Man’s conflictual thinking seems to be the psychological framework for which the foundation of ordinary vision sets the standards the world is built upon. In order to experience true freedom, traditional ways of thinking, ideas and prejudices must be abandon in order to reach true levels of self-actualization. In order to change man’s destiny, there is a need to change the psychological framework and systems of convictions and beliefs (D’Anna 5). As negative emotions may be the very fabric of societal standards, self-doubt may set the perception of one’s reality. Therefore, living up to this internal sense of reality is inevitable. Although biological factors play a large role in defining one’s inborn traits and temperament, it is through each individual’s unique life experiences that true self-awareness is learned and thought patterns are formed. The thought process is an extremely powerful force, which is manifested through experiences produced within every individual. External events do not take place without consent. Nothing can happen without it first passing through the subconscious. The quality of emotion and the state of mind experienced determines what will become visibly manifested, determining the nature of events that will materialize within one’s life (D’Anna 15). Self-awareness is a life-long learning process, which is heightened through achievements and goals and strengthened by identifying individual strengths and overcoming perceived weaknesses. It is through setting and completing short-term goals, that self-awareness develops and matures. As each challenge is faced with enthusiasm, perseverance, and determination, obstacles will become new learning opportunities that enhance problem-solving abilities. Through completing short-term goals and expanding levels of self-awareness, long-term goals can be put into action and self-actualization can be reached. In abandoning traditional ways of thinking and societal norms, the alteration of one’s psychological framework and systems of convictions and beliefs may change the very fabric of human awareness.
Abraham Maslow (1954) presents a hierarchy of needs model that can be divided into basic (or deficiency) needs (e.g. physiological, safety, love, and esteem) and growth needs (cognitive, aesthetics and self-actualization). An individual must satisfy lower level basic needs before progressing on to meet higher level needs. Once these needs have been satisfied, one may be able to reach the highest level called self-actualization. Each person is capable and has the desire to move up the hierarchy toward the level of self-actualization. However, the progress is often disrupted by failure to meet lower level needs. Life experiences may cause an individual to fluctuate between levels of need hierarchy. Maslow noted only one in a hundred people become fully self-actualized because our society rewards motivation primarily based on esteem, love and other social needs (McLeod 2007). Human motivation is based on people seeking fulfillment and change through personal growth. Maslow described self-actualized people as those who were fulfilled and doing all they were capable of. Personal growth that is present throughout a person’s life never remains static. Although most individuals, theoretically, are all capable of self-actualizing, most will not do so, or will only do so to a limited degree. Although individuals achieve self-actualization in their own unique way, they tend to share certain characteristics and behaviors.
Characteristics of self-actualizers include:
- They perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty;
- Accept themselves and others for what they are;
- Spontaneous in thought and action;
- Problem-centered (not self-centered);
- Unusual sense of humor;
- Able to look at life objectively;
- Highly creative;
- Resistant to enculturation, but not purposely unconventional;
- Concerned for the welfare of humanity;
- Capable of deep appreciation of basic life-experience;
- Establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people;
- Peak experiences;
- Need for privacy;
- Democratic attitudes;
- Strong moral/ethical standards (McLeod 2007).
Behavior leading to self-actualization include:
(a) Experiencing life like a child, with full absorption and concentration;
(b) Trying new things instead of sticking to safe paths;
(c) Listening to your own feelings in evaluating experiences instead of the voice of tradition, authority or the majority;
(d) Avoiding pretense (‘game playing’) and being honest;
(e) Being prepared to be unpopular if your views do not coincide with those of the majority;
(f) Taking responsibility and working hard;
(g) Trying to identify your defenses and having the courage to give them up (McLeod 2007).
Self-actualization is a matter of degree and personal interpretation. It is not necessary to display all 15 characteristics to become self-actualized, and not only self-actualized people will display these characteristics. Maslow did not equate self-actualization with perfection, but rather as the ability to achieve one’s true potential. However, less than two percent of the population ever achieves self-actualization (McLeod 2007).
Thoughts will always find a way to materialize. It is through one’s state of being that life events will correspond. It is through modifying these states of being that events can be transformed and changes in thinking and feeling can alter the horizontal, temporal forms of existence (D’Anna 16). Many life events have the tendency to repeat themselves as they correspond to particular states of being. Justifying one’s self or blaming an external event will only mask self-understanding and the shortcomings of the personal inner being; causing the unwanted event to occur over and over again. For example, the wide array of emotions that surround tardiness may trigger high levels of stress and anxiety. Awareness that these external conditions correspond to pre-existing inner conditions can allow for self-modification and reversal of negative thought processes. Paying attention to internal psychological states involves reversing this process and going back from the event to the state that produced it. This will allow one to access a deeper sense of self-understanding while enabling the possibility of personal transformation. In order to free one’s self from external circumstances, self-reflection can be used to modify the internal state of being in order for these shortcomings to be overcome. It is through the act of self-observation that one becomes more aware of the conditions surrounding life events (D’Anna 19).
The role of genetics and environment seem to work together in determining individual’s state of being. Temperament can be defined as individual differences in emotional, motor, and attentional reactivity measured by latency, intensity, and recovery of response, and self-regulation processes such as effortful control that modulate reactivity (Rothbart 2007). Although many of these factors may be linked to inborn temperament or biological make-up, environment also seems to shape these factors and determine to what extent these characteristics will be displayed. For example, extroversion/surgency is related to greater externalizing problems (acting out) and to fewer internalizing problems (fear, sadness, low self-esteem) as may be displayed in some introverts and factors such as levels of fear or emotional reactivity can be attributed to conscience rather than to external reward or coercion but is affected by parenting and environmental factors (Rothbart 2007). So as genetics seem to play a role in inborn temperament, personality development and life choice also seems to be influenced and guided by social and environment factors. Gaining greater insight into what roles these factors play can benefit many societal, developmental, and health concerns. As in personality traits, temperament traits are not immune from experience and seem to play a major role in shaping individual personality and life choices. Behavioral genetic studies have established that individual differences in temperament, measured even during the first few years of life, are only partially heritable and are influenced by environmental experiences (Caspi, Roberts, & Shiner 2005). Although genetics may make some people more prone to specific characteristics than others, the way an individual reacts to various factors or stimuli may be more heavily influenced by learned reactions shaped through one’s environment that can only be changed through self reflection and evaluation. Therefore, external forces, such as early childhood experiences or the biological tendency toward specific traits can be used to increase one’s awareness surrounding the conditions of life events. Assumptions regarding how these experiences should be interpreted can be changed through self-refection and evaluation in order to alter the perception of these external factors; using these factors as a driving force for self-awareness and discovery. These negative factors can then be used to produce positive outcomes by modifying the reaction to these forces. By changing the assumptions of how one is expected to react, expectations surrounding outcomes will also be modified to fit idealized expectations.
Beliefs are the assumptions about self, others, and expectations that follow specific behaviors. Values consist of learned thinking and behaviors in terms of qualities such as honesty, integrity and openness (Kotelnikov). Many of the limitations faced in life are self-imposed. Beliefs about self can either hinder the state of being or thrust an individual forward into achieving a heightened sense of self. The values chosen and the order of priority placed upon choices will determine personal approach to life and work. Basic assumptions are learned automatic responses and established opinions. Most individuals are almost unaware of the nature of one’s basic assumptions. However, these assumptions are enacted through behavior. Basic assumptions are usually rooted in infancy, early family life and social context (Kotelnikov). Individual attitudes are established ways of responding to people and situations that have been learned based on the beliefs, values and assumptions an individual holds. As attitudes become manifest through behavior, an individual will attract the experiences that match existing belief systems. Changing negative thought patterns in order to improve life quality and expand the mind, can replace beliefs that hinder development. An expectation created through thought is a belief system, and it is the belief system that ultimately what determines success. Changing one’s thoughts seems to be the key element in improving the individual belief system one holds. For instance, Researchers of two American Universities found that belief systems have a direct impact on the physical body and health – beliefs actually alter the body’s chemical balance. It is what one regularly thinks that has a direct impact upon health and the physical body (Kotelnikov). It is through individual thought that belief patterns are formed.
“Old humanity cannot teach the young to free themselves from conflicted thought, nor from prejudices and obsolete ideas, nor teach how to upset even a fence in order to cultivate in themselves an indomitable passion for greatness. It is not resources that are limited, but man who projects his own limitations and boundaries onto the external world and causes his own “unconscious propensity to scarcity’ to take form. The wealth of a nation, the power of its economy and the level of prosperity it can achieve is equal to the quality of its system of values and above all its capacity to produce highly emotional individuals, visionary leaders, pragmatic dreamers. The life of a nation, the future of an entire civilization, depends on the existence of these men and women. The heads of future organizations will be philosophers of action. These people will bring intelligence, success, and longevity to the corporate enterprises of the world” (D’Anna 47). The crisis that the world is facing has very little to do with economy and finance. The economical and financial problems are not the cause of societal ills. They are just considered effects. What society is really facing is a crisis of values, and a scarcity of healthy individuals, and ethical, impeccable leaders. The leaders of the future must unlearn fear and doubts, be cleansed from negative thoughts or emotions, and carefully observe actions and reactions. An ordinary man thinks and feels negatively; paying no attention to himself while letting unpleasant emotions seep in and pollute his very being. A leader will observe his reactions and knows where they come from and why he reacts as he does. A leader is able to stop any inner conflicts through his strong sense of personal awareness. He is not governed by his emotions but encompasses personal responsibility through a sense of inner victory that combats life’s uncertainties (D’Anna 2003).
The estimation of successes and failures will depend entirely on the framework of one’s personal beliefs. Belief sets provide a structured process through which everything else is evaluated. Personal beliefs about reality are developed in relation to interpretation of the world according to observations and experiences. As assumptions are made based on logical observations and deductions, new belief grows out of an emotional viewpoint that seems to be supported by logic (Wells 2012). It is the blending of these two major components that form the basic structure of personal belief systems. Through the perception of these beliefs, an individual will try to make sense of life’s circumstances. These perceptions are also used to form assumptions about probable future results. Once established, beliefs are accepted as fact; adjusting every experience, thought, or feeling in accordance with these perceived beliefs. All information will then be reassembled to conform to this unique belief set. It is feelings and behaviors that define a person. As feelings reflect personal views and beliefs, feelings are manifested through behaviors. Changing behavior can produce a positive effect on feelings and the sense of self. As feelings become more positive so does the structure of belief systems regarding what an individual is capable of (Wells 2012). For instance, if asked, “how was one your day,” one might respond with, “it was exhausting.” This negative response may actually be programming one to expect and therefore experience negative emotions; producing negative experiences in the process. However, the reverse is also true; in responding with a more positive statement, internal viewpoints can be reinforced and feelings can be conditioned to alter belief systems through the use of behavior. It is through the internal sense of being that external forces will be controlled and manipulated to fit into personal expectations. Negative thoughts produce negative outcomes, creating a vicious cycle of self-destruction and complacency. It is only by changing these thoughts through self-evaluation and through achieving a heightened sense of awareness that life events will comply in accordance to their expectations.
One’s life can be transformed only by first changing the vision. An ordinary man is guided by and obedient to nature, but a man of true integrity possesses a full understanding of his sense of being and is the ultimate creator of his destiny (D’Anna 2003). It is the internal state of being that is the very cause of failures, negative life outcomes, illness and even death. This factor is much more important than the external events one tends to blame on personal failures, negative emotions, and undesirable feelings and behaviors. The mere act of self-observation can change the inner state. One of the primary obstacles to freedom is the illusory belief that there is an external world to depend upon, a separate reality which conditions existence and dictates destiny.” A man who really knows himself, free from any external conditioning, reveals his inner freedom, and projects the unfailing world of his Dream” (D’Anna 2003). One of man’s greatest illusions is the belief that he or she can change external conditions. An individual is only capable of changing the inner self, modifying reactive emotions, and choosing not to express self-doubt and negative emotions. By acting upon the positive thoughts, feelings, and emotions of the inner being, an individual can change his attitudes and behaviors, as well as the reactions to the confrontational events of the external world; changing the very nature of events encountered on a daily basis (D’Anna 17). The leaders of the future must unlearn fear and doubt and learn that changing the world is a question of quality of values and belief sets. This can happen only when one learns how to elevate his or her vision through acquiring a new way of thinking. This is the vision of “qualitative economy” versus an economy based merely on calculation, programs, strategies and mathematics. Quantity will not bring forth quality. By living in a merely quantitative vision of economy, solutions to the planet’s millennia old problems are impossible (D’Anna 2003). The same lies true within the personal sense of being; one must unlearn old ways of thinking in order to reach a vision of quality, dictate the reality of one’s existence, and reach true levels of self-actualization.
Self-actualization can be described as the ability for honesty with in one’s self and the ability to identify a personal sense of reality. It is the ability to admit that there is something wrong within the personal self; completely separate from external factors, and the ability to make changes accordingly. When this plateau is reached, problem solving skills, creativity, and lack of prejudice are at their highest and opportunities will seem to appear as individuals become more capable of identifying the negative perceptions that are usually blamed on external forces. It is balance that creates a healthy life-style which allows a stress-free approach to discovering one’s self and experiencing new, higher quality levels of living. It is essential that one understands his or her level within the hierarchy of needs, and that he or she can find ways to correct negative emotions and behaviors in order to create the balance that will allow one to reach true inner potential (Understanding Self-Actualization 2013). As self-awareness is heightened through achievements and goals and strengthened by identifying individual strengths and overcoming perceived weaknesses, it is through the abandoning of negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors that the alteration of one’s psychological framework can change perceptions, and therefore change one’s ultimate reality. As this positive way of thinking can change behaviors and belief sets, external factors will also act in accordance with these behaviors and thought patterns, creating a positive outcome and a heightened sense of self. It is through these assumptions that one’s destiny is laid out, controlled and reinforced by its original author; the inner self.
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