Defining success can be such a minefield.  What one person considers success can be so different to another.  So what criteria do we use to define success?

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory that has been used for many decades to explain or define human motivation and development. But is it still relevant in 2020?

What Is Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs

Even though Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory is a model that was developed in the 1940s, it is still considered a valid tool for understanding human motivation and personal development.

Andrew Maslow was an American humanistic psychologist.  Humanistic psychologists believe that every person has a strong desire to realize their full potential or to reach a level of “self-actualization”.

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, when a human being ascends the levels of the hierarchy having fulfilled the needs in the hierarchy, they may eventually achieve self-actualization.

What Are The Different Levels According To Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

Maslows hierarchy of needs

We are all motivated by needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs explains how these needs motivate us.

According to Maslow, people have five sets of needs which come in a specific order. As each level of needs is met and satisfied, the urge to achieve the next set kicks in.

These different levels cover how we are affected by our Basic, Psychological and Self-fulfillment needs.

Our most basic needs are inborn or inherited and have evolved over time. Once these lower-level needs have been met, people can move on to the next level of needs, which are for safety and security.

However if the basic or lower needs are taken away (for example food and shelter), then we are less concerned with the higher needs.

The 5 different levels are:

  • Physiological Needs
  • Security and Safety Needs
  • Social Needs
  • Esteem Needs
  • Self-Actualization Needs

Physiological Needs

Maslow's hierarchy of needs recognizess shelter as a basic need

The basic physiological needs are fairly obvious. Just imagine being shipwrecked on a desert island and the essential things are those needed to survive.

Examples of physiological needs include:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Shelter
  • Clothing

Sex is also placed in this level of the hierarchy of needs since it is essential for the survival and reproduction of the species.

Security and Safety Needs

Continuing with our survival analogy – having satisfied our basic needs, people want control and order in their lives.

This is where the needs for security and safety take over.

Examples of security and safety needs include:

  • Personal security
  • Financial security
  • Emotional security
  • Heath and wellness
  • Safety against accidents and injury

How Our Physiological Needs Show That Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs Is Still Relevant

The world has changed greatly since Maslow developed his Hierarchy of needs. However, despite the changes in society, one important thing that has not changed is our basic physiological needs.

Many countries over the world have seen property prices rocket over the last 40 or 50 years. As a consequence young adults are remaining in their parents or guardians’ homes because they cannot afford to move out and live independently.

This in essence has made them more reliant on their parents rather than being able to begin their own journey of motivation and personal development.

As a result, many young people (without realizing it) are finding themselves trapped in between the second stage (security) and third stage (social).

One of the most important things in Maslow’s view was, the freer the person is from lower level need motivation, the more closely that person approaches full psychological health and self-actualization.

Social Needs

Maslow's hierarchy of needs and the importance of meeting social needs

The third step on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are the social needs. At this level, the need for emotional relationships drives human behaviour. These social needs include things such as love, acceptance, and belonging.

Personal relationships with friends, family, and lovers play such an important role in our lives. It is important for people to feel loved and accepted by other people in order to avoid problems such as anxiety, loneliness and depression.

Some of the things that satisfy this need include:

  • Friendships
  • Intimacy / Romantic attachments
  • Family
  • Social groups
  • Community groups
  • Churches and religious organizations

Esteem Needs

our esteem needs are near the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs

The fourth level in Maslow’s hierarchy is the need for appreciation and respect.

Once the lower three levels have been satisfied, our esteem needs start to take a more prominent role in motivating behaviour.

People have a need to accomplish things and then have their efforts recognized, so it becomes increasingly important to gain the respect and appreciation of others.

In addition to the need for feelings of accomplishment and prestige, esteem needs include such things as self-esteem and personal worth.

People need to sense that they are valued by others and feel that they are making a contribution – this can be to their family, group of friends, society or to the world.

So taking part in professional activities, gaining academic accomplishments, sporting or team involvement and personal hobbies can all play a role in fulfilling these esteem needs.

Those people who can satisfy their esteem needs by achieving good self-esteem and the recognition of others, tend to feel confident in their abilities.

On the other hand, those who lack self-esteem and the respect of others may develop feelings of inferiority.

Self-Actualization Needs

As more of an individual’s lower level needs are satisfied, they become less important in motivating behaviour, so they are able to seek satisfaction of the higher level needs.

Self-actualization in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, is the highest level of psychological development where the “actualization” of full personal potential is achieved.

“It may be loosely described as the full use and exploitation of talents, capabilities, potentialities, etc. Such people seem to be fulfilling themselves and to be doing the best that they are capable of doing. They are people who have developed or are developing to the full stature of which they capable.”

But because we all hold different values, wishes and capabilities, self-actualization will manifest itself differently in different people.

Also, due to the difficulty of fulfilling the four lower needs, Maslow believed very few people successfully become self-actualized.

However the saying, “What a man can be, he must be.” sums up the importance of striving for self-actualization.

So in conclusion, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs really is still relevant today and can also be applied in your business and profession.