The 1960s saw the emergence of a new field of psychology, the Human Potential movement, inspired in large part by the works of Abraham Maslow. Unlike most psychologists, Maslow focused on the attributes of the healthiest people in society, instead of the abnormal or ill. Maslow popularized the notion of self-actualization which he defined as: “the process of becoming everything you are capable of becoming.” He also identified a hierarchy of needs, which he represented as a pyramid. At the bottom is our most basic need to survive; at the top is the state of self-actualization

Our most basic physiological needs are food, water, shelter, and so on. When those needs are taken care of, we are then able to focus on the satisfaction of higher needs, such as our need for safety, relationships, and respect for ourselves and others. Finally, when all prior needs have been met, we arrive at the top of the pyramid, where we become the best version of ourselves, meeting our highest needs of self- actualization and transcendence.

What is our full potential?

Most of us have grown up with the notion that developing our full potential means excelling in our careers or endeavours, such as becoming an elite athlete, a world-class musician, a top- notch surgeon, a multi-millionaire, and so on. However, does succeeding in our careers automatically mean we become self-actualized? Maslow would say no. He identified 12 characteristics of a self-actualized person and none of them is a measure of how well we succeed in our careers. Instead, these characteristics identify how we see ourselves and others.

According to Maslow, self-actualized people:

  1. Embrace the unknown and the ambiguous.
  2. Accept themselves, together with all their flaws.
  3. Prioritize and enjoy the journey, not just the destination.
  4. Are inherently unconventional, though they do not seek to shock or disturb.
  5. Are motivated by growth, not by the satisfaction of needs.
  6. Have a purpose.
  7. Are not troubled by the small things.
  8. Are grateful.
  9. Share deep relationships with a few, but also feel identification and affection towards the entire human race.
  10. Are humble.
  11. Resist enculturation.
  12. Are not perfect.

Maslow believed we all hold different values, desires, and capabilities. As a result, self- actualization will manifest itself differently in different people. One person may self-actualize through artistic expression, while another will do so by becoming a parent, and yet another by inventing new technologies. Maslow believed that the more emotionally healthy we are, the greater the likelihood of our becoming self-actualized, but he estimated only about 1% of the population could achieve this highest human aspiration.

Transcendental Meditation and Self Actualization

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Founder of the Transcendental Meditation technique, expressed the idea that developing one’s full potential was the birthright of everyone and was within everyone’s grasp, given the right technique.

Maharishi’s introduction of the Transcendental Meditation technique gave the world the tool to systematically reach a state of self-actualization. TM allows us to tap into the deepest level of the mind and experience a profound level of inner calm and stillness. Along with the inner silence, one experiences increased energy, focus, and emotional strength. The experience of TM, when practised twice daily, can completely transform our lives, allowing us to reach self- actualization, the pinnacle of human development.

But does TM work?

Numerous published studies (*see references below) have demonstrated that practitioners of TM show significant increases in self-actualization or qualities associated with self actualization, such as:

  • Resilient sense of self;
  • Integrated perspective on self and world;
  • Strong moral reasoning;
  • Emotional maturity;
  • Ability for intimacy;
  • Being authentically present and balanced;
  • Feelings of bliss, peacefulness;
  • Higher experience of sacred space amid daily stressors.


Maharishi has said that our inner self is “the basis of all life and the field of all possibilities. Its nature is to expand and unfold its full potential. The impulse to evolve is thus inherent in the very nature of life.”

In other words, every human by their very nature will eventually be the best version of themselves. Now we have a technique that makes that path faster and easier.


  • Alexander CN, Rainforth MV, Gelderloos P. Transcendental Meditation, self-actualization, and psychological health: a conceptual overview and statistical meta- analysis. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality; 1991; 6(5):189-247.
  • Berg WP, Mulder B. Psychological research on the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on a number of personality variables. Gedrag: Tijdschrift voor Psychologie (Behaviour: Journal of Psychology); 1976; 4:206-218.
  • Chandler HM, Alexander CN, Heaton DP, Grant J. Transcendental Meditation and post- conventional self-development: a 10-year longitudinal study. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality; 2005; 17(1):93-122.
  • Ferguson PC, Gowan JC. Psychological findings on Transcendental Meditation. Journal of Humanistic Psychology; 1976; 16(3):51-60.
  • Hjelle JA. Transcendental Meditation and psychological health. Perceptual and Motor Skills; 1974; 39(5):623-628.
  • Nidich SI, Seeman W, Dreskin T. Influence of Transcendental Meditation: a replication. Journal of Counseling Psychology; 1973; 20(6):565-566.
  • Perkins J, Aquino-Russell C. Graduate nurses experience the sacred during Transcendental Meditation. International Journal for Human Caring; 2017; 32(4):163-171;
  • Seeman W, Nidich S, Banta T. Influence of Transcendental Meditation on a measure of self-actualization. Journal of Counseling Psychology; 1972; 19(3):184-187.
  • Stek RJ, Bass BA. Personal adjustment and perceived locus of control among students interested in meditation. Psychological Reports; 1973; 32(3):1019-1022.

Further reading

The Value of Silence

Finding Happiness – posted by TM for Women USA