"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

01 June 2017


Abraham Maslow is the leading figure in the tradition of humanistic psychology and the modern Positive Psychology movement owes a huge debt to his theories. His "Hierarchy of Needs" remains widely recognized and used.

Nonetheless, the layperson knows surprisingly little about the pinnacle Maslow wants us to aspire to- Self-Actualization. Who is this Self-Actualized person, and what characteristics does s/he have? Maslow’s portrait is detailed and complex.

Maslow describes the good life as one directed towards self-actualization, the pinnacle need. Self-actualization occurs when you maximize your potential, doing the best that you are capable of doing. Maslow studied individuals whom he believed to be self-actualized, including Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein, to derive the common characteristics of the self-actualized person. Here are a selection of the most important characteristics, from his book Motivation and Personality:

1.  Self-actualized people embrace the unknown and the ambiguous.
2.  They accept themselves, together with all their flaws.
3.  They prioritize and enjoy the journey, not just the destination.
4.  While they are inherently unconventional, they do not seek to shock or disturb.
5.  They are motivated by growth, not by the satisfaction of needs.
6.  Self-actualized people have purpose.
7.  They are not troubled by the small things.
8.  Self-actualized people are grateful.
9.  They share deep relationships with a few, but also feel identification and affection towards the entire human race.
10. Self-actualized people are humble.
11. Self-actualized people resist enculturation.
12. Despite all this, self-actualized people are not perfect.


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