Why should you care about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?
How does Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need apply to you? Well, Maslow’s theory of the Hierarchy of Needs is important from the standpoint that it describes how a person can go from surviving to thriving. His pyramid is a “roadmap” for how we progress through life to reach our highest potential as a person.
Abraham Maslow created a motivational theory in psychology called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The pyramid is based on his biographical research of people he considered to have achieved self-actualization.
Self-Actualization is the highest level in his original pyramid. His theory is that you begin at the bottom level of the pyramid. Once those initial needs are met, you move to the next level of the pyramid.
Deficiency needs make up the first four levels of the pyramid. In other words, if you lack water (a physiological need) you want water and will do what you need to get it.
The final level in his original pyramid is self-actualization which is a growth need. You want to achieve this level once you have fulfilled the other levels to your satisfaction.
How does Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs apply to you and your current situation in life?
A person does not complete a level 100 percent before moving on to the next. None of the levels work in a vacuum and all impact the others. You can even be motivated by the needs from multiple levels at once.
However, while it is possible to work simultaneously on your needs in different parts of the pyramid, it makes the task exponentially harder. For example, if you have just lost your job, it can be really hard to be the best spouse you can be because you are preoccupied with being unemployed (Safety Need).
Likewise, if you are homeless (Physiological Need), it is extremely difficult to also work on the two uppermost levels – self-esteem and the desire to become the most one can be (Self-Actualization).
Original Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid
Maslow’s Original Hierarchy of Needs includes the following levels:
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Level 1 – Physiological Needs
Level 1 includes the most basic things you need to survive as a human being – air, water, food, and shelter. He also included sleep, clothing and reproduction in this level too. These are all vital to our wellbeing.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Level 2 – Safety Needs
Level 2 builds on Level 1 from the standpoint that we need to feel safe in our environment. We also need to have a steady source of income (employment, investments, etc.) to be able to pay our way in society.
He also discusses resources, which could be someone taking care of you (in the case of elderly or children). This can also mean the ability to rely on something or someone other than ourselves.
Property is a place to sleep of our own that we don’t worry about as having objects we value. Health is in this level too as not having good health can make living to your highest potential more difficult, though not impossible.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Level 3 – Love and Belonging
Level 3 is all about our human desire to connect with others. Whether that be through our pursuit of finding love in a romantic partner and the intimacy that brings, or the deep connection a parent and child experience, love is fundamental to our overall fulfillment.
This level also includes the desire to be understood and accepted as a person through friendships. Also our desire to be part of a community and to feel like we are included is important.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Level 4 – Esteem
Level 4 is the level where you start to see it all come together. This is the level where you really start to like yourself. You respect yourself and others.
At this point, you have achieved or learned enough about life that you have a healthy self-esteem. You may even have some status or recognition among your peers either through work or friends.
Most importantly you have the resources and confidence to believe that you can do what you want. Ultimately, that gives you a sense of freedom to become your best self.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Level 5 – Self Actualization (Original) or Cognitive (Expanded)
In his original pyramid, Self-Actualization was the top level of the pyramid. He later revised and extended the pyramid (switching up the order somewhat) to move Cognitive to Level 5 and Self-Actualization to Level 7 (see image below).
This is the level where you desire to be your best self. You have all the tools and experience needed to strive to do what you were created to do.
You are lucky enough to not have to worry overly about the other levels at this point in your life. However, as we all know, life can change and we will likely revisit the other levels again.
Cognitive – When he added this level, he realized that you have a desire as a human being for knowledge and understanding of our world. He also acknowledged our innate curiosity and desire for meaning in our work and relationships.
We are always learning and growing in other words. This is part of being a healthy human.
Extended Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow continued to refine his pyramid over the course of several decades, eventually adding three more levels to the original and adjusting the order somewhat (see graphic below). His extended Hierarchy of Needs includes these levels:
- Cognitive (knowledge and understanding, curiosity, and need for meaning)
- Aesthetic (appreciation and search for beauty)
- Transcendence (motivated by values outside the personal self)
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Level 6 – Aesthetic
As you progress through life, you realize there is beauty all around us. You eventually wake up to see the world and all of its gifts.
Everyone’s definition of beauty is different and that is part of what makes us unique. But, finding out what you believe to be beautiful and claiming it is an important part of understanding yourself. For instance, what do you find beautiful? Is there particular art that moves you? What music do you like?
There is also beauty in the natural world we live in. The ability to travel and see more of the world is one way to appreciate and search out beauty too. As well, we live everyday in nature that is beautiful. You just have to have the awareness to be able to see and appreciate it.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Level 7 – Self-Actualization (Extended)
As described above in the original 5 levels, when you are able to be your best self by utilizing all of your gifts, experiences, etc.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Level 8 – Transcendence
When Maslow revised his pyramid, this became the new pinnacle. It makes sense that after you feel like you are on your way to being your best self you have the courage and desire to help as many other people as possible too.
At this point in your life either by virtue of age, experience, or self-awareness, you realize being motivated solely by how things impact you is selfish. You become motivated to focus on others and having a positive impact on the world around you.
How the Hierarchy of Needs Impacts You
Once you see the pyramid, it makes perfect sense why when one area of your life is in shambles, other areas you want to work on fall by the wayside. And, while we can all strive to live up to our potential as human beings, there will be times when it will be much easier than others.
Instead of beating ourselves up when we experience a setback in one area of our life, we need to be aware of how this will impact the other areas of our life. Once we realize the interconnected nature of the pyramid and the impact it has on everything else, we can learn to give ourselves grace when setbacks occur.
If we extend this same understanding to all the people we love and encounter, it is much easier to understand why people do things and react in certain ways. For example, if you feel threatened, it is hard to foster a sense of connection with another person.
By working to address any unmet needs, we will be able to work our way up the ladder to self-actualization. We all know, of course, that life WILL happen and we should be prepared to play Chutes and Ladders on the pyramid.
Your life will probably consist of constantly moving from one level to the next, always with the goal of continuing to the top. The more resources you have at your disposal, the quicker and easier the trip will be.
Personally, I love his concept of focusing on what motivates people in a positive manner, always striving to be all they can be. What do you think? Does this pyramid concept make sense to you and your life? Please leave me a note in the comments on your thoughts and experiences.
“Instead of focusing on psychopathology and what goes wrong with people, Maslow (1943) formulated a more positive account of human behavior which focused on what goes right. He was interested in human potential, and how we fulfill that potential.”
McLeod, S. A. (2017). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html
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