Updated: Jul 20
It is believed that we all have certain needs that motivate our behaviour. Abraham Maslow, a humanist psychologist first developed his famous hierarchy of 5 human needs in the 1940's. Since then they have been criticised, revised and added to but I tend to stick to the five categories. This is a very simple outline of how Maslow's Hierarchy could help you achieve a happier life.
Maslow shows these 5 needs as a pyramid and he taught that the bottom levels needed to be fulifilled before the top levels could be. Many people have since argued with this and believe that the levels don't necessarily have to be achieved in order. I can understand what the critics say. Many people help others and develop great relationships whilst going hungry themselves or perhaps struggling to keep a roof over their head. I don't think the order is important, particularly. With most clients I work with, the most important thing is to look at each category and find out where the gaps are and how we can start to fill them.
I often use this diagram with my clients and we list how they feel their own needs are being met and then identify areas that are lacking and ways that they can be improved. So, I thought it might be a good thing to share with you so that you can look closely at each need in terms of your own life and how fulfilled you are. Are there things you need to work on?
Let's start by looking more closely at each level in the diagram, starting with the base.
1. Physiological Needs
These are the basic biological needs that drive behaviour. We are looking here at food, water, warmth, shelter, air, sleep etc. These will take precedent over any other needs. If we are dehydrated, we need to find water. If we are hungry we will do all we can to find food. Until many of these needs are met, we are not in a position to fulfill the others or help other people.
Are all of your physiological needs being met? You may initially assume they are, but could they be improved? How is your diet? Do you drink enough water? Are you getting exercise and keeping your body as healthy as possible? Are you sleeping well? Are you physically able to fulfill the other needs?
2. Safety Needs
This looks at how you feel about your immediate environment and how safe you feel. Many people with anxiety and depression have needs here that are not being met. That may be because they don't feel safe at home. Perhaps this is because of feuds with neighbours or even because they are living with an emotionally or physically abusive partner or family member. Money worries also come into this category. People may feel that their job or home is in jeopardy. They may be stuck in a job they hate because they need the money and fear that making changes will result in a loss of financial security. Sometimes people stay with a partner they aren't happy with because that is where they feel their safety and security is. Ending an unhappy marriage can mean financial hardship and the loss of the family home so people stay rather than risk losing that sense of financial and material safety.
Do you feel safe and secure at home? Do you worry about losing your home or your material possessions? Are you often stressed and worried about financial issues? How could you improve your situation and fulfill those safety needs?
3. Belonging and Love Needs
This looks at your relationships and how you interact with the people around you and having that feeling of belonging to a family or a particular group. People who spend a lot of time alone often become depressed. We are naturally social creatures and not meant to live in isolation. It would have been a very dangerous situation to be in if we had been cast out of our tribe and left to survive alone. This need can be fulfilled through romantic partners, family, friends, or work colleagues. It is quite important that we all have at least one person that knows us well and who we can trust to talk to about most things.
Who is that one special person in your life that you can always turn to? How often do you get together with friends? How do you get on with your work colleagues? Are there changes you could make to your social circle that would help you fulfill these needs in a better way?
4. Esteem Needs
How do you feel about yourself? How are you seen by others? This category looks at both of those. To a large extent, we can't control how others see us or how they treat us or speak to us. It is important that you have good self-esteem, however. Again, low self-esteem leads to anxiety and depression. We are never going to get along with everyone, but it is important to spend time with people who show you respect and lift you up, rather than drain your energy. Do you feel you have a particular status in society? What is your role? Do you feel you are recognised for who you are and what you have achieved? Do you feel needed? What is your role in society?
How is your self-esteem? Could your self-confidence use a boost? Look at the people you spend most of your time with. How do they treat you? How do they make you feel?
Maslow describes this as a desire “to become everything one is capable of becoming” (Maslow, 1987, p. 64). Self-actualisation looks at how you are challenging yourself and growing as a person. Do you enjoy learning new things? Do you like a physical challenge? It is all about setting goals and then working towards them so that we feel that sense of achievement and fulfillment. Without this we can feel a little lost and frustrated which, again, leads to anxiety and depression. This level also looks at how you are progressing as a spiritual being, although others have since added another level to the pyramid and called it "transcendence". I believe that your spiritual growth is part of self-actualisation and include it within this category when working with clients.
Do you feel you are spiritually and intellectually fulfilled? Are you ready to set some new goals and challnege yourself? Is there something you have always wanted to try or feel particularly drawn to? What are you waiting for? Is it time to get started on that new hobby, adventure or project?
How Are You Meeting Your Needs?
As I say, this is a basic look at the five categories so you can start to identify the needs in your own life. How are they being met? How could they be improved? If you'd like to look deeper into the subject, there are plenty of websites that go into more detail and list other categories. Just search Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and you'll find all sorts of information.
Anthony Robbins has even developed his own list of 6 core human needs that he believes suits the more modern world. However, I find that this original pyramid keeps things simple and it works for myself and my clients.
What do you think? I would love to know your views.
My newsletter subscribers have all been sent a worksheet to use but you can just use your journal or draw your own blank version of Maslow's pyramid. Think about how your needs are being met and what you can do to increase your levels of satisfaction and happiness in life. Look at each level and start with a long-term goal. Then break it down into short, manageable SMART goals. For more on using self-hypnosis for setting SMART goals, please click here.
If you'd like to come and work with me, please book your free strategy call today and let's have a chat.
Maslow, A. H. (1987). Motivation and personality (3rd ed.). Delhi, India: Pearson Education.