Are You Actually Actualizing?

Although we weren’t thinking about it while writing it, our life planner, The Dreambook, is very much aligned with ideas of the Human Potential Movement (HPM). The movement focuses on helping people attain their full potential through numerous avenues, including self-awareness, honesty, openness, optimism, self-acceptance, mindfulness, and a willingness to be outside of one’s comfort zone. Wikipedia says a central premise of the HPM is that “people can experience a life of happiness, creativity, and fulfillment,” and that this naturally moves us to uplift our community and assist others to actualize their own potential. 

Although it’s often seen as having developed from the 1960s counterculture, the seeds of the HPM were planted much earlier. Close influences were psychologists such as William James, Carl Rogers, and Abraham Maslow. In particular, Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs elucidated how humans are motivated. He claimed that we have tiers of needs, and that foundational tiers – e.g., food, shelter, safety – have to be managed before we can dedicate ourselves to higher tiers such as relationships and achievement. Maslow called the top tier self-actualization, the full realization of our potential. 

Well before these modern thinkers, Greek philosophers such as Socrates and Epictetus were teaching about human potential through the cultivation of virtue. Confucius, too, (500-ish years BCE) was a great champion of personal development and spoke of the relationship between one’s individual growth and the benefit to society, similarly to what is echoed above by the HPM. In The Great Learning he wrote:

In ancient times, those who wished to make bright virtue brilliant in the world first ordered their states; those who wished to order their states first aligned their households; those who wished to align their households first refined their persons; those who wished to refine their persons first balanced their minds and hearts; those who wished to balance their minds and hearts first perfected the sincerity of their intentions; those who wished to perfect the sincerity of their intentions first extended their understanding; extending one’s understanding lies in the investigation of things. 

And “the investigation of things,” according to twelfth century philosopher Zhu Xi, means, “to exhaustively arrive at the principles of matters, missing no point as one reaches the ultimate.” Some would say it means to perceive the true nature of reality. 

I find this view beautifully holistic: that even for worldly aims (“to make bright virtue brilliant in the world”), we start with our basic orientation to reality, then bring this forward to the “sincerity of our intentions,” the balance of our hearts and minds, then to personal refinement, the alignment of our household, and then outward to our community. 

Depending on your disposition, these statements can feel inspiring or unreachably lofty. If making bright virtue brilliant in the world feels daunting, let’s look at the ideas of living to one’s potential in simpler terms. 

Confucius speaks first about the investigation of things – understanding the world. Doesn’t it make sense that in order to really grasp our potential we must understand the context in which it is expressed? 

This isn’t work anyone can do for us, and it requires humility, innocence, and openness. It means, in my opinion, approaching the world as a student would approach a master teacher – willing to be wrong and open to having our mind blown. If we look to cultures who live in close connection with nature (including Confucius’s culture), they’ll almost universally assert that it’s the sacred in us, interacting with the sacred of the world, that is the essence of life – not the masks and stories we’ve superimposed upon it. What is the sacred? That which can’t be depleted, exhausted, or diminished. 

What about the sincerity of intention Confucius mentions? We hope to nudge our readers toward sincere intention through the exploratory questions in the Connect section of the Dreambook. Figure out what brings you joy and gratification, regardless of what others might think. What raises your vibration? What makes you feel alive? What opens your heart? What makes you feel you’re aligned with the purpose your Highest Self wants for you? 

From here, establish structures to support the actualization of these intentions. Integrate them into your everyday life. Set goals, break them down into tasks, and put the tasks in your calendar. Practice integrity by honoring your agreements with yourself. Be reverent of the powerful words they are constructed from. Make sure your agreements are clear – always know what you’ve agreed to and where you stand on them. Notice what you accomplish and celebrate these achievements. Don’t complain. Be flexible. Maintain a clear inner vision of what you intend to bring into being. And routinely express gratitude. 

If this sounds like a lot to remember, that’s what a planner like the Dreambook is for – to keep you on track with the actualization of that incredible potential within you. We’re honored to witness you. 

Be well,


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