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 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



Being intentional about your journey does not mean you have it all planned out , yet having clarity of where we want to end up (even if it ends us changing along the way) will help us understand how to start moving in that direction.

Stephen Covey reminds us, “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.”

Sometimes this “wall” is a field (medical, agriculture, technology), sometimes it is a specific industry (construction aggregate, leadership development, banking), sometimes it is a concept (working with people, creating with my hands, working autonomously). The book, What Color is Your Parachute is an valuable resource.

All of your decisions and choices should move you closer to that end goal. For instance, I went back to college after my summer internship in an Organizational Development (OD) Department and shifted my education to reflect my interest in that work. Prior to graduation, I look desperately for roles within the OD or Leadership Development field. Although I was unable to land my dream job directly after graduation, I made sure all of the roles and job transitions I accepted and all my extracurricular activities aligned with the end goal. I followed the experts online, I asked for informational interviews at every chance I got, and embedded my learning in every experience possible.

A short 3.5 years after graduation, all this work enabled me to have the confidence to approach the man who hired me for InnerWill after I heard him speak at a conference. I approached him with an outstretched arm, “I am Danielle. I am incredibly passionate about the Leadership Development field. I am not looking for a job, but I would love the opportunity to sit down and pick your brain.” Three months later, sitting at a Starbucks, our hour conversation turned into two hours, then an interview, then a formal job proposal. I had stayed up-to-date on the field. I had read the books he had read. We could essentially speak the same language. I had invested in the tools I knew professionals were relying on. I was passionate about the space and he could tell.

Once we know what is most important to us, where it is we want to end up, and the environments we thrive in, we can start – comfortably, with awareness and intention – saying no to anything that does not fit. Mashable reminds us that only 2% of people can actually multitask. That means, statistically speaking, you and I are probably in the 98%. We also know that the more we are involved in, the less of our energy each of those activities get. High School and College students are bombarded with this more than any other life phase. They are looking to build their resume to get into a good college or prove themselves for a good job, not invest in the areas they are looking to develop. Having awareness of our values (from part one), our purpose (from part two), our ideal environment (from part three), and now our map (from part four), we have the opportunity to focus our energy and know what we want to say yes to… and maybe even more importantly, know what we want to say no to.

Take advantage of the journey, but make sure you are also taking control. Mapping out your path doesn’t have to be detailed, but it needs to be intentional:

  • What and who do you need to know to get to where you want to be? Are you investing your time with those people and in those things? If not, why and how can you start?
  • Each time you have an option presented to you, can you ask yourself if this decision/step move me closer or further away from my goal? If the answer is no, how can you graciously say no?
  • Create a “Stop Doing List” by asking yourself about the events on your calendar that are stressful, exhausting, or challenging to make time for, or by considering what needs to change to be more intentionally you.



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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