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On self actualisation

Victor Leung
Experience in software development, consulting services and technical product management. Understanding of business and technology with an MBA in Finance and a Master degree in Computer Science.
Originally published at victorleungtw.Medium on ・7 min read

Self-actualisation is important because it contributes to my well-being and makes my life worth living. I have a lot of potentials to be unlocked and I am curious about what I could achieve in life.

I would feel ashamed if I did not try to grow because it would be a waste of life without realising what life had to offer. I achieve self-actualisation not just for myself but also for others. Self-actualisation and what is good for me alone cannot be understood in isolation. The good of other people must be invoked, as well as the good for me. It is quite clear that a purely individualistic goal without reference to other people and social conditions is not adequate.

The pursuit of self-actualisation comes from my fear of death, which is always possible, and I shall not be blind to reach my full potential. I am convinced that I have extraordinary creativity, humanitarian, and spiritual possibilities but are often alienated from them because I am so focused on a very narrow slice of what I am.

Fulfilling my full potential is a satisfying process, even though it would include hardship to overcome. At the base of growth is the spirit of exploration, the fundamental biological drive that all growth needs to have as its foundation. Exploration is the desire to seek out and make sense of novel, challenging, and uncertain events. While security is primarily concerned with defence and protection, exploration is primarily motivated by curiosity, discovery and openness.

It is stimulating to create new opportunities for growth and development. The other goals in my life can build on the fundamental need for exploration to reach higher levels and to contribute something meaningful to the world. The drive for exploration is the core motive underlying self-actualisation and it can go beyond individual growth. Being able to reach my full potential allows for higher levels of unity, harmony within myself and achieve a sense of connectedness with the rest of humanity.

Attaining self-actualisation would change the way I see myself with isolation. There is an inherent tension between, on the one hand, wanting to connect deeply and profoundly with other human beings and be part of a larger whole and, on the other hand, never fully able to do so, always remaining existentially alone. I would be able to contribute and achieve something greater than myself alone, thus building unity with others.

The other parts of my personal life would change as well in consequence of the meaninglessness. There is a tension between being throw into an indifferent universe that often seems to have no inherent meaning and yet wanting to find some sort of purpose for my existence in the incomprehensibly short time we live on the planet. Life would feel more meaningful given that I can overcome the obstacles.

It affects the way that others perceive me as well because I would be able to confidently travel in my direction, sailing the vast unknown of the sea. Something is comforting about the fact that we all exist together and have to confront the same existential dilemmas. Even though I am alone in the boat, it is always conforming to see the lights of the other boats bobbing nearby.

Self-actualisation would affect the lives of people around me as well because they would see a good life is not something I will ever achieve, but it’s a way of living. The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination. This process won’t always bring feelings of happiness, contentment, and bliss, and it may even sometimes cause pain and heartache. It requires continually stretching outside my comfort zone as I realize more and more of my potentials and launch myself into the stream of life. It takes a life of courage to become the best version of myself. I can grow in the direction I truly want to grow and allows me to show the universe that I existed, and benefited others, while I was here.

The concrete things to achieve self-actualisation is experimentations. Firstly, find out the problems in life and a list of the assumptions. Then, by trial and error, I can learn from the mistakes and failures, keep improving, diagnosing and retrospecting on lessons learnt. By doing, I could overcome some of the problems in life by testing out the hypothesis I got.

I should spend more time planning at work at complex organisations. Very little gets done by someone acting alone. Everything is highly interdependent. The most productive thing to do is become highly collaborative and worked well with others. I can also be more productive myself by self-reflection and ask if there is something I can improve. It seems a lot of things get done through magic or cutting corners, but as it turns out, productivity is just a set of skills. Skills that I can acquire and use.

I would also need to discuss with others and taking responsibilities for finding the potential in people and processes and dares to develop that potential. From corporations, nonprofits, and public sector organisations to governments, activist groups, schools and faith communities, we desperately need more courageous, wholehearted leadership to achieve our potentials together as a group. I need self-awareness to lead from my hearts, rather than unevolved leaders who lead from hurt and fear.

I would also maintain the habit of writing, by write what I need to read. My writing is about continued improvements and personal development, not only because I enjoy reading self-help books, but also it helps me organise my thinking and be consistent on what I think and what I act. It is an active strategy for exploring all the possibilities ways to reach the potentials of life. To get into the right mental space for experimenting, I need not only to see my abilities as something I can improve but understand that there are huge potential ways. Exploration is the key to realizing that potential.

The potential obstacles to self-actualisation are insecurity. The person who behaves badly behaves so because of hurt, actual and expected, and lashes out in self-defence, as a cornered animal might. The fact is that people are good if only their fundamental wishes are satisfied, their wishes for affection and security. Give people affection and security, and they will give affection and be secure in their feelings and behaviour. Everything nasty, mean or vicious is an overcompensatory attempt to satisfy the basic needs of security, affection and self-esteem. Whatever the particular form it takes, some sort of fear pervades the deprivation of each of the needs.

If I have too many psychological fears, this may be an indication that I may be too caught up in securing my survival, with potentially serious consequences of actually expanding to reach my potentials. I am living in an unpredictable, chaotic world, and chaos invades my environment. Fundamentals needs such as housing is a crisis for me, despite the striking growth incomes of the top 1 per cent rich people. Unpredictability has far-reaching consequences for the lives I can envision and create for myself. The need for safety, and its accompanying needs for stability, certainty, predictability, coherence, continuity and trust in the environment, is the base upon with all the others are fulfilled. The need for safety is tied to the struggle to make sense of experiences and a motivation to gain control over violated expectations. Having a safe base allows me to take risks and explore new ideas and ways of being, while also allowing the opportunities to become who I truly want to become.

I can never achieve full mastery over my environment, and things I thought I could predict are constantly changing. The amount of stress and unpredictability would therefore obstacles to self-actualisation. Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.

To monitor my progress with self-actualisation, I would start from real-world physics and figure out what’s possible. A ten per cent improvement means that I am doing the same thing as everybody else. I probably would not fail spectacularly but I am guaranteed not to succeed wildly. I would achieve my potentials by thinking about how to be ten times better than before. That means I am not satisfied with discovering a couple of hidden efficiencies or tweaks to achieve modest gains. Thousand per cent improvement requires rethinking problems, exploring what’s technically possible and having fun in the process.

I must see beyond what comes naturally to me, and develop into what I must be to grow, serve, and lead. It is less into finding my strengths and more into adaptive service, exploration of what needs fixing and growing into the person who can fix it. The question I ask is less often who am I and what I am good at, and more often what is required to be of service here, and how can I grow into that or lead others to deliver that.

I can achieve self-actualisation not necessarily by getting more things per see, but by get more things done that are highly valued in my primary field of interest. My expected value calculation and others could be different because what we value most is different. In other words, the path to my happy life is different from others.

A flurry of random activity doesn’t usually translate into self-actualisation. I don’t have to choose one potential over that the other when I am exploring. Finding my potentials and mission in life is like finding true love, in that I have to go out on many dates to get to the perfect match. Once I find that special person, it doesn’t magically work, because it takes effort to build a relationship. Finding my potentials is no different. It takes experimentation to see what clicks for me, and it takes effort. Self-actualisation is what lights me up inside and grow as a whole person.

Originally published at http://victorleungtw.com on June 13, 2021.

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