By P Chong Monday, 18 January 2010
In the 1970s when I was first exposed to Dr. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs through a dynamic pyramid marketing company, I was thoroughly amazed by the insight & power the theory wields in human motivation. This theory basically answers the question what makes a person do what he pursues or drive him to attain his goals. Ultimately what is it that matters most in life?
Since the dawn of mankind, human beings have always been striving for things he wanted or desired – never truly satisfied with the things he possessed. Yonder pastures are always greener . . . that’s where greed and covetousness set in. There’s no denying that men always crave for the pleasures of life, power & authority with no end in sight. Contentment is a difficult word to live by, especially in this current world of excessive materialism.
The everlasting question is what constitute human happiness? It’s such an abstract & complex concept that renders it difficult to measure. It’s the inner joy, the spontaneous flow of great feeling whatever the circumstances, that certain cheer & ready smile that never fail to lighten up the burden. It is gratifying to see a person with joy in his or her heart than to see one of misery.
Men & women all strive for that spark of happiness in life. Is there any secret to finding happiness? What avenues can people resort to in their elusive search? Does happiness come with the fulfilment of dreams?Generally, marriage & career are the two norms followed.
Interestingly, Dr. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs provides an insight into the various levels or hierarchy of needs that human strive for. The Hierarchy of Needs theory remains valid today for understanding human motivation, management training, and personal development. Many people find they can understand what Maslow says. They can recognize & relate the features to their own experience or behaviour which are true and identifiable.
Maslow has set up a hierarchy of five levels of basic needs. Beyond these needs, higher levels of needs exist. These include needs for understanding, aesthetic appreciation and purely spiritual needs. It’s to be noted that until the demand of the first level has been met or satisfied, the person would not feel the urge of going on to the second & so on.
As seen from the diagram, Maslow’s basic needs consist of:
- Physiological Needs – These are biological needs such as food, water, air etc.
- Safety Needs – The needs for security & safety.
- Needs of Love, Affection and Belongingness – Gregarious as we are, people seek to overcome feelings of loneliness and alienation.
- Needs for Esteem – These involve needs for both self-esteem and for the esteem a person gets from others. When these needs are frustrated, the person feels inferior, weak, helpless and worthless.
- Needs for Self-Actualization – A person’s need to be and do that which the person was “born to do” as according to Maslow “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write.”
When all of the foregoing needs are satisfied, then and only then are the needs for self-actualization activated. If a person is hungry, unsafe, not loved or accepted, or lacking self-esteem, it is very easy to know what the person is restless about. It is not always clear what a person wants when there is a need for self-actualization.
In the pursuit of human endeavour, people usually get lost in the maze of knowing precisely what they want in life. Three basic questions to be answered: What is it in life that you really want? What is the price? Are you prepared to pay that price?
In the final analysis, helping others may be as primal as human pleasure like food or sex. It’s difficult for humans to be truly selfless, for generosity feels so good. Doing good always feel so good! To Maslow a “self-actualizing person.” is a fully functioning person, a healthy personality capable of giving, loving & helping others unconditionally & strictly without any personal agenda.
Is this what the philanthropists are trying to achieve or to compensate for their wayward ways?
An interpretation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,
represented as a pyramid with the more basic needs at the bottom.