Self development

Conquering Fears, freedom, Psychology, Self development

What Human Beings Can Be, They Must BE


“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason? You have been given the principles that you ought to endorse, and you have endorsed them. What kind of teacher, then, are you still waiting for in order to refer your self-improvement to him? You are no longer a boy, but a full-grown man. If you are careless and lazy now and keep putting things off and always deferring the day after which you will attend to yourself, you will not notice that you are making no progress, but you will live and die as someone quite ordinary.
From now on, then, resolve to live as a grown-up who is making progress, and make whatever you think best a law that you never set aside. And whenever you encounter anything that is difficult or pleasurable, or highly or lowly regarded, remember that the contest is now: you are at the Olympic Games, you cannot wait any longer, and that your progress is wrecked or preserved by a single day and a single event. That is how Socrates fulfilled himself by attending to nothing except reason in everything he encountered. And you, although you are not yet a Socrates, should live as someone who at least wants to be a Socrates.” 

“What human beings can be, they must be” Abraham Maslow

Question. Have you ever given a thought to how much of your potential are you really using? 15% 20%? Can you honestly say that you are at your 100%? If not, why not? What’s holding you back?

It’s funny how it seems like the focus of psychology today is to prevent everyone from killing themselves and the apparent solution is pills, pills, and more pills. The terms related to the word psychology and mental health are anxiety, depression and, disorders. Although Freud left us with immense and eye-opening psychological insight, it’s fair to say that his research was extremely one-sided towards sickness and coping with life.

But what about thriving? What about winning? What about psychologically flourishing?

These were the questions early 20th-century psychologist Abraham Maslow asked himself. He thought that the goal of psychology should be focused not only on psychological sickness but on ultimate psychological health as well.

“It is as if Freud supplied us with the sick half of psychology, and now we must fill it out with the healthy half”- Abraham Maslow

The core difference between the psychologically flourishing and the sick and mediocre is the ability to self-actualize.

Ok, where to start?

The famous Hierarchy of Needs, of course.

You might already be familiar with it, anyway, let’s revise it again as it is fundamental.

In order for you to become a self-actualizer (as it is a never-ending process), you need to solve your basic needs first so that you can then focus on the more complex ones, you need to climb up the hierarchy.

Right now, as you are reading this, you’re probably not thinking about where you are going to sleep tonight, fortunately. Neither you’re worried about your safety. You would simply not be reading this at all, as you’d have greater, more basic concerns to attend to, like keeping yourself alive. This is a good thing, as you’ve already satisfied the most basic necessities and in reading this, you are actively looking for higher, more complex needs.

When you are honestly hungry, or really, really tired, nothing inhabits your consciousness other than thoughts of sleep and food. Nothing would make you happier than a delicious hamburger or a comfy bed. When you are hungry enough, everything seems to be delicious. I’m sure you’ve experimented this before, if not try hiking for an entire day without eating anything, I can assure you that you’ll eat anything they put in front of you. 

Once these needs are satisfied, magically, your focus shifts towards something else, such as that girl or boy you’ve been texting to lately or maybe having a couple of drinks with your friends. You ascend on the hierarchy. As you can see in the pyramid, you cannot begin to self-actualize until you’ve satisfied your more basic needs, so there is always work to be done. Once you’ve ascended enough in the hierarchy you’ll be ready to become everything you are able to become, to self actualize.

“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 — Abraham Maslow, Motivation and Personality

It’s almost as if you have to make a decision. 

The decision

“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason? You have been given the principles that you ought to endorse, and you have endorsed them. What kind of teacher, then, are you still waiting for in order to refer your self-improvement to him? Epictetus

Decide to commit to developing yourself to the fullest. Once that decision is made, the mastery of self becomes your way of life. The psyche is an extremely complex and interesting place, curiosity, here, will function as a torch that lights your way as you submerge into the inner realm of potential inside your psyche. You will begin to see your psyche as a vast unexplored terrain, motivated to acquire greater knowledge of your inner depths.

Is there anything in the world more interesting than finding out what’s there? To see discover how far you can go in whichever field you choose? It’s like being a kid in an amusement park once you think about it. Bear this in mind, doing this, is entirely under your control, right now. Rather than being driven by wealth or status, things outside your control, you can instead choose to commit to your self-mastery and self-created life missions. and in the process develop the necessary energies to master the skills needed to complete your goals and in the process actualize your latent potentials. 

“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” — Abraham Maslow

Just like getting down from a rollercoaster ride, throwing yourself from an airplane or asking a someone you don’t know out. You will feel alive, you will feel motivated and renewed. The self-actualizer will often feel this, as there is seldom anything more rewarding than discovering new realms of potential inside yourself, these experiences will transform you in the process. 

Become Self-Defined 

If you are no longer feeling compelled to define yourself in terms of wealth or status, but instead see those things as byproducts of realizing your self-mastery, you will find that your sense of self-worth will be defined, as it must be, by yourself. Knowing this, we can logically imply that you will no longer seek approval in social standards or authority that try to determine how you should live, instead, you will actively be creating your own formula. The self-actualizer is free from the limiting need for social acceptance and the obsession of social comparison, rather, he takes care of that job for himself as Montaigne succinctly puts it. 

“I have my own laws and my own court to judge me and I refer to this rather than elsewhere”. Michael Montaigne, Essays

And further Maslow

“Self-actualizers have become strong enough to be independent of the good opinion of other people or even their affection. The honors, the status, the rewards, the popularity, the pretige and the love they can bestow must have become less important than self-development and inner growth.” Abraham Maslow, Motivation and Personality

The Fight For Potential

If fulfilling our potentials were easy, everyone would do it, but it is no secret that almost no one is operating at their highest. Why?

“We must understand that the dark forces are as normal as the growth forces” Abraham Maslow

Everyone wishes to be the best they could be. But, as much as we desire that, we are also attracted to safety and comfort, also attracted to avoid challenges. The comfort zone is no myth, and it is there where dreams go to die. As the very challenges and fears, we avoid, are the ones which will lead to personal growth and also make it possible for us to become self-actualized. 

The price you pay for succumbing to comfort and a life without challenge is high, as it is paid with anxiety and shame, it is paid with internal torture. 

It’s important to note though, that those feelings do not mean that all is lost, but rather, they are symptoms that cry for the latent growth forces inside of you. It’s never too late to follow your own self.

To become one of those rare individuals that become self actualized.

“He who belies his talent, the born painter who sells stockings instead, the intelligent man who lives a stupid life, the man who sees the truth and keeps his mouth shut, the coward who gives up his manliness, all these people perceive in a deep way that they have done wrong to themselves and despise themselves for it. Out of this self-punishment may come only neurosis, but there may equally come renewed courage, rightous indignation, increased self-respect, because of thereafter doing the right thing, in a word, growth and improvement can come through pain and conflict. Abraham Maslow, Towards Psychology of being

a  great complement to this read: The Mad Lust For Wins Is Getting In Your Way

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Conquering Fears, Modern problems, philosophy, Reflections, Self development

The right way to travel

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I think all of us think from time to time about the wonders of travel, meeting new people, adventures, new places, and different perspectives with which we can live our lives with new eyes. Traveling has a sort of enchantment attached to it. The mysterious allure of meeting someone or somewhere for the first time and not really knowing what to expect has the effect of charming just about anyone.

Interestingly, thinking about the topic today, I stumbled upon Seneca’s letter to Lucilious On travel as a cure for discontent. I had already read it before, but each time I grab the book, new perspectives pop up like newly grown plants. 

Traveling is a topic that has always occupied a place in my mind and I’m sure it’s the same for you. Have I done enough? Where should I go next? 

This is especially true in a world in which you open Instagram and find out that apparently everyone is traveling all the time. Travel has been elevated to a necessary and almost spiritual experience. 

 Here is an excerpt from Seneca about traveling:

“The person you are matters more than the place to which you go; for that reason, we should not make the mind a bondsman to any one place” –Seneca, Letters to Lucilious

His thoughts on traveling are pretty precise, he disregards travel completely as something ultimately necessary to live a complete life.

“I am not born for any one corner of the universe, this whole world is my country” Seneca, Letter to Lucilious

According to Seneca, you cannot use travel as a cure to your soul’s discontent.

The kind of discontent Seneca talks about can be felt when you open Facebook and see someone posing happily on a photo in Bombay or some other exotic place and think to yourself that “if only you were there”, you would finally be able to be happy and content with yourself.

Seneca argues that you could, in fact, go to the place you’ve been dreaming about, but you would still feel the same because the problem is not your lack of experience, but the relationship you currently have with yourself.

No amount of travel in the world will cure that discomfort. A wise man will feel at home wherever he is.

I’m not sure if Seneca knew this himself, but writes with acid humor that preserves all seriousness nonetheless. Superb writer indeed. There comes a point in his letter to Lucilious where he goes as far to claim that a wise man will feel at ease and at home, no matter what, no matter where. Even at “The Forum” he says. Downtown Rome at the time, where it is loud, smelly and full of people, sort of like living in the worst place you can imagine and feeling at home there.

This follows the principle that happiness and a worthy life can never be found outside of oneself, always inside. To think otherwise is to remain a slave to the circumstances or events outside ourselves and our control.

Live with this belief: “I am not born for any one corner of the universe; this whole world is my country.” If you saw this fact clearly, you would not be surprised at getting no benefit from the fresh scenes to which you roam each time through weariness of the old scenes. For the first would have pleased you in each case, had you believed it wholly yours. As it is, however, you are not journeying; you are drifting and being driven, only exchanging one place for another, although that which you seek, — to live well, — is found everywhere. — Seneca, Letters to Lucilious

So I shouldn’t travel then?

If you find yourself asking this question, you haven’t quite grasped it yet.

The wise man prefers to be at peace than at war, but he will endure war nonetheless.

This is not an excuse for not traveling. Traveling, in itself, is an amazing experience that everyone should do at least once in their lives. Anything that exposes you to new perspectives, new ideas, and gratefulness for being alive should be done or at least procured. Nevertheless, not being able to travel at some point in your life is not an excuse not to live and enjoy your life as it is right now.

The thought of “I cannot be happy because I haven’t done this or that yet” is the same excuse, at least in principle, as “I cannot be happy because I don’t possess all the money in the world”. This way of thinking is a never-ending cycle and the problem is the way of thinking itself. 

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.” 

The joys of traveling will be infinitely more rewarding if you do it with the right disposition so stop drifting and being driven and begin to live where you are now, home. 

A great complement to this read: Sound Minded

Subscribe and receive for free the Askesis ebook to further develop your practice of stoicism.

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