Are you living to your true potential? Notes on Self Actualization and Happiness –

June 14th, 2009

This is an email i got from my good friend and mentor, Dr. Rich Handley. I am so convinced of the value of Emotional Intelligence and the concepts that help us all to live to our true potential!  Enjoy! 

Notes on Happiness:

Happiness, Optimism, and Self Regard are all correlates of Self Actualization. Generally speaking…if you are high in Self Actualization…it generally boosts your level of Happiness and Optimism as well as your Self Regard.  Think of Self Actualization as the “Silver Bullet” of Happiness.  Self Actualization is about having a sense of vision, direction, purpose,  & meaning in life, with a sense that one is a living a life that counts.  “Human beings want to have meaning,” says Martin Seligman, University of Pennsylvania psychologist and director of the Positive Psychology Network.  Additionally, Self actualization acts as the Silver Bullet for unlocking potential:  Vision creates Passion for life…Passion Fuels Drive…Drive Unlocks Potential.

Seligman defines three categories of happiness. “The first is ‘the pleasant life': the Goldie Hawn, Hollywood happiness–smiling, feeling good, being ebullient. The problem with the pleasant life is that not everyone can have it.” And that, he says, is a matter of genetic predisposition. Research on identical twins has shown that up to 50% of one’s degree of Happiness is genetic. 

Maybe you are in the other 50%.  But, says Seligman, “these people are capable of the second form of happiness: ‘the good life.’ It consists first in knowing what your strengths are and then recrafting your life to use them–in work, love, friendship, leisure, parenting. It’s about being absorbed, immersed, one with the music.”

Seligman calls his third and ultimate level “the meaningful life.” It consists, he says, “in identifying your signature strengths and then using them in the service of something you believe is bigger than you are.” And you don’t have to be conventionally happy to achieve it. “Churchill and Lincoln,” Seligman says, “were two profound depressives who dealt with it by having good and meaningful lives.” 

The Most Powerful Number In The World

Notice Dr. Seligman’s previous emphasis on one, and doing something “bigger than you are”. This is the key to finding ultimate meaning in life.  The Hebrew Word “echad” often translated as “one” means much more…it means “unity”, or “compound unity”.  Applied to this discussion, it means:

1)     Becoming one or living in unison with your true divine purpose…something bigger than your are…to become one with it…you have to find it…once you do, it will transform your life because it gives energy because you will be doing what you love…what you truly were meant to do, which means you will never have to work another day in your life!

2)    Being one or living in unison with that purpose within yourself.  To know it or say we know our purpose is one thing…but to live it is another.  Living in unison with our purpose within ourselves means not being divided in one’s mind, or double minded…such as when we are conflicted over our true purpose, saying we stand for something, but living something else…remember…the power is in being single minded, not divided in our focus…living in unison with our true purpose…a laser like compound unity that brings all one’s being to focus on true purpose.

3)    Being one with others in that you are living a life that counts by living a life in unison with your divine purpose by making a difference in the lives of others.  Living with others not against others. 

Purpose and meaning is a search for significance that we seek that will live past us…our true legacy…by the difference we make in the lives of others…one person at a time.

The Need for People

The two factors that may matter most are marriage and religious belief, Seligman says. “Married people are happier than any other configuration of people. And religious people are usually happier than nonreligious people.”  Perhaps both of these represent the idea that none of us are islands unto ourselves, and the need we have to live in unity or harmony with others.

Don’t Worry—Be Happy

You can still beat the odds by lowering your stress level, says Dr. David Spiegel, director of Stanford’s Psychosocial Treatment Laboratory. “We did a study of metastatic-breast-cancer patients in which we measured diurnal levels of cortisol [a stress indicator],” Spiegel says. “The women who had the highest levels had survival rates a year and a half shorter than women with the lowest cortisol levels.”

Happiness isn’t so much a euphoric state of self-satisfaction as it is a full-time job. It can be practiced and mastered.  Happy people are very good at managing emotion.

And what makes us happy? It is “the ability to practice appreciation or love,” says Baker. “That sounds sappy, but studies show that when people engage in appreciative activity, they are using more neocortical, prefrontal functions–higher-level brain functions.”

I once was struggling with a question of trying to do something bigger than myself, and whether what I was doing was the “right thing”.  I had a wise friend from the Middle East who was perhaps the overall most broadly knowledgeable person I have ever met.

He told me: “If what you are wanting to do magnifies your creator, is good for all, and is a harm to none…then it is the right thing and will be done.”  I thought about that from many angles…now I pass that on to you to ponder about what you are doing.

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