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Maslows Hierachy of needs explained.

Updated: Apr 26, 2021

What motivates human behavior?

Maslows Heirachy of needs is one of the best known theories of motivation. According to Abraham Maslow a humanist psycgologist our actions are motivated in order to achieve certain needs.

Maslow was interested in understanding what makes people happy and the things they do to achieve that aim.

He believed that people have an unborn desire to be self-actualized or to be all they can be. In order to acheive these goals however a number of more basic needs must be met, such as a need for food , safety , love and self-esteem.

There are five different levels of Maslows hierachy of needs (which has since been expanded but for the purpose of this blog we'll stick to the basics)

Physiological needs

Needs at the bottom of the pyramid are our basic physical requirements including the need for food, water, sleep and warmth. These needs are vital for our survival . In addition to these basic needs he also includes things such as shelter and clothing, along with sexual reproduction.

Safety and Security needs

As we move up to the second level the requirements start to become a bit more complex.

People want security and order in their lives so the need for safety and security contributes largely to behaviors at this level.

Some of the basic safety and security needs include

Financial Security

Health and wellness

Safety against accidents and injury

Finding a job, contributing money to a savings account and moving into a safe neighborhood are all examples of actions motivated by these needs.

Together these two lower tiers make up to what is referred to as our basic needs.

Love and belonging

Love and belonging needs in maslows hierachy include such things as love, acceptance and belonging. At this level the need for emotional relationships drives human behavior. Some of the things that satisfy these needs include


Romantic attachments


Social groups

Community groups

Churches and religious organisations

In order to avoid problems such as loneliness, depression, and anxiety, it is important for people to feel loved and accepted by other people.

Personal relatinships with friends and family play an important role as does involvement in groups such as sports teams, religious groups and other group activities.

Esteem needs

At the fourth level is the need for appreciation and respect. When the needs at the bottom three have been satisfied the esteem needs begin to play a more prominent role in motivating behavior.

It becomes increasingly important to gain the respect and appreciation of others. People have a need to accomplish things and then have their efforts recognized. In additon esteem needs also include such things as self-esteem and personal worth.

Participating in professional activities, academic accomplishments, athletic or team participation and personal hobbies can all play a role in fulfilling the esteem needs. People who are able to satisfy the esteem needs by achieving good self esteem and the recogniton of others tend to feel confident in their abilities.

However those that lack self-esteem and the respect of others can develop feeling of inferiority.

Together the esteem needs and Love and belonging needs make up what is known as the psychologial needs of the hierachy.

Self actualization needs

At the very peak of the pyramid are the self acualization needs. This is referring to the need for people have to achieve their full potential as human beings.

Loosely described as the full use and exploitation of talents and capabilities. Such people seem to be fulfilling themselves and to be doing the best that they are ccapable of doing.

Self actualizing people are self aware, concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opinions of others and interested in fulfilling their full potential.

As with all theories of personality, Maslows theory is limited in that it is only a model- it can capture certain facets of an individuals personality but it cannot capture individuals wholly.

However, Maslows hierachy provides a basic path of self improvement and can be used as a general framework that people can use to better themselves.

It has also stood the test of time and is as popular now as its ever been. Identifying what humans need, what drives and motivates us can give huge insight into your own personal growth.

It can highlight the areas that we may need to work on in order to acheive or goals futher up the hierachy. For instance if our sleep (a basic need) isn't a priority then other needs further up the pyramid will be hard to fulfill such as performance and goal accomplishments. Setting a solid foundation will no doubt stand you in good footing for your future success whatever your goal.

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