Sunday, April 21, 2013

Self-actualization by One’s Self for Oneself: An Enlightened Process for the Elusive Goal

Self-actualization is defined as the process of using one’s skills and abilities and achieving as much as one can possibly achieve. Spiritual texts as well as management theories advocate a person living a completely fulfilled life. Management texts require a person to direct his or her efforts to generate material wealth for consumer satisfaction while spiritual texts require a person to redirect his or her self to attain salvation as the ultimate fulfillment. The best part of one’s years, even by spiritualism, are to be utilized by a person to develop his or her capabilities, and generate livelihood for his or her family, and in the process also contribute to society and generate wealth for the nation. It is important for one to, therefore, actualize oneself prior to seeking salvation.   

It is generally assumed that self-actualization is dependent on only skills and competencies as well as knowledge and experience. These are considered necessary for one to progress in career and become what one is completely capable of in professional life. These are, however, merely tools that need to be understood in their perspective and used appropriately in one’s process of self-actualization. The key is that one has to familiarize with oneself, prior to hoping to actualize oneself. Self-actualization is dependent on ten aspects of one’s self, namely, self-awareness, self-appraisal, self-confidence, self-control, self-development, self-discipline, self-expression, self-improvement, self-motivation, and self-respect.  These ten approaches together constitute an enlightened process to achieve the typically elusive goal of self-actualization, as discussed below.


Self-awareness reflects the knowledge and understanding of one’s character and capabilities. People possess capabilities and attributes that play a role in how they contribute to their organizations but they also often face gaps and deficiencies with respect to their particular organizational and environmental contexts. Lack of awareness of strengths lead to sub-optimized or diffident efforts while lack of awareness of the gaps leads to misdirected or self-opinionated efforts; neither of this leading to self-actualization. Self-awareness is the basic foundation on which the superstructure of self-actualization can be built. There are several tools and methodologies to understand oneself but none of these would be useful unless one has the openness of the mind and heart to conduct an honest self-appraisal.


Self-appraisal is the act or ability of judging one’s own capabilities, attitudes, work and performance, among others. Self-appraisal needs to be honest, clinical and objective but also practical and empathetic. Self-appraisal should not lead to either narcissism or denial. Self-appraisal requires, as a starting point, goals that are owned by the individual based on his or her capabilities and aptitudes. The process of self-appraisal itself requires a keen observation of what the environment requires of one, how others are matching up to the requirements, and how one is performing against these myriad requirements and variables. Self-appraisal is not only an analytical capability but also a behavioral attribute. The personality attribute that enables an honest self-appraisal is self-confidence. 


Self-confidence is the belief in oneself and one’s abilities. Self-confidence is based on a clear understanding of one’s self-worth. Self-confidence needs to be a personalized, finely ingrained characteristic that draws reinforcement from one’s strengths but does not border on egoism or arrogance. Self-confidence enables a person not to be distracted by the vicissitudes of the short term and instead focus on the long term goals of self-actualization. Self-confidence enables a person to focus on what needs to be done to achieve goals, and not be complacent or shaken by the successes or failures, respectively, of the past. Self-confidence is a synergistic characteristic that spreads cheer and strength in teams and organizations. Together with the other nine characteristics, self-confidence is probably the most profound characteristic of an enduring leader. Self-confidence requires significant self-control.


Self-control is the ability to remain calm and composed, and not show one’s emotions despite internal or external triggers. Human being is an emotional being. Organizations and societies, being agglomerations of individuals of diverse backgrounds and aspirations, are bound to cause multiple triggers that bring out both positive and negative emotions in human beings. As members of disciplined organizations and societies, all individuals must practice self-control as an attribute that promotes and institutionalizes discipline. The ability to self-control is also dependent on an ability to self-correct whenever an unacceptable variation is detected. Self-control does not mean an unemotional or robotic state; rather it requires an ability to display emotions to the extent required to perfect processes and performance.         

Self-development is the process by which a person’s character and abilities are developed. Self-development does not mean development of oneself wholly by oneself. It must be construed as the development of self by oneself as well as with others’ inputs. Many leaders are self-made. They truly experience their living, absorbing learning inputs all through and developing themselves in the process. They are also cognizant of their responsibility of developing others along with their own development. The moment learning stops development stops and progress also halts. Continuous self-development is essential for self-realization and self-actualization. Self-development is both intra-curricular and extra-curricular. Many progressive institutes offer structured programs of extra-curricular development for their students. Organizations could make extra-curricular learning a part of the regular training and development initiatives.
Self-discipline is the ability of a person to stay on the right course despite exceptional challenges, obstacles, temptations or inducements. Mahatma Gandhi is the ultimate example of self-discipline who never swerved from the path of non-violence and the goal of winning independence for India despite the autocratic alien rule. Self-discipline is always preferable to imposed discipline. As Gandhi’s leadership demonstrates, his principles of simplicity and discipline inspired millions to transform their behaviors and lives to support the Indian independence movement.  Self-discipline helps one institutionalize ethics, values and conduct in organizations and societies. Self-discipline, when it becomes an organizational and social ethic, enables focus, compliance, quality, safety, productivity and, in short, all the metrics of competitiveness that can make India a great power.
Self-expression is the expression of one’s thoughts and feelings without fear or favor but with responsibility and accountability. The benchmark of a vibrant organization is the ability to pool together different viewpoints, discuss and analyze and accept the best views. Individuals who have the ability to express their thoughts and feelings in a positive and constructive way help the spread of knowledge in an organization and also gain the stature to be analysts and spokespersons. Constructive self-expression not only reflects leadership but also helps the individual set the bar of public scrutiny higher. Self-expression must be a sustainable experience associated with a person rather than an emotive unpredictable occurrence.  Self-expression must be calibrated, contextual and analytical to be impactful.  
Self-improvement is the process by which a person improves one’s knowledge, character and status, largely through one’s own efforts. A scientist’s experiments constitute a classic example of how a person can improve one’s ideas and knowledge by repeated and analytical application of knowledge. Self-improvement is more arduous and challenging than learning from others. The advantage of self-improvement is that the person can have a whole spectrum of people to observe, interact and learn from. Self-improvement is also a process in which serendipity plays a surprising but useful role in discovery of new facts and expanding the boundaries of knowledge. Scientific and technological professionals can, in fact, achieve a lot by focusing on self-improvement as an integral part of their day to day routine.  
Self-motivation is the ability of a person to motivate himself, or herself, to work hard and excel, relying on internal drive without depending on external encouragement. Motivation is the process of making somebody do something that is especially hard and challenging. While motivating others is difficult, motivating oneself is even more challenging. Yet, on closer analysis, all motivation eventually has to be self-driven. While there are several motivational theories, tools and techniques, and there are also trainers for motivating people, the real urge for motivation has to come from within. Those who set up self-actualization as a goal for themselves and practice the various self-help principles discussed herein are likely to be self-motivated.  
Self-respect is the ability to judge what is right and wrong and thus have the ability to take pride in that what one does says or does is right and good. The process of self-actualization in a materialistic world is truly challenging, given that an individual is a mere player who cannot write his or her own script. Equally, the path is beset by more obstacles than reinforcements. The individual’s professional compass has to be his constant companion, telling him what is right and wrong on a real time basis, in the journey of self-actualization. The acumen to distinguish the right from the wrong, the strength to take the right calls on the right things, and the gumption to do the right things in the right way together build the stature of an individual on the path of self-actualization.
Self-actualization, elusive but achievable
The ten principles of self-awareness, self-appraisal, self-confidence, self-control, self-development, self-discipline, self-expression, self-improvement, self-motivation, and self-respect form a virtuous set of principles that can help an individual attain self-actualization. However, oftentimes the journey of self-actualization tends to be daunting and overwhelming, with the goal remaining elusive. As one, for example, enhances his or her self-awareness and embarks upon self-improvement, the bar for self-actualization is automatically set higher. It is this process of higher goal-setting that is tied to the concept of greater self-worth that could make the goal of self-actualization elusive. It is good for the individual and the society to keep aspiring for higher goals for the most part of one’s active life, and then switch on the even more esoteric but more fulfilling goal of self-actualization through spiritual salvation.
Posted by Dr CB Rao on April 21, 2013  



1 comment:

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