”I am not growing old; I am old and growing”.
Let’s explore what it means to be “fully functioning”.
· What is normal behaviour?
· What is the ideal to which we should strive?
· What does a fully functioning person look like?
Without knowledge of what is possible and ideal we would have no goals and our journey in life would be a kind of “hit and a miss” affair. One degree off course and a ship will be hopelessly lost at sea. So what is the yardstick of normality and what does an optimally functioning person look like, psychologically speaking?
The writings of Carl Rogers, one of the most respected psychologists and father of one of the most influential schools of thought, described what he called “optimal growth”. He felt that too much time was spent studying pathology and abnormal
behaviour and not enough in discovering what makes a person fully functioning and of optimal psychological health.
He believed, and lived by his belief, that we are never too old to learn and grow. He is renowned for having said shortly before his death in the 1980’s that he is “not growing old, but old and growing.” We have all heard the statement that “some
people die at 25 and are buried; others die at 25 and are only buried at 75”. I don’t want to be just alive and waiting to be buried! I too want to be old and growing! So back to the question, what does a psychologically “fully functioning” person look like? Carl Rogers listed the following characteristics:
1. A growing openness to experience. This person does not live in denial or defensiveness. They are not inflexible, narrow minded and nor do they shut out the world.
2. They live each moment. The optimally functioning person is fully present in the here and now – not living with regrets and rehashing the past, nor so busy fantasizing about the future that they lose touch with life right now.
3. They learn to trust themselves. This person does not make decisions on what other people want or expect. They are able to trust their own judgments, their “own gut feel”. They are independent and able to decide for themselves what course of action to follow.
4. They realise that much of life is a choice and they are willing to take responsibility for their choices. They do not blame others for their circumstances and do not have a “victim mentality”. They know what they want and they choose it.
5. Creativity is a mark of a fully functioning person. They do not merely conform for the sake of conformity and are able to creatively adjust to changing circumstances.
6. This person develops a good life balance by accepting him or herself for who he or she is and can control destructive emotions.
7. Their life can be described as “rich, full and exciting and that they experience joy and pain, love and heartbreak, fear and courage intensely.
To quote Rogers on this point: “This process of the good life is not, I am convinced, a life for the fainthearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one’s potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means
launching oneself fully into the stream of life”.
Have you identified areas in which you as a person can grow? To live a full life, one without regrets, means that we have to take stock of where we are from time to time.
A few questions to ask yourself:
· Do I hate change?
· Do I like myself?
· Do I know my strengths and weaknesses?
· Am I excited about my life?
· Do I blame others for my problems?
· Do I say, “Well that’s just the way I am”?
· Am I inflexible and closed to new experiences?
· Do I always doubt myself?
· Do I think “It’s too late to change now?”
· Am I still learning, or did my education end with my teenage years?
· Do I spend a lot of time ruminating about past mistakes, choices or day dream about the future, to the exclusion of being present in life today?
· Do I live by values I have chosen or do I conform to keep the peace?
· Do I tolerate bad behaviour in others and avoid confrontation at all costs?
Answers to these questions could indicate gaps for growth. Would you like to make changes, adjustments, nips and tucks to realign yourself on the road to becoming a fully functioning person? It takes courage to change. It takes courage to stop and
evaluate who we are and where we are going.
Unfortunately most people wait for a crisis before re-assessing their lives. Don’t wait!
“Every minute that you put this off, is another minute longer you have to wait to get where you want to be”.