I recall my idealistic genes kicked in real hard during my mid-teen years, when I was 17 years old. There was a not-brief interlude when I fell head over heels in love, but these genes kept on plugging away.
That period was colored by a greater awareness of the social and global issues prevalent then, and continues in one form or another to this day. It was augmented by respected teachers who broadened one’s awareness beyond the formal school curriculum. It was sharpened by student leadership courses and late discourses with those of like mind.
In hindsight, it seemed natural, not unexpected, when those idealistic genes turned its focus to the question of one’s own potential. After all, didn’t Michael Jackson sing that change started with the “man in the mirror”?
Thus, there was quite a prolonged period during my career when I devoured self-improvement books like cereal in the morning. It was all about self mastery, uncovering and honing one’s strengths and potential, and cultivating new mindsets and habits. I found this cool label, “self-actualization” that appealed to my evolving consciousness. As I was also attempting to climb the corporate ladder, there was a healthy mix of management, leadership and organizational reading thrown into the blender. I probably accumulated more than 150 books, if not more. I never did an exact count and many were left behind as I made the trans-pacific journey Stateside.
So, how has this worked out for me? There has been no regrets. I feel strongly grounded, confident and self-assured. There’s no doubt that this internal work has positioned me for career opportunities that I was able to take advantage of. There’s also no doubt that this “self-actualization engine” will not take me where I want to go in this next phase of life. What do I mean?
Life is never a straight climb upwards. Life provides us plateaus. As the commercial goes, the “pause that refreshes.” Plateaus allow us to cast our eyes ahead in time. To discern if the anticipated (future) outcome of our current trajectory remains our desire now that we are further in our journey. To ask if success is still the aim, or if significance and legacy is the new aim. Some fortuitously perceive a ‘better’ path ahead. They become self-aware, and paradoxically, adjust that internal engine, from self-actualization to other-actualization. The “other” can be children, grand-children or even a larger community. Those of us familiar with William Shakespeare’s notable quotes will recognize this, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet“. And thus, “other-actualization” is the same as Christ’s Second Commandment.
For me, the plateau involved an awakening of my spiritual self. The new self was stirring itself. And I threw off my self-actualization totally with these Scripture from Isaiah 64:8.
But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
How wonderful the thought, that all we have to do is yield, be pliant and God will wrought His goodness according to His will. I can rest in Him and cease all my striving.