"What we can be, we must be" - Abraham Maslow
This is one of many famous quotes from Dr. Abraham Maslow, the father of Humanistic Psychology, who is renowned for his Hierarchy of Needs and Self Actualization theories. Most of his writings are about personality and human motivation. Today, his teachings are successfully applied in fields of business, marketing and communication, among others.
"If you deliberately plan on being less than what you are capable of being then I warn you, you will be very unhappy for the rest of your life.” - Abraham Maslow
Though Dr. Maslow believes human beings have an instinct that drives them to be the best they can be, he says that the story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short.
So how does this happen? To understand you have to begin by imagining a straight line that reaches toward infinity in both directions. Now think of yourself standing in the middle of this line, on a point we will call point zero. One side of the line starts with plus 1, plus 2, plus 3 and so on to plus infinity. On the other side of the line, you have negative 1, negative 2, negative 3 and so on to negative infinity.
Dr. Maslow states that at any given moment, when you are faced with making a decision, you have a choice to move forward in the direction of growth (the plus side of the line) or step back into the direction of safety or comfort (the negative side of the line), which is on the negative side of the line.
What do most people do when confronted with problems of life? They usually make the decision to step back into the safety of the negative territory. They step back negative 1. Often they justify this step back by saying, “It’s nothing - I just went back one step. I can always make up for it later.” What most people fail to realize, however, is that when they take one step back they also give up the opportunity to take a step forward. So in this sense one step back takes two forward steps to recover!
Therefore, when you make decisions for comfort or safety you quickly fall behind your potential. Every time you make such decisions, the gap between what you could have done and what you actually did grows wider. Dr. Maslow believes that all our regrets, anxiety, frustrations, unhappiness, anger, depression, etc. lies in that gap which separates growth from comfort or realizing one’s full potential from settling for less (selling oneself short.)
I’ll give you a few examples of how people choose safety over growth 1. You got angry at your son and decided to break off communication a while back. An opportunity arises to sit down and talk things over, but you take the easy way out by going into your comfort zone and watch the ball game. 2. You need to get up early and take care of something important. Instead, you look at the clock and go back to sleep! 3. You find a good property to invest in but at the last minute you’re gripped by fear and chicken out!
Many people make choices in the negative direction of safety and comfort because they believe that it will bring them security. But is there really such a thing as security in this world? If you really think about it, it becomes clear that “security” is a myth. We have very little control over the major events in our life. The fact is, we could even die at any moment. Some schools of thoughts say that the only way to achieve “security” is to find comfort with the inherently insecure nature of existence. By that, they mean to simply allow things to take their natural course. That does not mean you sit back and do nothing, but that you do the best you can without getting attached to the results. Only then can you experience a life of joy and fulfillment.
So, is there any hope of reversing this vicious cycle of making decisions that compromise your happiness in exchange for an illusory feeling of safety? The answer is yes! It’s absolutely possible, and you won’t need several lifetimes to get it done! It will require effort at the beginning, but it is the only way to solve the problems of your life.
Understanding yourself is essential for transformation so first examine your own life and look at moments when you could’ve and should’ve gone for growth but instead chose safety. See how the gap where all this negative energy resides is dragging you down. But avoid getting stuck in regret; instead use your understanding of past mistakes as motivation to change your approach in life. We can’t change the past, but we can take action in the present to affect the future.
Resolve never again to step back into safety when you can choose growth instead, and as you begin to make decisions that represent forward steps into growth rather than retreats into safety you will soon begin to feel you are gaining control of your life and moving in the direction of self-actualization. Only this, according to Maslow, will allow to realize your full potential and to maintain a happy, fulfilled state of being.
To your success and life of abundance,