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:
This idea about being intentionally the best version of ourselves is beautiful – yet none of it works if we are not taking care of our most valuable resource, ourselves. This means putting a high focus on our mind, body, spirit, and emotional health. We often forget we will contribute in the strongest and most powerful way when we are well rested, well fed, well connected, and fresh.
Most of us spend 355 days a year thinking about how we will spend the 10 vacation days we receive. Those precious 10 days are less then 3% of our year, yet, we invest a higher percentage of our thinking, our money, and our energy on that 3% then the other 97%. In her book, “Living a Beautiful Life,” Alexandra Stoddard reminds us we have opportunities to beautify every day of our life – and we don’t even have to change that much. She recommends recognizing our daily habits and finding ways to turn them from boring, mindless, and forgettable to energizing, thought provoking, or relaxing.
For example, I no longer purchase big-box store soap. I am going to shower everyday, and I am going to use soap, but I have turned it into an experience. I find my favorite smells from local soap makers and now my showers are filled with a seasonal smell. On a whole, it might cost me about $2 more a month, and it is totally worth it. Other examples could include planting herbs to use while cooking, lighting a candle while you do house chores, or having fuzzy socks to put on when you are hanging around the house.
I am going to make an assumption that the majority of people are just like me – we run from task to task, meeting to meeting, person to person and never take the time to pause. Take a moment now to consider when the last time you truly just sat to think was. Can you even remember? I recently started Headspace, and I am not even sure my time within that app has been truly thinking and reflecting. But, I am trying, which is exactly why this header is “practice reflection” opposed to “reflect.” It is a practice that takes time to develop and evolve. There are days or weeks we will be better at it then others, but we know when we carve out time to seek out and embrace feedback and to be mindful, we are more apt to determine healthy and successful ways of applying our learning.
What can practicing reflection look like? So many things:
- trying out headspace or another “mindfulness” app
- spending a few moments at the beginning or end of your day thinking about your interactions
- journaling (gratitude journals or just writing)
- eating a meal without a phone, computer, or television
- find a topic to think about
- driving without listening to the radio or music and without making a phone call
When it comes to our bodies, we are very reactive. When something hurts, we visit a doctor. We are not as proactive or even reactive to the way we take care of ourselves. Before we can show up as the best version of ourselves, we know we have to set ourselves up for success. Consider the above and make the choice to prioritize yourself. I promise, in the long run, you will be able to make a stronger, more positive impact.
- Rank your Mind, Body, Spirit, and Emotion on a 1-10 scale. Which one needs some attention? What can you do to stretch and relax one, two, three, or all four of these components?
- What habit or ritual in your day is currently drab? How can you turn it into an experience without adding time or money?
- Identify the last time you really checked in with yourself. Find an opportunity today (refer to the above list) to reflect.