Maslow studied achievers from Lincoln to Einstein, and came up with a few characteristics that self-actualized people embody.
- They perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty;
- Accept themselves and others for what they are;
- Spontaneous in thought and action;
- Problem-centered (not self-centered);
- Unusual sense of humor;
- Able to look at life objectively;
- Highly creative;
- Resistant to enculturation, but not purposely unconventional;
- Concerned for the welfare of humanity;
- Capable of deep appreciation of basic life-experience;
- Establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people;
- Peak experiences;
- Need for privacy;
- Democratic attitudes;
- Strong moral/ethical standards.
Behavior leading to self-actualization:
- Experiencing life like a child, with full absorption and concentration;
- Trying new things instead of sticking to safe paths;
- Listening to your own feelings in evaluating experiences instead of the voice of tradition, authority or the majority;
- Avoiding pretense (‘game playing’) and being honest;
- Being prepared to be unpopular if your views do not coincide with those of the majority;
- Taking responsibility and working hard;
- Trying to identify your defenses and having the courage to give them up.
Although people achieve self-actualization in their own unique way, they tend to share certain characteristics. However, self-actualization is a matter of degree, “There are no perfect human beings” (Maslow).
It is not necessary to display all 15 characteristics to become self-actualized, and not only self-actualized people will display them. Maslow did not equate self-actualization with perfection. Self-actualization merely involves achieving one’s potential. Thus, someone can be silly, wasteful, vain and impolite, and still self-actualize. Less than two percent of the population achieve self-actualization.