Abraham Maslow is known for saying, “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.”

This quote, as well as Maslow’s work, was dedicated to understanding why more people don’t self-actualize. He saw this idea of self-actualization as representing the “growth of an individual toward fulfillment of the highest needs; those for meaning in life.” Essentially, he recognized that  a hierarchical set of dichotomies within our lives that, as secured, set us up for success to find meaning and significance.

Although he pioneered this research in the 40s, we still struggle to maximize his work and actualize our individual potential. What we have realized is, the more you can be intentionally you – a you with awareness of who you are, who you want to be, and how you can best start navigating that path – the better chance you have at actualizing the exceptional potential you were born with.

The esoteric ask of “actualizing your potential” or even being “intentionally you” begs for the action steps or guidance as we navigate our journey.

This five-part series has been diving into the practices that will facilitate living aligned with the intentional you that you say you want to be:

Understand What Matters
Respect Yourself
Know Where You Thrive
Create Your Map
Invest in You



Think back to a time when you have been completely absorbed in an activity, when you have felt “strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of [your] abilities.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi would describe this experience as being in “flow.” Recognizing this state of flow helps to determine the environments and the conditions in which you thrive. His famous quote,

“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something we make happen.”

Csikszentmihalyi focuses on our ownership and influence in creating these environments. Identifying where you enter flow is challenging because when you are in flow, you typically are not focused on thinking about what you are doing.

Your why is personal. It is 100% dedicated to the impact you want to have on the world and is not up to anyone else to critique or disagree with. However, once decided upon, it is up to you to live into it. Victor Frankl talks about how life is always full of meaning; Even in tough times, it is up to us to understand how we see and interpret that meaning. “Each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.” Understanding our answer (our personal purpose statement) brings focus to our life and establishes what is truly important.

There are some standards that we know create a healthy and constructive environment for everyone. Our productivity is increased by 16% if we can view the outdoors  and it has been determined that the ideal working temperature is between 69 and 71 degrees.   Yet there are other factors, that are much more personalized, that contribute to our success. Understanding them and seeking them out is a key piece to putting yourself in the environments where you will thrive. These factors might be physical (office space, light, floor plan, noise), tactical (tools you have access to, parking, job description), or emotional (culture, climate, boss, appreciation, motivation, innovation). There are those of us who thrive in an 8-5 environment with a business dress code, offices with doors, and a set list of responsibilities and others who thrive in a flexible environment with a casual dress code, open floor plan, and an ever changing job description. Neither of these are better, but recognizing what we personally need in an environment to do our best work allows us to set ourselves up for success.

Discovering when you have been in flow, writing your purpose statement, and knowing the components that make up your idea environment are the first phase of knowing where you thrive. Below are action steps to help you dive deeper into turning the knowledge of where you thrive into an actual experience.

  • Free write about times in your life when you have been proud of the impact you have made. Revisit your timeline (from part one) and find significant moments that also reflect that impact. Where do you have an opportunity to make that impact on a daily basis?
  • What has been true about your attitude, surroundings, or work at times when you have been completely ecstatic about the tasks at hand? What has been true when you have been demotivated and unengaged?
  • Who and what stands in your way from creating or pursuing an environment in which you thrive? What are your opportunities to limit the disruption?



Danielle Aaronson

Danielle Aaronson

Danielle’s mission is to inspire leaders to make intentional choices that move them to positive action. She speaks at conferences, management summits, and leadership programs as well as facilitates efforts with executives and senior leaders at organizations seeking to influence their culture. Her mantra, “be the change you wish to see in the world” has allowed her to strive every day to be the best she can be and help others recognize the potential they have to make a positive difference. @deaaronson

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