcomings.
- Peak experiences. All of Maslow’s subjects reported the frequent occurrence of peakexperiences (temporary moments of self-actualization). These occasions were marked by feelings of ecstasy, harmony, and deep meaning. Self-actualizers reported feeling at one with the universe, stronger and calmer than ever before, filled with light, beautiful and good, and so forth.
In summary, self-actualizers feel safe, not anxious, accepted, loved, loving, and alive. Do you see any similarities in your life? Do you have a desire to see any of this manifested? I just thought I would share.