Conversations about change: self-actualization (3/6)
When I talk about change, I actually talk about growth. We cannot change into someone we’re not, we want to grow more fully into whom we are.
A bougainvillea might rather want to be an oak tree. She can work as hard as she can on becoming one, and she never will. She’ll always be a bougainvillea. That’s her nature.
She can become the best bougainvillea she can be. And if that’s what she wants, two strategies are essential: to maximize her nourishment, and to maximize her protection from harmful influences. With nourishment and protection she will naturally bloom and blossom, and become the abundant flowering plant she is meant to be.
Humans are much the same. Carl Rogers, the founder of human psychology, calls that self-actualization. The natural tendency to become more open to whom we are, what we are experiencing, and how we are relating to the world. It is the process of becoming more fully ourselves.
In this process there is no stage, no experience that is not welcomed. We don’t rush the little seedling to grow up. Or the flower to bear fruit. Or the fruit to ripen into new seed. We enjoy every stage for the beauty and uniqueness it holds right now.
In this sense growth is much like mindfulness. We accept our experience and appreciate every stage of our life. Even if we don’t like it. We embrace our stress, resentment, and anger and look into it.
We look into the conditions that give rise to our experience. Once we understand the conditions, we can remove any hindrances to our growth. Thich Nhat Hanh talks about wrong perception. Byron Katie offers The Work. Then we can see our lives as experiments in growth. We observe our thinking, speech and actions, and analyze the results. And when we notice something doesn’t work that well, we have a choice to change that behavior. So that we may all be happy, healthy and safe.
I wish you a happy and joyful New Year’s Eve.
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