Quote from Maslow

This is an excerpt from Maslow's The Farther Reaches of Human Nature.

We fear our highest possibilities (as well as our lowest ones). We are generally afraid to become that which we can glimpse in our most perfect moments, under the most perfect conditions, under conditions of greatest courage. We enjoy and even thrill to the godlike possibilities we see in ourselves in such peak moments. And yet we simultaneously shiver with weakness, awe, and fear before these very same possibilities.

I have found it easy enough to demonstrate this to my students simply by asking, "Which of you in this class hopes to write the great American novel, or to be a Senator, or Governor, or President? Who wants to be Secretary-General of the United Nations? Or a great composer? Who aspires to be a saint, like Schweitzer, perhaps? Who among you will be a great leader?" Generally, everybody starts giggling, blushing, and squirming until I ask, "If not you, then who else?" Which of course is the truth. And in this same way, as I push my graduate students toward these higher levels of aspiration, I'll say, "What great book are you now secretly planning to write?" And then they often blush and stammer and push me off in some way. But why should I not ask that question? Who else will write the books on psychology except psychologists? So I can ask, "Do you not plan to be a psychologist?" "Well, yes." "Are you in training to be a mute or an inactive psychologist? What's the advantage of that? That's not a good path to self-actualization. No, you must want to be a first-class psychologist, meaning the best, the very best you are capable of becoming. If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you'll be deeply unhappy for the rest of your life. You will be evading your own capacities, your own possibilities." 

Though the passage is elegantly written, I wonder how true it is that people are afraid of their own potential greatness. I always thought that people aimed lower because they were trying to be realistic.

Improving My Social Skills

Whenever I see a way to become a better person or to live a more flourishing human life, I take it upon myself to try to overcome whatever fear, prejudice or ignorance I have that is holding me back. This year, 2013, I have given myself the New Year's resolution to improve my social skills, which is something that I should have improved many years ago. The reason why I have only recently decided to pursue this endeavor is because conformity was never high on my priority list. Considering my somewhat rebelliousness nature, it only made sense that I rejected many social norms. However, the mistake that I made was ignoring how my actions made others feel. It was because of my discontent with conformity that I lacked the initiative to develop the ability to read people's emotions and the tact required to know what to say to whom. As a result of my low EQ, I have unintentionally insulted, offended, disrespected, and belittled those around me. It shames me think of all the people I have hurt throughout the years.

Through the conversations that I have had with my close friends, I have concluded that there are two reasons why social skills are important. The first reason is that knowing how to interact well with people is usually necessary to avoid making others feel uncomfortable. The second reason, which follows directly from the first, is that those with good social skills usually have more avenues open to them in their lives. Of the two related reasons, it is because of the former that I have decided to make an effort to improve myself. To be clear, my priorities in life have not changed. I still heavily value individuality and I still dislike conformity for its own sake. Anyone who has beliefs regarding how the world should be must accept the fact that to live according to one's principles will sometimes attract the disapproval of others and thereby limit the opportunities one will have. It is part of the deal so to speak. That said, to be an activist does not require one to be inappropriate or impolite or inconsiderate of others' feelings. In fact, if one believes in the importance of treating others well, which I do, it is imperative to prevent one's indignation from becoming incivility. This was my mistake.

For those that I have hurt in the past and for those I will hurt in the future, I sincerely apologize. I recognize that I have a problem and I am doing all I can to fix it. This is a battle I will continuously fight for the rest of my life.