Imagine if you do not have running water… how would you feel about not having easily accessible water? Would you horde it? Would you share it?
A person’s relationship with resources changes when they live in a country with running water or without so your problems towards the bare necessities will have a different perspective.
Now imagine if you had all the money, fame, fortune, best relationships and have accomplished every goal that you set out to do in your life…
What would you do next?
Would you engage in philanthropy? Would you want to help others or help your nation?
These are questions to ponder because even though all human beings are the same, their awareness may be a little different depending on how fulfilled their needs are.
Abraham Maslow was one of the founding fathers of psychology. He presented a theory and built a model for human motivation to understand what drives a human being at each level.
Maslow believes that there are 5 levels at which humans operate at any time and why it is called a hierarchy is because if one’s needs at the lower level are not met, it is very hard to ascend to a higher level until the proper foundation has been laid.
Each level acts as a foundation for a higher level and until each level’s needs are satisfied, only will our minds be able to ‘rest’ on a higher level.
The base, most fundamental needs are at the bottom while the need for self-actualization or the self-realization of one’s self is at the top of the pyramid.
Here are the 5 levels of Maslow’s hierarchy:
At this level, food, water, shelter, clothing and protection from the elements are the most important things to a person.
It doesn’t care how refined or cultured you are, when you run out of these needs, man and even women can turn into barbaric people to keep themselves from starving to death.
Think of Tom Hanks’ character in the movie – Cast Away when he first arrived on an island.
In some cases, the need to procreate and prevent extinction is also necessary for populating the human race.
When you are at this level of physiological needs, structures such as civil authority, manners, social dogmas and even religious dogmas do not apply for it is every man for themselves when these needs are threatened.
When we fall sick, we often drop to these levels as well.
Laying a solid foundation and being responsible of taking care of your as a base will help you to be able to create the foundation you will need to go to a higher level.
Once physical and physiological needs are satisfied, is one able to move up a level to focus on general safety in many areas of modern life.
War, natural calamities, family violence, abusive people, robberies and even perceived fear can hemorrhage a person’s idea of safety.
Security issues abound as well such as financial security, job security, planning for the future and fear about the unknown future all helps a person to feel safe in the present moment.
Some people may not necessarily feel safe over self preservation needs.
To one, they may feel that losing the connection with a significant other can lead to a loss of safety.
While to others, the fear of being casted out of a group or being a social outcast can lead to safety issues
While different people have different preferences of safety, at the end of the day, feeling safe is the key towards moving up the levels.
Love and belonging
Once a person feels completely safe, they will focus their attention towards love and belonging.
Think of Tom Hanks’ cast away character and his relationship to ‘Wilson’.
This is the realm of friendship, intimacy, family and social groups.
The feeling of love and belonging can also result in a person feeling accepted.
When a person is not accepted, they may drop to the lower levels as this is primarily a feeling of the heart.
Some people call this level the level of self-respect.
A healthy self esteem is when one is content with who they are, what they do (professionally and personally)
They feel themselves doing productive things, contributing to society and being accepted for their identity.
A person at this level works on being a better person.
They truly start to feel good about themselves.
They start to care about doing a better job, improving themselves and making the world a better place.
This is the realm of achieving a person’s full potential.
Once a person attains the awareness that they can achieve their full potential, then they are self actualized.
A self actualized person is mission and service driven.
They are not bounded by the lower emotions at the lower levels.
Because all those areas are taken cared of, they are able to exercise their resources to better themselves and everything around them.
At this level, a person is truly fulfilled.
Maslow later revealed that there is one more level beyond the scope of the pyramid.
Self transcendence is in the realm of spirituality and a person can transcend their mortal frame into the source of the universe to achieve enlightenment.
It is important to realize that at different phases of a person’s life, they might be in one level more than others and that is perfectly okay.
A person at one level isn’t necessarily better than another.
(For example: a mother who is always at the physiological level could be working hard to fulfill base needs so that her children can be self-actualized.)
We should beat ourselves up because we are not at a level where we ‘ought’ to be.
What is more important is to take note at which level we are at, focus on fulfilling the duties at that level and naturally progressing when the time is right.
There is a right timing for everything so go with the flow and work at your own pace.
But no matter how fast or how slow we are at climbing the hierarchy, we must remember that we are all meant to live an uncompromised life.
By understand our mental models, we will gain new insight on how to live an actualized life.