It was in 1943 that Abraham Maslow in his paper “A Theory of Human Motivations” identified five levels of needs that he believed motivated individuals in their lives and aspirations. Starting at the basic of food, air, shelter, clothing and warmth (the physiological needs), Maslow believed that an individual would advance up the tier of the pyramid once the lower level has been met. That our priorities change and become lesser or greater depending on which level we satisfied. And that the higher levels we reach, the less we’re likely to stay there, if a need from the lower level resurfaces.
The tiers are as follows (from lowest to highest):
- Physiological: breathing, water, food, sex, sleep
- Safety/Security: security of body, of employment, of resources, of morality, of the family, of the health, of property.
- Love/Belonging: friendship, sexual intimacy, family
- Esteem: self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others
- Self-Actualization: morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts.
I first heard of Maslow’s theory of hierarchy during an NCO leadership class while I was in the Air Force and then again, during a Human Relations class in college. This is one theory that I can actually identify with because, I can look back and see, where at times I was in my life when I reached the levels.
Indeed, there was a time, facing homelessness and knowing that I would soon not be able to feed myself or my daughter, that I couldn’t have given a rat’s butt about trying to achieve the upper levels. Thankfully, with help from my family, I didn’t have to worry too long and was eventually, through the years, to continue up the tiers. I guess, you can say, I am currently in the self-actualization stage. I have learned that as each need was met, it also fed and interlinked with the next tier.
Perhaps the reason that I’ve hit this “crisis” is because I’ve hit the self-actualization stage and attempting to establish or redefine myself. I know that, as I write this, I’m far from over it. I’ve also realized that what I’ve thought I’ve learned, I’ve already known and am, still in a way, searching to learn more.
So perhaps I’ll take up painting, perhaps I’ll take a trip and make new friends. One thing that I have learned through this all so far, I really haven’t learned a thing.