Motivation and the Hierarchy of Needs

As I mentioned in a previous article, I have an undergraduate degree in Psychology with a major emphasis in Human Motivation. In determining why people do what they do, there are a number of schools of thought. As I also stated earlier, psychological conclusions are largely theoretical, but they do provide a framework to work with when explaining motives and behavior.

Albert_Einstein_picOne of the more famous schools of thought was proposed by Abraham Maslow in his landmark thesis called “A Theory of Human Motivation.” Though I certainly don’t view his work as scripture, what I do appreciate is that he studied normalcy, in fact what he called exemplary people. He followed the healthiest 1% of the college student population and the lives of high achievers like Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. He felt that if you could determine what motivated them to success, it would help others be able to maximize their individual potential.

Maslow felt that behavior is motivated by what he called a hierarchy of needs. He illustrated the theory in the form of a pyramid with five layers. The lower layer represent the most primal needs to be fulfilled while progressing up the pyramid led to more lofty and complex desires.

Level one is the base of the pyramid, labeled Physiological Needs, and there he placed the very most basic needs that are essential to just survive, like food, water, air, and even sleep. Think about it. If you were in a famine or truly starving, every waking moment and all your energy would be spent hunting for water and a morsel of food; it’s instinctive. Until these needs are met, nothing else much matters, and you are stuck at level one.

Level two is Security Needs. These are also important for survival, but more than the basics. These needs include shelter, health, and safety. Only once you have a place to live, to call home, and feel fairly secure and safe, can you relax enough to care about needs that are beyond simply surviving. I have also noticed that when someone is truly sick or injured, they can’t think about much else and are stuck at level two. Health is huge if you want to move past this level to growing and developing as a person.

Level three is titled Social Needs. These are less basic than survival, but they are still core needs, like family relationships, acceptance, belonging, and that all-important romantic love. Companionship and bonding are key parts of human happiness. There is an innate desire to belong to a group, be it a family, a team, a street gang, a church group, or a community.

motivation_and_the_heirarchy_of_needs_picLevel four is our Esteem Needs. After filling your stomach, having a place to live, and finding a sense of belonging, self-esteem becomes increasingly important. Esteem comes from personal accomplishment, service to others, social recognition, and self-respect. Everyone wants to be appreciated, to matter, to be validated.

The fifth and highest level is termed the need for Self-Actualization. That’s a big fancy word for fulfilling your potential and even rising above concern over what others think. It involves the higher order of traits like creativity, spirituality, morality, and charity. An imperfect example of level five that we all know would probably be someone like Bill Gates. He never has to worry about levels 1 through 4, so he can spend his days using his creativity and charity. His energy can be directed at great ideals, principles, and helping people.

Maslow emphasized that this higher level of self-actualization is the process of growing and developing as a person in order to achieve individual potential. Sunwarrior as an idea, as a principle, as a company, and as a sum of products, clearly appeals to the higher levels of human needs. A fact that is illustrated in our mission to illuminate body, mind, and planet.


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