I am currently writing a book about Big Dreaming, desiring to share the concepts and exercises we do in the Big Dreams class. In the course of hunting for great examples of Big Dreamers I recently re-watched (twice!) Dr. Randy Pausch's last lecture entitled "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" from the Carnegie Mellon Last Lecture Series. I was struck by how Dr. Pausch epitomized the SELF-ACTUALIZED person as described by Dr. Abraham Maslow in his Hierarchy of Needs, a prominent theory in developmental psychology. As I had just been talking with a Big Dreams student about Maslow's Hierarchy, I was primed to pick up on Dr Pausch's obvious self-actualization.
My Big Dreams student asked if I thought anyone ever reached the top level of Maslow's Hierarchy and became self actualized. I answered that I didn't know, but I knew it was important to strive to reach self-actualization... that the striving led to greater life-satisfaction and fulfillment.
Here's my new answer:
If you want to see/hear an example of a thoroughly self-actualized person, watch Dr. Randy Pausch's last lecture click here. It was really his last lecture as he had cancer (he was in remission) and he was out of cure options at the time he spoke.
A well-loved professor at Carnegie-Mellon, Pausch chose to give this final talk to a room filled with students, former students, faculty, friends, and family, and to speak on a very self-actualizing topic: how to help others succeed. In Dr. Pausch we see a man who has come to grips with his mortality and still manages to place focus on celebrating life, on leaving a legacy of good for future students, for his own children, and for all of us.
The lecture itself is laugh-out-loud funny and chock full of practical (but not necessarily obvious) wisdom. We see a man who has everything he needs (all his basic needs are met except for good health).
He has long had good job security and appears to be planning ahead for the needs of his wife and kids after his passing. It is obvious in the film how much the audience loves him and how much he loves them all too. His self-esteem is very high, based in part on the many mentors who encouraged and inspired him over the years. He is humble enough to say that he would not have been able to achieve his position without their help. [And without his "brick wall" theory: Brick walls are there to challenge us. When we run into them we must become truly motivated to find ways to surmount them. He also added that brick walls help us to see how much we really want something...and whether we or someone else wants it more!]
After realizing all the previous levels, Randy Pausch self-actualizes as an incredible teacher, teaching right up to the end of his life and beyond. His talk is fun, light-hearted, and beautiful! Watch it and marvel. Perhaps we can all self-actualize...each in our own way. Do you know your path to self-actualizing? Big Dreaming is a perfect way to begin to figure it out! Call me!