Year To Success

Lesson 47: Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Success is about fulfilling the needs of others. Successful companies and organizations generally do this by offering products or services that others desire. Individuals can fulfill needs of others in many different ways. Before an organization or individual can meet the needs of others, they must first understand how one is motivated by unsatisfied needs, then identify and satisfy those needs.

Abraham Maslow, a mid-twentieth century psychologist, is known for establishing the theory of a hierarchy of needs, writing that human beings are motivated by unsatisfied needs, and that certain lower needs must be satisfied before higher needs can be satisfied. Unlike others before him, rather than building this theory from the study of the mentally ill, he studied exemplary people such as Albert Einstein, Frederick Douglas, and Eleanor Roosevelt to name just a few. His theory helps millions of people live fulfilled lives as well as helps managers, business people, and entrepreneurs satisfy the needs of others.

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Physiological Needs. Physiological needs are the very basic needs such as air, water, food, sleep, etc. If these needs are not satisfied, it could lead to serious mental and physical illness and death. Fulfilling these needs allows us to live in a state of homeostasis. If these needs are not satisfied completely, it is difficult for our minds to focus on the fulfillment of the other needs below.

Safety Needs. There are essentially two parts to this category of needs—safety and security. Safety needs is the physical and psychological desire to be safe from physical harm. This need is a big motivator for learning the martial arts, buying a Volvo, or buying a house in a safe neighborhood. Security needs are more related to fear of change or loss, as in the case of job security. Security is almost all psychological, and despite the resources available to some people, this is a need that they can never seem to meet. This is mostly due to low self-esteem or the inability to control fear.

Love Needs. Love and the feeling of belonging follow in the hierarchy. Love, in this sense, is non-sexual and could refer to a marriage, friendship, support group, membership (like!), congregation, and even a not-so-positive inner city gang.

Esteem Needs. This is the need for high self-esteem, which is one’s self-worth or value. Self-esteem can easily be built internally in many positive ways. However, self-esteem can also easily be both built up and destroyed by others or external events.

Self-Actualization Needs. The need for self-actualization is pursuing the heart’s desire and becoming the best one can be. This is the need for living in harmony with others, making a difference in the world, philanthropy, and more.

Self-actualization is the need that is so often never fulfilled by most people because they are so caught up in their attempts to fulfill the first four basic needs. Yet this is where success in life is found. It is no coincidence that the fulfillment of this need often leads to the helping of others.

There are many ways you can put Maslow’s theory to practical use in your pursuit of success. Here are some ideas

  • understand and fulfill your own needs and live a satisfied life
  • make better decisions based on your true needs rather than just financial needs
  • learn to identify and offer ideas on how to satisfy the needs of those with whom you “negotiate”
  • satisfy the needs of employees, contractors, or students
  • satisfy the needs of friends or family
  • identify new markets for a product or service
  • have more empathy for others

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs does indeed have many useful purposes in both business and one’s personal life. It also reveals what I believe to be a major key to success: helping others fulfill their own needs. Keep these motivators in mind next time you are in a negotiation, being asked for a raise, or even just deciding what you really want out of life.