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
Know Where You Thrive
Create Your Map
Invest in You
Consider your self-talk – the way you communicate with the most important person in your life… you. Shad Helmstetter would say there is a strong chance that your inner voice, the one which determines how we perceive every situation, is not being all that nice to you. In his clinical practice, he discovered that approximately 77% of our self-talk is negative. That means three-fourths of what we are telling ourselves is destructive and counterproductive.
If you are anything like me, you have the terrible habit of checking your phone first thing in the morning. Whether to scroll through social media or email, I typically already feel behind. “Wow – look at that beautiful picture of So-and-So at the gym at 5am this morning,” or “Man, So-and-So is already up and sending inspirational emails and challenging work.” We tend to put so much energy into comparing ourselves against others and in what other people think about us, yet we rarely take the time to figure out what we think about ourselves.
At the center of all of this self-actualizing and living into our potential is simply the desire to be happy. We look to others for our happiness because we think that is where to find it. Yet Shawn Achor reminds us that even if he knew everything about our external world, he could only predict about 10% of our long term happiness because what science continuously proves to us is that “90% of our long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world.” The best part of that news is that we have the ability to change the way we process the world. We can start being nicer to ourselves, literally changing the tone and language of our inner voice. Through that change in language, we can shift the way we perceive situations, “Wow – look at that beautiful picture of So-and-So at the gym at 5 a.m. this morning. Good for them and I am so glad I had a chance to get a little extra rest.”
We can all agree our self-talk is often negative, we compare ourselves to others too much, and often expect happiness to come from an external source, but what do we do about it? For me, the following help:
- Go back through your core values assessment (that you completed in the first part of this series) and answer the following questions about them:
- What does it add to your life?
- How do they make you proud?
- How do they shape your priorities?
- Recognize when you are saying something negative to yourself or comparing yourself to others. Play Devil’s Advocate and debate the other side.
- Keep a Gratitude Journal and give yourself permission skip a day (or whole weeks!).