Realizing Your Potential: How Self-Actualization Affects Career & Relationship Fulfillment

What is Self-Actualization?

American psychologist Abraham Harold Maslow, created the hierarchy of needs: a theory of motivation that people needed five basic needs in order to achieve true potential. These include:

Marketing Theories Explained - Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

The key point of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is realizing one’s full, unique potential (Krems et al., 2017). Self-actualization comes from the conscious desire of achieving and realizing your human potential through life activities (Nikadambaeva et al., 2020). However, as time went on, the conceptualization of self-actualization changed and became lost in today’s society. It's now linked to physical self-efficacy, integrated personality and self-esteem (Krems et al., 2017).

Myths of Self-Actualization

Before we go on to how self-actualization can help you, there are a few myths about self-actualization that need to be addressed. The theory of self-actualization is very well known, but it is also frequently misunderstood or misinterpreted (Compton, 2018). 

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is based on a pyramid of needs where you have to successfully obtain one need before moving on to the next. Some believe that you have to have physiological needs before moving on to higher needs like love and self-esteem (Compton, 2018). This is actually not true since Maslow said, “we have spoken so far as if the needs hierarchy were a fixed order, but actually it is not nearly so rigid as we may have implied." A more realistic approach that Maslow suggested was that the average person is satisfied with:

Another myth is that highly self-actualized people are focused on their own development and achievements rather than helping others (Compton, 2018). This is also not true. Maslow stated that highly self-actualizing people’s qualities included “deeper and more profound interpersonal relationships." Also, highly self-actualizing people are motivated not by wealth and fame, but deeper and more meaningful matters. Here are ways that self-actualization can affect you in modern-day, practical terms.

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Job Satisfaction and Self-Actualization

What makes you satisfied with your job? Is it your benefits, working conditions, environment? One way to boost your job satisfaction is actually through self-actualization. In a study, researchers attempted to find the influence of self-actualization on job satisfaction. Self-actualization is considered the highest state of motivation, and someone with it is able to express their capabilities/potential.  Because job satisfaction influences employee motivation, researchers took 187 samples and asked to fill out a questionnaire to test their self-actualization and job satisfaction (Gopinath, 2020). 

They found that common factors determining employee job satisfaction included (1) working environment, (2) financial benefits and (3) relationship with peers and superior. However, what was interesting was that they found a strong relationship and significance between self-actualization and job satisfaction. When leaders helped employees feel greater self-actualization, employee job satisfaction and organization commitment improved (Gopinath, 2020). 

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Self-Actualization in relationships: Couple-Actualization

Everyone has a somewhat similar idea about what a successful relationship is and how to achieve it. Whether it’s couples therapy, patience, or just space, there is actually a key component found in “successful relationships." Research found that self-actualization was related to healthy and successful relationships (Karyadeva, 2020). 

This study's purpose was to find indicators related to optimal levels of couple development and generate a theory of couple-actualization. To see if couple-actualization existed within couples, researchers took 21 couples who thought their relationship was considered healthy. Researchers used quite a few scales to test couple-actualization within couples, such as:

After collecting quantitative data from these scales, researchers followed up using semi structured interviews to find qualitative data from the couples. As a result, they found two distinct types of couple-actualization (Karyadeva, 2020). They found that couples where both individuals were highly self-actualizing showed positive factors related with healthy and successful relationships (i.e., self-expansion, inclusion of the other in the self, secure attachment, romantic love, and companionate love). Also, these individuals exhibited few negative indicators congruent with unhealthy and unsuccessful relationships (i.e., insecure attachment, game-playing love, manic love, or sexual instrumentality)  (Karyadeva, 2020). 

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Decision Making and Self-Actualization 

Decision-Making is one of the nine missions (topics) in the LIFE Intelligence personal development app. We encounter difficult decisions all the time, such as what job or spouse to choose. However, we tend to be unaware of what really influences our decisions in the long run. Studies have shown that decision making and self-actualization have positive relationships to each other. Feeling self-actualized can improve your decision making abilities in the long run (Pavai et al., 2020). 

In a study, researchers wanted to see the correlation between decision making and self-actualization. This study was conducted using thousands of students in secondary school. During the time period of adolescence, we tend to explore our personal identities and potentialities in our lives which then decide what our future will be. Self-actualization is considered to be the motivating force to enhance our abilities and improve our future selves.

Using the Decision Making Questionnaire, Self Actualization Questionnaire and Personal Data Sheet, researchers were able to come to the conclusion that there was a positive relationship between decision making and self-actualization. Knowing that there is a significant positive relationship contributes to making better decisions, building healthy relationships and promotes competence in facing hard realities of life (Pavai et al., 2020). 

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Personal Development for Self-Actualization 

LIFE Intelligence is a personal development app that can help you in your journey to self-actualization. Often, we make goals and decisions on a whim or following the path set out by peers, parents, or society. Instead, taking time to introspect and learn about the science behind your internal thoughts, feelings, and values can help you find a more fulfilling career and relationship. The app is comprised of two parts: an emotional management toolkit, with therapy-like snippets, and a personal development course, consisting of 9 areas: mental resilience, self-awareness, goal-setting, time-management, decision-making, social influence, relationships, conflict resolution, and leadership. Download LIFE free and start your personal growth journey today.

David Lee
March 9, 2021


Nikadambaeva, K., Klicheva, K., Klicheva, G. (2021). The Concept of Self-Actualization in the 21st Century. Psychology and Education Journal, 58(2), 304-308.

Gopinath, R. (2020). An Investigation of the Relationship between Self-Actualization and Job Satisfaction of Academic Leaders. International Journal of Management, 11(8), 753-763.

Karyadeva, R. (2020). Couple-Actualization: an Abductive Study of Self-Actualization in the Context of Couples Relationships. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing. 

Krems, J. A., Kenrick, D. T., Neel, R. (2017). Individual Perceptions of Self-Actualization: What Functional Motives are Linked to Fulfilling One’s Full Potential?, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 43(9), 1337-1352. 

Compton, W. C. (2018). Self-Actualization Myths: What did Maslow Really Say? Journal of Humanistic Psychology.

Pavai, S. P., Geetha, K., Vigneshwari, J., Suganthi, M. (2020). Investigation of relation between decision making and Self-Actualization. Materials Today: Proceedings, 37(2), 785-788.

Howell, B. M., Diessner, R.. Robinson, R. M. (2020). Self-Actualization and the Tragedy of Beauty. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 60(2), 227-243.

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