What does it mean to be fully alive? I asked that question in early August, 2008, because I wanted to explore the answer in all its fullness. At the time, I said it meant to be filled with life, energy, joy, freedom, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, and self-awareness. That’s my definition of being self-actualized. I then went on, however, to explore the concept using 19 frameworks put forward by L. Michael Hall in his book, Unleashed! We’ve come to the end of this series, so this Provision summarizes them all. Whether you want to catch one you missed or read one again, this Provision is for you. Enjoy!
On August 3, 2008 I announced the start of a Provision series on what it looks like to be fully alive. The psychologist Abraham Maslow described such people as being “self-actualized.” What does that look and feel like? Everyone would no doubt answer that question in different ways. But L. Michael Hall, in his book Unleashed!, described the following 19 capacities, attitudes, and states of self-actualization.
That’s the outline I’ve been following in my series. My wife tells me that most people probably forgot long ago that it even was a series. So before we move on to our next topic, I thought I would wrap-up the series with brief summaries and links back to each Provision. Enjoy!
1. The capacity to tolerate uncertainty. Embrace Uncertainty (Provision 577). To be fully alive it’s important to embrace, rather than to fear, uncertainty. Why? Because life is uncertain. There are no guarantees and no absolutes. There are only degrees of risk and understanding that represent our best efforts to be successful and happy over time. Once we embrace the fact that life cannot be controlled and that our understanding is always incomplete, everything comes alive. Read this Provision to explore how to make it so for you.
2. Acceptance of self and others. Who’s Right? (Provision 578). It feels good to be right. We can gloat and throw our weight around in our dealings with others. We can hold our head high and strut our stuff. But the game of “Who’s right?” takes a toll on all who play. Whether we play it with ourselves, in our minds, or with others, in our words and actions, the game is filled with judgment and ego games that ultimately do more harm than good in our world today. If you are riddled with thoughts of what’s wrong, then perhaps this Provision will assist you to break the cycle.
3. Genuine caring and love. A Beautiful Mosaic (Provision 579). It’s easy to love people who are similar to us and who are doing what we want in the way we want them to do it. Most of the time, however, we are dealing with those who are different from us and who have their own ideas and strategies about how to go about things. That’s when the going gets tough when it comes love, understanding, and respect. The more we object, however, the more conflict ensues. The more we appreciate the needs people are trying to meet, the more community emerges. I, for one, hope and strive for the latter. Read this Provision to learn how to make it so for you as well.
4. Spontaneity and creativity. Grab The Mike (Provision 580). Everyone enjoys the spontaneity and curiosity of little children. We laugh and play along. So what happens to that joy as we grow older? It gets replaced with judgmental voices of what can and should be done. Unfortunately, those voices interfere with developing our full potential. It’s important, therefore, to learn how to set them aside in the service of natural learning. Then, and only then, will we become the change that we seek. This Provision shares a few stories on how to make it so.
5. Need for private and solitude, detachment. Inside Out (Provision 581). Real change is possible, but only if we start from the inside out. Instead of scurrying around reacting to all the squeaky wheels, it’s better to get centered before proceeding. To come from that place, it helps to start the day with deliberative rituals. The more we take time to think, imagine, write, breathe, dream, notice, meditate, walk, and otherwise connect with what’s stirring on the inside, the more impact we will have on the outside. If you want to develop a rhythm in your life between contemplation and action, then I encourage you to read this Provision. It’s not impossible, even in our busy-busy world.
6. Capacity for deep and intense relationships. Outside In (Provision 582). In the last Provision I wrote about the importance of connecting with the life that stirs and flows within. We all have dreams, energies, vibrations, rhythms, flows, inhalations, exhalations, circulations, imaginations, and other movements that are worth noticing, exploring, and appreciating. But it’s not enough to go it alone, from the inside out. We also need to connect deeply with others in ways that restore and enrich life. Sound inviting? Then read this Provision to find the courage to make it so.
7. A more philosophical attitude about things. Step Back (Provision 583). When life is swirling and twirling, it’s important to step back and stay calm. That’s not always easy to do, especially when you have evidence to the contrary (and we’ve had plenty to go around). But there are practices that can bring us back to center. This Provision explores three simple yet challenging steps: shifting perspective, seeking connection, and studying meditation. I hope they will mean as much to you as they mean to me.
8. Autonomy: independence of culture and need for conformity. Step Out (Provision 584). There are times to step back, especially when life is swirling around us, and times to step out, in creativity, courage, and collaboration. The two movements are integrally related. Stepping back gives us the perspective we need to see new possibilities. Stepping out gives us the experience we need to explore new possibilities. If your life lacks a rhythm of stepping back and stepping out, then perhaps this Provision is for you.
9. A sense of humor and lightness. Laugh Lines (Provision 585). What gets you to laughing? We don’t always have to wait for something to strike our funny bone. We can become proactive laughers, by noticing the ironies and beatitudes of life. There’s always something to discover, celebrate, and enjoy. Laugh lines are so important that I went back and reviewed some of my own from the past 10 years worth of Provisions. It was a fun reconnaissance of my own material and I reprinted the best excerpts in this Provision. I hope at least one item strikes you that way as well. Enjoy!
10. More efficient perception of reality. Panic No More (Provision 586). The headlines scream of a worldwide panic attack. With every passing day, more and more people are succumbing to the stress. What about you? How are you doing? If you are not doing as well as you would like, it may be time to develop new routines for stress management and sleep enhancement. This Provision describes a few approaches that have worked for me, including supplementation with melatonin. If that sounds interesting and relevant, then read on for the details.
11. Altruistic. Contribute Your Joy (Provision 587). When people are fully alive they bubble over with joy. This joy is neither silly giddiness nor ignoring reality. This joy is rather the full engagement that comes from doing what you love. At its best, such engagement is not only self-serving (there’s nothing wrong with that) it’s also life-serving (bringing joy to many others in the process). When was the last time that you bubbled over with joy and blessed others in the process? If it’s been a while, then perhaps this Provision will inspire you to turn over a few new stones.
12. An inner directedness and absences of artificial dichotomies (love/hate, weak/strong, work/play, etc.). Probably No God? (Provision 588). Did that title get your attention? If so then the campaign to put secularist posters on the sides of British buses may achieve its intended result. But I think the posters miss the mark. The problem is not with God; the problem is with parochial ideas of God. That’s what Abraham Lincoln had to say in his Second Inaugural Address. It is also what I understand to be the true nature of here, now, and forever. God is no Judge; God is Understanding.
13. More democratic in attitudes and dealings with others. Election Energy (Provision 589). The election between Barack Obama and John McCain engaged many people, on both sides of the aisle. To say that it was “energizing” is an understatement. Yet that’s exactly what it takes to become fully alive. If you have been lacking passion, direction, and understanding in life, then there’s no better time than today to turn things around. Get involved. Act on your convictions. Make a statement. Find your voice and be heard!
14. Continued freshness of appreciation. You Gotta Love It (Provision 590). The US election is over and, whether you are pleased or displeased with the outcome, you gotta love the expressions of solidarity, hope, and cooperation that have been lifted up by many Americans, on both sides of the aisle, let alone by people and leaders around the world. There are many things to celebrate in this situation, if only we give ourselves the permission and time to take a look and call them out. That is, in fact, a pretty good way of approaching any situation. If you have any doubt or need a little encouragement, read this Provision to think it through and make it so.
15. Self-transcending. Beyond Self-Service (Provision 591). The poet Rumi once wrote, “Out beyond right and wrong there is a field. I will meet you there.” This Provision moves beyond self-service to that place of self-transcendence. It is not about right and wrong; it is about connecting with others in ways that are life-giving and life-affirming. It is about going beyond the experience of self to the experience of others and the Other. Many have been innervated recently with such passions; if it’s been a while since you felt that way, then I hope you will read this Provision and open yourself to the possibility.
16. Spontaneity, simplicity, naturalness. Say “Yes!” To Life (Provision 592). What’s the secret of life? I think it has to do with connection, generosity, and joy. The more focused we become on self-protection the harder it is to experience laughter, love, and luxury. It may be tempting in these difficult economic times to hunker down with a wary-and-weary mentality, but we do so at our peril. Not only does this cut us off from that which makes life worth living, it also endangers the well-being of us all. So don’t let that happen. Reach out and touch someone. Be extravagant with your generosity. Take time to notice the little things in life. Find ways to celebrate the wonder of it all.
17. The ability to discriminate between means and ends. Do The Right Thing (Provision 594). It’s tempting, when times are tough, to start cutting corners or to justify doing whatever it takes to get where you want to go. It’s a slippery slope, however, when we start justifying means by ends. It’s far better to live by positive, life-giving values, whether in good times or bad. As you go through your days, ask yourself this question: “What would make life more wonderful right now?” Let your intuition be your guide. It will often make clear the way.
18. Mystic or peak experiences. Beyond Survival (Provision 595). Between bankruptcies, job losses, foreclosures, and scandals there’s plenty in the news to stimulate panic and fear. When that happens, we often shut down our higher-level functions in favor of the lower-level things that will protect our interests and enable us to survive. Although it’s important to pay attention to our survival needs, it’s also important to go beyond survival when times are tough. Otherwise, we may lose our soul in the process of finding our way through the forest. This Provision will assist you to make it so.
19. A greater sense of the sacredness of life. O Holy Night (Provision 596). There is, in life, a Spirit worth celebrating. Many traditions call us to celebration, especially around the December solstice. But we don’t have to wait for a special occasion. It’s possible to see and to appreciate the beauty of life in good times and bad. That is the call of this Provision. If I had but one holiday wish come true, it would be that we put on the glasses of faith. Not the faith of a particular religion, but the faith that looks at life and calls it good. Will you join me in this adventure? Read this Provision to appreciate its nature and scope.
I hope you see how the past 19 weeks, with a couple interlocutions, have indeed followed L. Michael Hall’s outline of self-actualization. The outline is neither exhaustive nor definitive, but it is suggestive of what life looks and feels like at its very best. That’s what we strive to co-create with our LifeTrek Coaching clients and that’s what we hope you will create in your own life. It’s not beyond anyone’s reach at any time and in any circumstance. Even the current economic situation does not preclude self-actualization. On the contrary, it makes it all that much more important for those who want to thrive.
Coaching Inquiries: What have you gotten out of this series? How does self-actualization apply to your life? On a scale of 0-10, how engaged are you? Why didn’t you pick a lower number? What would elevate you to a higher number? Who could coach you along the way? What other partners and resources are at your disposal? How could you take full advantage of them? Where would you go if you did?
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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..
At a time of year when lots of people are resolving to eat healthier I wanted to share with you a strategy that has worked for me. About a year and a half ago I started reading a blog written by a registered dietician, hosted on Self Magazine’s website: www.self.com/fooddiet/blogs/eatlikeme.
I started reading it because it was interesting to me and started out with no intention of dieting or changing my habits (I was (and am) happy with my weight so didn’t think they needed changing). The blogger, Cristin, writes about her daily life as well as the food choices she makes and the nutritional reasons behind them. She also includes a photo of everything she eats all day every day.
Daily exposure to these visual images of how a dietician feeds herself took some time to begin impacting my choices, but after 6 months or so I found my whole approach to eating to have evolved to include all that I have learned from her. Most of the information was basic and something I already knew (such as fiber + protein leads to feeling satisfied, sugary foods leave you hungry sooner, vegetables and fruits are important etc.) but somehow this low -pressure constant exposure to healthy eating information + visuals has impacted my habits in what I believe is a life-long and sustainable way.
If I were to set the goal to change my eating habits on my own I never would have thought of reading a blog as more powerful than my own will-power, but I believe it has been. Since I know you help others who are trying to make long term changes in their lives I thought you might find my experience interesting. (Ed. Note: Thanks! I’m sure that one will work its way into more than one conversation. Excellent.)
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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