Anyone who is familiar with self development is probably aware of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Abraham Maslow used his famous diagram to explain the requirements that he believed all human beings need in order to be complete. Each of us is motivated by our needs. The original diagram has been adapted over the years to reflect many different usages, from personal development to human resource management in companies. The most basic needs are those triggered by our very basic requirements for life to be sustained and include at the base level, food, shelter, warmth, drink and sex for instance. Once these basic needs have been met, we are then able to move on a look at the next level of need, safety and security.
Maslow’s theory states that we must satisfy each need in turn, starting with the first, which deals with the most obvious needs for survival itself. Then only when the lower order needs of physical and emotional well-being are satisfied are we concerned with the higher order needs of influence and personal development. Conversely, if the things that satisfy our lower order needs are no longer available, we are no longer concerned about the maintenance of our higher order needs. This is most evidenced when we read of the atrocities that are committed during times of conflict.
It would be easy to assume though that this is a straightforward and linear process and that each of us is on the same journey towards ‘enlightenment’. Yet this is not the case, we can have our needs met in many different ways; for instance we can be completely fulfilled in our work but not even experience security in a relationship.
Looking at the diagram afresh it also seems to me to fall neatly into two parts, the lower levels (1-4) and the one upper level (self actualisation). It seems that these two parts reflect two completely different levels of perception too – the first is built on a LACK of something, be it warmth, security, relationship or status. Whilst the fifth, self actualisation, is based on a perception of GROWTH.
How many of us can say that we are truly on a path of growth in our lives, we are bombarded daily with constant reminders of what we DON’T have in our lives, about how our lives need to be better, improved, different – how different it would be if we were able to look at what we did have and be simply content that we have more now, than we have had at any time in our past history.