Being happy, satisfied, content, joyful, optimistic, loving, emotionally and physically healthy - all the ways of “being” that suggest the highest ideals of life can be like trying to catch a rainbow in your hand. Beautiful colors that disappear when we reach for them. Even so, the rainbow does exist, it’s just that it’s in the form of light.
It’s human instinct to be fascinated by rainbows and chase that light, and grab it in whatever form we can. Now science is giving us more ways to understand that each of us has a unique range of colors - our skills, talents, hopes and dreams - that we reach for and use to become our best self. Psychologist Scott Kaufman calls it our ‘optimal self’ and by trusting our instincts and choosing goals that resonate with our mind and heart, we move ever closer to our own unique sense of happiness.
In an article in Scientific American, Kaufman condenses the views of many psychologists, sociologists and philosophers to offer guidelines for living an “authentic” or “actualized” life. That means you encourage your natural talents and desires, and also choose parts of yourself you want to improve or change, lovingly, of course. Here are Kaufman’s tips for becoming your best self, not in the judgement or eyes of others, although that may come about, but in alignment with your own heart and soul.
But that’s a part of your personality or instinct that can cause you and your family and friends to miss flights or shows or be disruptive at meetings with colleagues. So in order to make a bit more peace with time and others in your life, it’s a good idea to bend this aspect of your tendency when necessary and develop habits that help you be on time.
Kaufman’s suggestions for becoming an ‘optimal human’ are similar to, or complementary to, Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs.” These suggestions for your ‘optimal self’ rest upon the foundation of meeting our basic physical needs, as well as safety, love and belonging, respect by and for others, and then ‘self-actualization.’
“The thing to do seems to be to find out what one is really like inside, deep down and as a member of the human species and as a particular individual.”
-- Abraham Maslow
Kaufman, Scott Barry, “How to Be An Optimal Human,” Scientific American, Feb. 7, 2016
Setton, Mark, “Abraham Maslow and the Hierarchy of Happiness” The Pursuit of Happiness, 2016