This factor is defined as our ability to set personal goals and the drive to achieve them in order to actualize our potential. Fundamentally, self-actualization pertains to the ability to actualize our inner potential. It is manifested by becoming involved in pursuits that can lead to a meaningful, rich and full life. Striving to actualize our potential involves developing meaningful and enjoyable activities. This can be manifested by a lifelong effort and an enthusiastic commitment to long-term goals. Self-actualization is an ongoing process of striving toward maximum development of our competencies, skills and talents. This is associated with persistently trying to do our best and trying to improve ourselves. It is not merely performance but performing at the highest level. Additionally, excitement about our interests energizes and motivates us to continue these interests. It is self-motivating and contributes to being fully engaged in those activities we enjoy doing. It is one of the key “conative” factors considered by David Wechsler to play an important role in facilitating “intelligent behavior” as he referred to it. It generates emotional energy, which helps motivate us to do our best.
The self-actualization factor comprises a general achievement drive, as well as a sense of direction in life and a desire to work toward personal goals. It is also infectious in that it tends to have a positive effect on those around us such as in a team setting. Self-actualization is also associated with and frequently leads to feelings of self-satisfaction.
Together with optimism and happiness, self-actualization generates the self-motivation and energy to drive other aspects of emotional-social intelligence. This is the fuel trio behind emotional-social intelligence.
Research findings suggest that certain aspects of this factor are related to being committed to and involved with activities that actively attempt to improve the individual. Intelligent managers and smart companies need to nurture self-actualization, because it is important for the organization as well as for the individual. Not only should individuals be allowed to pursue their goals at work as much as is possible, but they should be encouraged to direct some of that energy to setting and accomplishing organizational goals as well.
Low levels of self-actualization are associated with frustration, despair and even depression. This creates difficulty in doing things that we want to do and can do. People who receive low scores on the EQ-i™ Self-Actualization scale may not know what they want to achieve, because they are confused about themselves in general and what they want to do in life; or they may know what they want to accomplish in life but are unable to realize their potential for various reasons. Curtailment of personal pursuits, moreover, is one of the key symptoms of depression.