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How can Maslow’s hierarchy of needs help you?

The enduring influence, popularity and relevance of Maslow's hierarchy of needs can help you in many ways, despite the fact that he proposed it almost 80 years ago in 1943, and that (as he noted) there was little scientific basis to his idea. Today, a google search on it reveals 2.4m results, including a BBC article discussing how it ‘continues to have a strong influence on the world of business’.


So what is Maslow's hieararchy of needs?

It is represented in the following diagram, which shows Maslow’s original five layered pyramid, overlaid by three simpler groupings proposing that we all need to live (exist), to relate to others and to grow, and we work through these needs from the bottom up.

So if we don’t have our existence needs met (food, water, warmth, rest, shelter and security), then those needs are our focus.


If we have those, and not our relatedness needs (relationships, friends, self-esteem, self-acceptance), then relatedness becomes our focus.


Only once we have those needs met, can we achieve our growth needs - i.e. self-fulfilment, achieving our potential, and being the best that we can be.


How can this help me?


What about this model appeals to you? It helped me overcome two obstacles that were getting in the way of achieving my personal and professional goals:


  1. A moment of gratitude I loved the idea of a daily practice to remind myself of 1, 3 or 5 things that I’m grateful for, to kickstart and motivate my day, or to calm me down at bedtime with a positive frame of mind. But (despite being a middle-class person living in the UK) when I sat down to do this, I could not identify anything to be grateful for - my mind started wandering and the exercise felt like wading through treacle. Using the above diagram sparks off lists of things I feel grateful for, which lifts my mood and improves my mental well-being and motivation.

  2. Being the best that I can be For as long as I can remember, I have strived to be the best [daughter, student, manager, partner, coach] that I can be - and yet, something has got in the way, and I spent years trying to work out what that was. This model helped me realise that the obstacle is my self-esteem, which is one of the relatedness needs. I have always sought validation, affirmation and praise, and however much I receive, I still don’t feel good about myself. After this lightbulb moment, I have been focusing on accepting that my self-esteem is good enough. This is enabling me to move to the top of the pyramid where I truly enjoy trying to be my best.

How can this model help you move forward?

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