Bodhi Book Summary: Transcend: The New Science of Self Actualization


by Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D.

Summarized and Reviewed by Pete Landi

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The Brief Summary

This is a very comprehensive book covering the prodigious amount of research on the subjective of self-actualization that's been compiled over the past century.

In this book, Dr. Kaufman synthesizes the foundational work from Maslow (as in... Maslow's hierarchy of needs) with the work of dozens of other scientists, presenting a unified set of findings about how an individual can achieve one's own self-affirming life goals. Included with the scientific findings are abundant simple self-assessment tests, followed by practical advice on how a person can best act to direct themselves towards desired goals.

The use of "Transcend" in the title comes from Maslow's own realizations that self-actualization is itself a foundational goal on the way towards a person delivering meaningful value to the community in which they live. So in this volume, we learn not just how to self-actualize, but how to think about it in terms of achieving real meaning through transcendence.

Enjoyable to Read: 4 out of 5

While there is considerable science referencing going on here, the tone and language used are very approachable by a non-scientist. Anyone who is interested in the questions of how to find meaning and how to achieve happiness will find this to be a fascinating and enjoyable read.

Reviewer's Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

This one book contains a surprising depth in terms of developing the themes that the founders of Bodhi Band hope to explore and share. I highly recommend this book for all people who hope and strive for a better future for themselves.

Actionable Info: 5 out of 5

  • Take care of your "deficiency needs", such as hunger and belonging, in order to free yourself to seek more purpose-driven goals.
  • Put in the work to create healthy, deep personal relationships now, and tend to them over time. They are essential to your striving for growth and meaning.
  • Seek out fresh experiences.
  • Actively pursue altruism.
  • Find ways to achieve a flow or "peak" state.
  • Be very deliberate about designing your purpose. Don't be afraid to challenge or leave behind those things for which you are striving but which don't have deep meaning for you.
  • Be compassionate to yourself. Accept who you are; accept and embrace your past failings; allow yourself to be human.

    Quality of the Ideas: 5 out of 5

    Self actualization is not the peak human experience. The most healthy self-actualizing people combine this with an awareness beyond the self and motivations towards a higher purpose. This is called "Transcendence".
    The "hierarchy of needs" was never framed by Maslow as a pyramid in which you achieve one level and then move on to the next. Instead, each tier contributes in an integrated way to the whole. We continually move in between the tiers as we learn adapt and grow.
    Our needs can be categorized broadly into 2 groups:
    Deficiency needs ("D-needs" or the "D-realm"), in which we are motivated by a lack of something, such as hunger motivates us through lack of nourishment.
    Being needs ("B-realm"), in which we are motivated by growth towards an elevated state of being, such as mastery or fulfillment.
    Our needs hierarchy could be visualized as a sailboat, in which the hull is comprised of "Security" needs (Safety, Connection & Self-esteem) and the sail is comprised of "Growth" needs (Exploration, Love & Purpose). Then, with the hull established, we use the "sail" to navigate towards Transcendence.
    High quality social connections are critical for health and growth. They foster well-being, physical health, self-esteem, optimism, constructive coping, and perceived control over the environment
    Self-esteem is not the same as narcissism. Self-esteem means a belief that one is worthy, and leads to seeking healthy connections to others. Narcissism is more of a belief that one is better than others, and can lead to self-exculsion from relationships or even aggressively bad inter-personal behavior.
    Self actualizers:
    Seek Truth; Score high on self-acceptance; Have a sense of purpose; Are authentic to themselves; Find fresh ways to appreciate the world around them; Have peak experiences; Desire to help other humans; Have a deeply held sense of personal morality; Foster creativity; Are resilient and accepting of ups and downs.
    An "explorer" mentality is essential to growth. When people are free and independent, they are more likely to make choices that foster healthy growth.
    Traumatic experiences do happen, but they can lead to growth and meaning in our lives. We have deep reservoirs of strength within us.
    Our capacity to give love is reflective of our capacity for meaning and vitality in our own lives. The more that we have satisfied our own needs for love and belonging, the more we are able to project love and belonging onto others.
    A purpose is an uber-aspiration, something that causes a person to realign all of their priorities and leave behind concerns that they once felt were important. It provides meaning to a person's life, and energizes them in healthy ways towards self-actualization.
    Purpose and striving alone are not enough; it's important to choose the purpose(s) that are important for you, the ones that fit your picture of who you want to be and how you want your life to be remembered.
    Flow states, or "peak experiences" are moments that are reported frequently by self-actualized people. Some characteristics include: Complete absorption; Richer perception; Disorientation of space and time; Intrinsic reward; Ego transcendence; Momentary loss of fears & anxieties; Greater acceptance and forgiveness
    Transcenders are self-actualized people who see peak experiences as the highest pursuit. They seek them out more, flow more easily into them and more readily adopt the characteristics of people in a peak experience.
    Advice from Maslow regarding moving towards transcendence:
    Sample things; Focus on the ends as well as the means; Seek fresh experiences; Get out of the "Deficiency" realm; Cultivate periods of quiet & meditativeness away from clocks and worldly duties; Embrace your past; Embrace your guilt; Be compassionate with yourself; Rediscover a sense of the miraculous; Compare down as well as up (be aware of and grateful about where you are doing better than others); Recognize the power of a single individual to change the world; Admit your ignorance; Don't play roles that other people place on you; Be deliberately philanthropic; Appreciate the beauty and complexity in small things; Think of your life from a historian's point of view.

    Quotability: 5 out of 5

    "Life comes from physical survival; but the good life comes from what we care about." Rollo May, Love & Will (1969)
    "Pleasure disappoints, possibilities never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!" Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or (1843)
    "Self-actualizers have no serious deficiencies to make up and must now be looked upon as freed for growth, maturation, development, in a word, for the fulfillment and actualization of their highest individual and species nature." Abraham Maslow, Motivation and Personality (1954)
    "Self-actualizing people are, without one single exception, involved in a cause outside their own skin, in something outside of themselves. They are devoted, working at something, something which is very precious to them -- some calling or vocation in the old sense. They are working at something which fate has called them to somehow and which they work at and which they love, so that the work-joy dichotomy in the disappears." Abraham Maslow, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature (1971)
    "If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable." Seneca
    "What is not worth doing is not worth doing well." Abraham Maslow, Eupsychian Management (1965)
    "There is one path in the world that none can walk but you. Where does it lead? Don't ask, walk!" Friedrich Nietzsche, Schopenhauer as Educator (1874)
    "Life is best organized as a series of daring ventures from a secure base." John Bowlby
    "All people in our society have a need or a desire for a stable, firmly based, high evaluation of themselves, for self-respect, or self-esteem, and for the esteem of others." Abraham Maslow, A Theory of Human Motivation (1943)
    "There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad." Salvador Dali




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