Just a personal blog about my life — and world travel!

Self Actualization – To be or not to be: that is the question

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  • 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

    Here’s a overview of Maslow’s Characteristics of Self-Actualizers:

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    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.

    Life’s Lesson from the Fifth Grade: Rudyard Kipling’s “If”

    "If" By Rudyard Kipling

    For some reason, I was smarter in the fifth grade than I am today (a little self-deprecating humor).  Everything started to click in every subject. I got A’s on just about every test, quiz, special project, homework assignment, and more importantly, every report card!  I’m sad to report that hardly anything made sense to me after that year, and the rest is history. (No wonder why most adults never succeed on Jeff Foxworthy’s show, “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?”)

    I look back in amazement at the things I was required to memorize that year: the names of every US President, the names of every US state and capitol, and over 200 hundred Bible verses from the Pauline Epistles (I was in Bible quizzing that year).  I also started to gain an adult vocabulary. Okay, I’ll be honest, I had no clue how to use those words in a sentence, but at least I learned the definitions and could spell them right.  I made everyone laugh at home when I tried to use words like “transient,” “altercation,” and “bequeath” in a sentence.  I’ll never forget arguing with my teacher over the word “minute” and “minute”.  I didn’t realize that “minute” could be pronounced “my – noot”, and it meant: miniature, minuscule, or insignificant. Those were fun days!

    Besides girls, one of the most vibrant discoveries in fifth grade was poetry.  Every day, the entire class was required to read aloud – and later quote – classic poems.  I remember Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”,  E. E. Cummings’  “O Captain! My Captain!”, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride”, and one that became my favorite poem of all time that I still quote to myself 20 years later:  Rudyard Kipling’s, “If”.

    In this great British poem, Kipling was inspired by a failed British raid against the Boers in 1895. Kipling’s 24 lines of poetry were stanzas of advice to his son, written in 1909. Contrary to a lot of literary criticism, Kipling’s poem has inspired the western world for over a century and was voted as Britain’s favorite poem. Two of its most popular lines, “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same”, are fixed above the players’ entrance to the Centre Court at Wimbledon.

    The backbone of the story that coincides with this poem is that Dr. Leander Starr Jameson — a friend of Rudyard Kipling and the inspiration for the poem — was not broken by his imprisonment. Years later, he decided to return to South Africa after his release and rose to become Prime Minister of the Cape Colony in 1904, leaving office before the creation of the Union of South Africa in 1910.

    Rudyard Kipling became the first English-speaking recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907. However, the tragedy that surrounds this poem is that Kipling’s only son, Lieutenant John Kipling, died 12 years later in World War I at the Battle of Loos in 1915. His body was never found.

    This past year is bitter-sweet for me. A lot happened in one year: I got married; I lost my brother; and I lost my mother. In addition, there were a lot of changes throughout the whole year. There were a lot of “lessons learned” jammed into that one year, and I hope that I have emerged a better person. This poem has been an anchor during the rough waters of my life, and I feel compelled to share it with you.

    by Rudyard Kipling

    If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too:
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

    If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same:.
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

    If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
    And never breathe a word about your loss:
    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
    If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much:
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!


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