Transcend. The New Science of Self-Actualization
By: Scott Barry Kaufman
Author Scott Barry Kaufman has a deep affinity with the teachings of fellow psychologist and philosopher Abraham Maslow (1908-1970).
You are probably familiar with Maslow’s hierachy of needs. You know, that pyramid of lived building blocks. The things you need to make yourself a secure, balanced, self-actualised individual.
Interestingly Maslow never actually intended his theory to be represented as a pyramid. That was done later as Maslow’s ideas were integrated into corporate training programs in the late 60’s.
Corporations just love pyramids.
Maslow actually believed that his hierarchy was a more fluid and dynamic model that entwined each individual’s life in different ways.
Towards the end of his life Maslow added an additional ‘layer’ to his hierarchy: self-transcendence.
This book looks at Maslow’s life as it related to the unfolding of his ideas. It also unpacks each section of the pyramid (which Kaufman re-badges with a sailboat metaphor) so you can better understand how they relate to your own life.
A series of short reflective exercises in each chapter facilitates this.
Kaufman (and Maslow) urges a life oriented towards growth (opening the sail in his sailboat metaphor), exploration and a love of humanity rather than one of seeking power, possessions, fame and even happiness per se.
Growth including steps such as:
- seeing the sacredness in all things.
- seeking out new experiences (especially with art and nature)
- creating time for meditation
- embracing both our past and our dark sides.
- Grow secure relationships and high-quality connections.
- cultivate gratitude and awe.
- cultivate values.
- cultivate states of flow and peak experience.
- develop healthy assertiveness.
- face our fears.
- embrace our identities.
- take risks.
- let go of perfectionism.
Finally, as a healthy integration of the other needs is established…the progression from self-actualisation to self-transcendence shifts the whole deal from an inward facing orientation to a merging of self and world.
We may spend most of our waking hours advancing our own interests, but we all have the capacity to transcend self-interest and become simply a part of a whole. It’s not just a capacity; it’s the portal to many of life’s most cherished experiences.Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind (2012).
I would not classify Transcend as a self-help book exactly. It is more of a reflectional catalyst. I highly recommend this book if you are looking to dig a little deeper into your own state of affairs, trying to clarify purpose and meaning amidst the overwhelming disruptors and difficulties we are all simmering in right now.
Transcend is a compass for a life well lived.