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While many people strive to be happy in life, there’s a good chance they’ll be disappointed. Happiness, like all emotions, comes and goes. It doesn’t predictably arrive the moment you achieve your goals and then stay forever; happiness can occur at any point in time (and it can also vanish at any point in time).

On the other hand, focusing on self-actualization is a journey towards becoming a better version of yourself. It is a human need which drives you to work towards your full potential. The psychologist, Abraham Maslow developed the idea of self-actualization, which he believed was a growth need (as opposed to a basic need, like shelter, food, love, and self-esteem). The basic definition of self-actualization according to Maslow is “the full realization of one’s potential”, and of one’s “true self.”

Learning to focus on self-actualization instead of happiness could have a number of beneficial effects:

You’ll be able to experience the full range of human emotions without feeling the need to cling to “positive” emotions

You’ll have a greater sense of empowerment as a result of working towards goals within your control, rather than relying on fleeting emotions

You can continue your journey of self-actualization throughout your whole life, so you’ll have a sense of purpose no matter what might happen.


Below, you’ll discover 10 simple tips which can help you focus on self-actualization. You might like to select one tip to focus on for a while, then move onto another tip when you feel ready.

10 tips to help you focus on self-actualization

Tip 1: Enjoy the journey

Rather than seeking to achieve certain goals or to complete certain activities, see if you can experience and appreciate the journey. People who focus on self-actualization tend to make the most out of routine, everyday activities and appreciate the “doing” rather than the “achieving.”

Tip 2: Form meaningful relationships

People who are self-actualizing tend to feel comfortable in their own company and create meaningful, close relationships with a few people. They are often forgiving, kind, friendly and affectionate. As you become more self-actualizing, you may even find yourself letting go of ego boundaries, allowing for deeper relationships and a greater sense of love.

Tip 3: Be purposeful

Maslow said that a self-actualizing person seeks to fulfill tasks and life missions which tend to be unselfish and concerned with the good of mankind in general.

Tip 4: Practice gratitude

Maintain a sense of wonder for the world around you and the life you’ve been given, knowing that the basic and good things in life are enough to feel grateful for.

Tip 5: Embrace opportunities for growth

Personal growth can be difficult at times, yet also, hugely rewarding. When faced with adversity, consider how you might rise to the challenge and push yourself to become a better version of yourself. It might also help to focus on developing as a person, rather than achieving perfection or needing a particular outcome.

Tip 6: Form your own opinions

Deliberate and make your own decisions, being unafraid to buck the status quo when necessary. Do what feels most right for you, rather than being persuaded to think and behave according to the opinions of others. You may need to be assertive and express your opinion, knowing that the people around you also have the right to make their own decisions.

Tip 7: Look at the big picture

Whenever you feel overwhelmed, pause and take some time to look at the big picture. Maslow said that people who are self-actualizing do not worry too much about small, immediate concerns, making life easier for themselves and the people around them. 

Tip 8: Be kind

Do the best you can to show warmth, compassion, understanding, and respect towards others.

Tip 9: Embrace change

Don’t be afraid of the unknown; try to welcome uncertainty as an important part of life. You may even find yourself looking forward to something new in life simply because its unfamiliar. Another chance to learn and grow.

This may also lead to an increase in creativity. Not the creativity which takes years to cultivate and refine, but the type of spontaneous creativity. Which allows you to have fun and be innovative.

Tip 10: Accept all of yourself

Work towards accepting every part of your individuality, including anything you might perceive as a shortcoming or flaw. Simply observe yourself and your own human nature without attempting to squeeze yourself into the “ideal image” society may be trying to force on you. At the same time, be aware of your changeable deficits and unhelpful habits and do what you can to improve upon them (without being judgemental).

It can also be important to remember that no one is perfect and you can be a wonderful person. While still having tough days and feeling angry, resentful, jealous, selfish, or sad at times.

Let us know in the comments which tips you’ll be trying out!

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