Motivation and Personality
by Abraham Maslow. 1987
as distilled by Brian Johnson’s PhilosophersNotes
a bonus feature of UniqueGenius.com
“What human beings can be, they must be.”
~ Abraham Maslow
“Musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves. What human beings can be, they must be. They must be true to their own nature. This need we may call self-actualization… It refers to man’s desire for self-fulfillment, namely to the tendency for him to become actually in what he is potentially: to become everything one is capable of becoming.”
“They have become strong enough to be independent of the good opinion of other people, or even of their affection. The honors, the status, the rewards, the popularity, the prestige, and the love they can bestow must have become less important than self-development and inner growth.” ~ Abraham Maslow
Here, very briefly, are the 19 Characteristics of the Self-Actualizer (check out our collection of Maslow quotes on the site or get the book for more love):
1. Perception of Reality: These individuals tend to have a “superior relationship with reality” and are “generally unthreatened and unfrightened by the unknown.” In fact, “They accept it, are comfortable with it, and, often are even more attracted by it than by the known. They not only tolerate the ambiguous and unstructured—they like it.”
2. Acceptance: “Even the normal member of our culture feels unnecessarily guilty or ashamed about too many things and has anxiety in too many situations. Our healthy individuals find it possible to accept themselves and their own nature without chagrin or complaint or, for that matter, without even thinking about the matter that much.”
3. Spontaneity: The behavior of the self-actualizing individual is “marked by simplicity and naturalness, and by lack of artificiality or straining for effect.”
4. Problem Centering: Self-actualizers customarily have some “mission in life.”
5. Solitude: Self-actualizing individuals “positively like solitude and privacy to a definitely greater degree than the average person.”
6. Autonomy: “They have become strong enough to be independent of the good opinion of other people, or even of their affection. The honors, the status, the rewards, the popularity, the prestige, and the love they can bestow must have become less important than self-development and inner growth.”
7. Fresh Appreciation: “Self-actualizing people have the wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder and even ecstasy, however stale these experiences may have become to others.”
8. Peak Experiences: It’s been called “flow” or “being in the zone.” Whatever you want to call it, self-actualizers tend to experience it more often than average.
9. Human Kinship: “Self-actualizing people have a deep feeling of identification, sympathy, and affection for human beings in general. They feel kinship and connection, as if all people were members of a single family.” … “Self-actualizing individuals have a genuine desire to help the human race.”
10. Humility and Respect: All of Maslow’s subjects “may be said to be democratic people in the deepest sense… they can be friendly with anyone of suitable character, regardless of class, education, political belief, race or color. As a matter of fact it often seems as if they are not aware of these differences, which are for the average person so obvious and so important.”
11. Interpersonal Relationships: “Self-actualizing people have these especially deep ties with rather few individuals. Their circle of friends is rather small. The ones that they love profoundly are few in number.”
12. Ethics: “They do right and do not do wrong. Needless to say, their notions of right and wrong and of good and evil are often not the conventional ones.”
13. Means and Ends: “They are fixed on ends rather than on means, and means are quite definitely subordinated to these ends.”
14. Humor: “They do not consider funny what the average person considers to be funny. Thus they do not laugh at hostile humor (making people laugh by hurting someone) or superiority humor (laughing at someone else’s inferiority) or authority-rebellion humor (the unfunny, Oedipal, or smutty joke).”
15. Creativity: “This is a universal characteristic of all the people studied or observed. There is no exception.”
16. Resistance to Enculturation: “Of all of them it may be said that in a certain profound and meaningful sense they resist enculturation and maintain a certain inner detachment from the culture in which they are immersed.”
17. Imperfections: Actualizers “show many of the lesser human failings. They too are equipped with silly, wasteful, or thoughtless habits. They can be boring, stubborn, irritating. They are by no means free from a rather superficial vanity, pride, partiality to their own productions, family, friends, and children. Temper outbursts are not rare.”
18. Values: “A firm foundation for a value system is automatically furnished to self-actualizers by their philosophic acceptance of the nature of self, of human nature, of much of social life, and of nature and physical reality.”
19. Resolution of Dichotomies: “The dichotomy between selfishness and unselfishness disappears altogether in healthy people because in principle every act is both selfish and unselfish.”
that is a lot to swallow!
it’s it awesome?
yikes! i was enraptured reading and thinking about these characteristics. it’s hard not to compare yourself to these Self-Actualizing individuals.
my 2 cents on each:
1. reality. i’m getting there. i can definitely sense that i’m open to the unknown and not afraid of jumping off the cliff. i know that triathlons get me to that point every time, right at the starting line at the water’s edge. attracted to the unknown. not sure i’m that far.
2. acceptance. i’m down with that. i’m ok with me.
3. spontaneity. love it. simplicity and naturalness. perfect. sign me up!
4. problem centering. i’m not clear on my mission yet. i have the distinct calling that i have one, just not crystal clear on what it is yet.
5. solitude. yup. that’s me. i like my solitude.
6. autonomy. i still ike being appreciated by people. i’m not indifferent to praise. i’m not fully independent of the opinion of other’s. i’m beginning to shed that now, especially as i see where other people are coming from and what they see in me. if it’s not true, then i have no problem disregarding their opinion.
7. fresh appreciation. love it. sign me up on this one too. i love the newness of seeing it over again.
8. peak experiences. flow. i definitely feel this sometimes. i get in the highly productive mood and get tons of stuff done. i have amazing breakthroughs and feel invincible.
9. human kinship. yes. but not over board luvvy dubby.
10. humility and respect. i love it this one too. reaching out to anyone.
11. interpersonal relationships. i’m there too. i have very few friends. my circle is small. i love profoundly few.
12. ethics. yup. i like the do no wrong part.
13. means and ends. fixed on ends is great motivation. keeping the end point in view keeps things in context and priority.
14. humor. i love this one. what they laugh at and what they don’t. i completely identify on that level. it’s why i hate ben stiller. he’s aweful. cring humor sucks. seinfeld was that mean humor and meaningless humor. and why i love ellen. she’s terrific. uplifitng at every opportunity.
15. creativity. i love this one. it’s a breath of fresh air to think creatively.
16. resistance to enculturation. in the world but not of it. take the news with a grain of salt. take some of the media hype. but understand it’s hype.
17. imperfections. still human. that’s nice. no god like mentality.
18. values. i have some.
19. resolution of dichotomies. this one is tough to understand. i’m not sure how i measure up on this one. selfish and unselfish. i see how things can be both at the same time. i tend to leave it as it is and don’t evaluate how selfish or unselfish it may be.