Self-Actualization: Living to your Full Potential

Self-Actualization: Living to Your Full Potential

By Richard L. Roberts, PhD.

Fully Functioning Individuals

There are individuals in our world who have discovered the secret to realizing more of their true human potential than the majority. While most people never realize more than 3-5% of their potential and perform at a sub-optimal level, fully functioning individuals express much more of their latent capacities, raising the bar on what is considered “normal”.

A common characteristic discovered, based on extensive research, is that Self-actualizing individuals are busy fulfilling their soul’s purpose and actively engaged in the pursuit of their Calling or Life’s Work. They experience greater creative expression, more joy, heightened abilities and greater success than most people. It is estimated that approximately 5% of our population are self-actualizers (fully functioning individuals). These individuals can teach us a lot about creating the life we choose.


This means simply that to be living to your potential, which is intimately tied to also fulfilling your life’s work, you must start utilizing the strategies that the 5%, the self-actualizing individuals, use. Otherwise, you will continue to do what you have always done and end up living among the 95% who are not living to their full potential.

Your interests point the way to living to your full potential. You know what you must do to live to your potential for you have done it many times before. Below is a summary of the contrasting strategies and experiences of those (95%) who are not realizing their full potential and those who are (5%).

95% Focus on: 

  • Excuses 
  • Saying, “No” 
  • Hope, complaints
  • Acquisition, consumption
  • Avoiding challenges
  • Fear, what won’t work
  • Self-doubts
  • Isolation, separateness
  • Self-image 

5% Focus on:

  • Results
  • Saying “Yes”
  • Pursuit of their dreams
  • Passion, vision
  • Convert obstacles into opportunities
  • Joy, love, what to create
  • Contribution, how to serve
  • Connection, sharing
  • Freedom of expression

This is the path to living to your full creative potential.  This is really at your core what you most desire. You want to wake up and to know intimately your continual connection with the eternal Life Force. This is an experience we once knew as children, but have since lost touch with.

Calling requires that you assume your true status as a powerful, creative being capable of manifesting that which you most desire, which is the highest good for all. It is then a matter, not of struggle, of forcing, of planning, but of relaxing, being in the moment, trusting and taking that next step that you know is the opening into this grander realm of experience. This is a reality for the 5% of the population of self-actualizers.


Dedicate yourself to that which needs doing and to what brings you joy.  Your life was and is designed to guide you in this direction.  All that presents itself every moment exists (whether you consider it negative or positive) to guide you to this fulfillment. 

To live to your potential means to experience more joy, more aliveness, more success, greater clarity and wakefulness than the average.  It means to know that most incredible of experiences – to be totally aligned with the Great Creative Intelligence and be in full flow with it, to have found your unique role in contributing to the greater good.  This is the experience we long for, to live our lives fully, consciously, in the joyous moment.

As Koizumi, a judo master, has pointed out,

When one is engaged in a favorite pursuit or a subject absorbingly interesting, the normal conception of labor or time and artificial social distinctions disappear from the mind. In fact, life itself is absorbed in the engagement, or it may be said that one’s life is now in full harmony with eternal life.

There is much to learn from those who have walked this path, who have tapped their greater creative resources and experienced what it means to be fully alive. What have been their characteristics, behaviors and strategies that have enabled these self-actualizing individuals to experience a significantly higher quality of success in life and to express more of their creative potential than is normally achieved? 

Characteristics of Self-Actualizers

Many leading researchers and growth psychologists have studied self- actualizing individuals, including Abraham Maslow, Eric Fromm, Fritz Perls, Carl Jung, Richard Allport, Victor Frankl and Carl Rogers. There is consensus among all these investigators regarding common characteristics of these subjects. Self-actualizing individuals are:

  1. Capable of consciously directing their own lives and being in charge of their own destinies, not being dominated by unconscious forces (cultural conditioning);
  2. Know who they are, being aware of their strengths and weaknesses and do not confuse their social roles with their true selves; 
  3. Are firmly rooted in the present, in the here and now, less influenced by past determinants or future projections;
  4. Long for challenges, new experiences and excitements in life, not for stability, safety and comfort.

Abraham Maslow has conducted the most extensive research into the characteristics of these individuals. He found in his numerous studies that self-actualizing individuals demonstrate the following traits:

1. Experience fully, vividly, selflessly, with full concentration and total absorption.  Their attention is fully in the moment.

2. Are open and direct, being spontaneous and natural. They confront and break through old paradigms and unconscious habits and behaviors (as if on purpose).

3. Are always involved in a cause outside themselves, a calling, and a dream that brings them joy.

4. Exhibit a continual freshness of appreciation, don’t take life for granted or become bored.

5. Experience self-transcendence on a regular basis, referred to as peak experiences or moments of joy or ecstasy.

6. Are creative, unconventional, original and innovative.

7. Resist enculturation and the social pressures to conform and follow the ‘rules’, instead being self-sufficient and autonomous, following their inner convictions.

8. Accept themselves, without inner criticism, allowing their true self to emerge, listen to their inner voice rather than the internalized voice of their parents or of authority.

9. Are able to be childlike, to play, and flow.

The creative or self-actualizing individual is unconventional and able to break free of what binds them, freeing themselves from external constraints. They have found a way to allow their true self to emerge by listening to what they want, not to what others think they should be doing.

While not really rebellious, they have learned to simply resist enculturation and the conditioned conformity that most succumb to in our culture. These individuals exhibit a freshness of appreciation and wonder, often only experienced by children. Their perception is not dulled by old habit patterns, which causes most people to take life for granted.

Of course, mimicking these characteristics is not the path to become self-actualizing. However, these might be considered symptoms, the changes you can look for, in order to confirm that you are operating within the 5% group.  How then to join the ranks of the self-actualizing?

Research reveals certain strategies that can be employed to shift you towards this direction.  These strategies are outlined below:

Strategies of Self-Actualizing Individuals

  • Make your decisions based on what path will bring joy, rather than that which is motivated by fear (avoidance)* *
  • Stay in the present and take the step that is in front of you, that you know will move you forward in joy.*
  • Trust what you feel or intuit to be the highest path, no matter the confusion or opposing opinions of others or especially what you have been taught is the ‘correct’ way to do things.* *
  • Focus on results, what you want to do or create, not on whether you think it is possible. Stop the ‘yes, buts’.**
  • Know that everything that occurs or presents itself daily is moving you to your destiny, i.e., if you are committed to your calling and expressing your greater potential, then challenges are really hidden opportunities, not obstacles; Life itself will present guidance if you are alert to the signs of calling.**
  • Get support – surround yourself with those who believe in you and what you are doing.

Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal.   Unknown –

Life means to have something definite to do – a mission to fulfill – and in the measure in which we avoid setting our life to something, we make it empty.  Human life, by its very nature, has to be dedicated to something. – Jose Ortega Y Gasset –

True career fulfillment and success in life does not come by chance or luck.  It comes through a personal choice, a choice to open to your own unique capabilities and personal vision and to systematically act on that choice.  It means taking a stand on what really matters to you, to living the fully awake and alive life. Commit to the change you have been waiting for, have been longing for.  You owe it not only to yourself, but, perhaps more importantly, to the many whom you will touch with your gifts. They need you to emerge in your true magnificence. This is your time. Richard L. Roberts, Ph.D. –

You are a self-actualizing individual right now. No wonder you never felt like you fit in. This is because your Authentic Self was shining through the illusions presented by the false self. You have learned however to fit in and do what you were told or expected to do. This is an adaptive strategy.


Obviously, your life has taught you that fitting into the mainstream is not your path. You were meant for something far greater. You just needed a different perspective. I hope I have presented this other option adequately to motivate you.

My advice: get going. If this means you have a clear vision or not. If you only have the few steps you identified in testing the waters, that is enough. One step leads to another. GET STARTED NOW. You must do this. Do NOT wait any longer to be bringing greater joy into your life.

I am always adding to my process to help you live to your greater potential and make a real difference with the time you have been given. I am always available to help.

For additional support in your being self-actualizing please join me in taking my Breakthrough Into Brilliance Course available on my website. It reveal your personal blocks to self-actualizing, shows you how to easily transcend them and get on the right track.

Copyright 1982-2020 Richard L. Roberts, PhD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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