I considered saying, “Why I think Maslow is an idiot” but that would be more sensational and pandering than anything else.
If you’re not familiar Abraham Maslow worked in phychology and wrote an influential book called Motivation and Personality in 1954. This book detailed Maslow’s theory and outlined what is commonly referred to as Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs suggests that our needs as humans break down into five categories.
In his hierarchy Maslow proposes that each need builds upon the others and that one cannot achieve fulfillment of a level of need without mastering the previous level(s) in the hierarchy.
It is this supposition with which I disagree. In our western society the focus is placed too firmly in the Physiological and Safety needs as laid out by Maslow. In emphasizing this focus we leave the Love and Belonging, Esteem and Self Actualizations needs as too distantly important and as such they are often neglected.
THIS IS MOST EVIDENT IN OUR SOCIETY IN THE SOCIAL VALUE THAT IS PLACED ON WEALTH ACCUMULATION
GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is the international standard for success of a country and is often equated with the standard of living in a nation. However the focus on GDP singles out the base levels of need in Maslow’s hierarchy and draws away from the importance of the other levels of need.
This valuation that is placed soley on economic growth and continual accumulation of wealth by the governments of the world is a trickle down value that influences how all of society thinks and feels. This trickle down effect has led to the advent of mass consumerism which in turn has led to the focus on accumulation of wealth and objects as symbols of status, which leads us to the neglect of the higher order of needs on Maslow’s hierarchy.
AS THIS GDP CENTRIC ATTITUDE TRICKLES DOWN IT PLACES MORE VALUE ON OUR ROLE AS CONSUMERS THAN ANYTHING ELSE
I have mentioned this before, and I believe it is a very important point to bring up again. As a body society is being pushed to serve one main function, and that is to fuel the economy. This function perpetuates the apparent success of the government and by reflection the country by increasing the GDP.
The problem here is that the economy and the governments overseeing the economy have become self serving entities. The justification is that higher GDP improves quality of life and so governments don’t look at anything else other than increasing GDP. Because of this our governments no longer hold our best interests in their minds. Instead we become tools, resources to be used coming in as laborers to manufacture and deliver the goods and services that we demand as consumers going out.
This focus on GDP and continual accumulation ultimately moves us outside of Maslow’s hierarchy by moving beyond the satisfaction of base level needs into excessive fulfillment of those needs for the sake of accumulation
So as we look at Maslow’s hierarchy and how it translates into society we see that our needs are not really being met at all. Instead, the needs of the economy and government are being met and our impression is that our needs are met, but they are only partially being met.
I am guilty myself of placing too much attention on specific needs on Maslow’s hierarchy in my writings and journey on this blog.
WHAT I’VE REALIZED IS THAT THESE NEEDS HAVE TO BE MET AND GIVEN EQUAL IMPORTANCE AND VALUE
As menitoned earlier Maslow supposes that you need to master each level of need to be able to move on to the next higher order need.
I propose that instead of looking at these needs as a hierarchy as illustrated by the classic pyramid, we define these needs differently.
Here again is Maslow’s pyramid of needs.
Here is what I propose, and I’m not full of hubris enough to name it after myself, so I propose we call this “The Circle of Human Needs”
As you can see in this grapic I’ve created the needs are the same. I agree with Maslow’s breakdown of the different human needs, I just don’t agree with his hierarchical arrangement of them. Rather in this circle we see all of these needs as equally important, and rather than having to ascend through one level of need in order to address the next, we see that all needs are interlocking and equally addressing all of these needs will lead to a more fulfilling and balanced life.
When I was looking at these needs on the circle and creating this graphic, I realized that below we have the circle, and aligned outside of the circle are my Passions, the things that are most important to me, and you’ll notice that my needs align pretty neatly with the needs within the circle.
But you’ll also see a spot that is missing, absent, a suspect gap.
This is the thing I haven’t talked about, the shadow I’ve yet to illuminate, the challenge I’ve yet to face full up to as I’ve worked my way through some other things.
Here now is the complete circle of my needs, reflecting exactly the needs we have as humanity. (We’ll talk about why my safety needs/passion was missing from my list up until this point soon..)
THE PROFOUND THING TO UNDERSTAND IS THAT WE ALL SHARE THE SAME NEEDS
They may manifest differently, we will fulfill them and express them and prioritize them differently, but we all share these needs, and it is important to address these needs. Equally.
There is no hierarchy here. These needs are all interconnected and all equally important. We have to be aware of them all.
Something that helped illuminate this for me was an article I read about product development and how in trying to sell something I should address needs on the lower tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy. This position that was taken blatantly tried to drive the point home that creating a product geared towards needs on the higher tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy was foolish because people wanted products that addressed their base needs.
Maybe this is right, but I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it for two reasons.
1. People want and need help realizing the higher tier needs.
This is a no brainer. I spent the last year of my life deeply examining and addressing my higher tier needs and in doing so I not only learned to recognize and satisfy those needs, but through that expression and satisfaction I started addressing and satisfying my lower tier needs.
2. Our needs are all interconnected and all equally important.
Recognizing that addressing different needs in the hierarchy led to expression and satisfaction of other needs made me realize that this pyramid is wrong and that these needs are equally important and connected to each other.
This isn’t a holistic – be elevated in your needs and your needs will elevate you – macro appraoch to these needs.
Instead it is a – these needs are interdependent and focusing on each of them and addressing each of them will help express and satisfy all connected needs – approach.
In other words, there is no hierarchy as Maslow proposed. You do not start with Phsyiological needs and focus only on them before you can move into Safety needs, and only through the steps will you ever reach the pinnacle of Self Actaulization.
No. Self actualization will help you in attaining Physiological needs and Love and Belonging will help you with Self Actualization. Safety and Security will help with Esteem and Esteem will help with Love and Belonging.
THEY ARE ALL CONNECTED
I’m going to be launching my Ebook Flipping Your Switch: A meditation on awareness and defining your freedom on Friday, Februray 25th.
Starting next Monday (2/21) I’ll be posting a new post every day, dissecting the different needs on the Circle of Human Needs. My goal is to raise awareness on each of these needs and build the relationships between them, culminating in the release of my ebook, which is my treatise on awareness of the self.
I hope you’ll join me this coming week in looking at our needs as humanity and how we can better fulfill them, and if you’d be so kind I’d appreciate you sharing this via the tweet and like buttons below. It will help me meet my Love and Belonging needs as well as Self Actualization.