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Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Last Updated: 17 January 2019








Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

There are more motivational gurus, theories, courses, websites, books and music than you could possibly be motivated to follow, go on, read or listen to, but in the workplace and throughout life the song remains the same.

In his paper A Theory of Human Motivation (published 1943) psychologist Abraham Most often depicted as a pyramid (though never by the man himself) Maslow describes five levels of need: the lower four are deficiency needs (physiological elements we need for survival), starting with the absolute basics of food, water and sleep and moving up to the highest (psychological) level which is self-actualisation – the personal desire to grow and fulfill potential. Put simply, Maslow said motivation in the true sense of the word is achievable only when the higher needs at the top of the pyramid are fulfilled. Maslow first proposed the ‘hierarchy of needs’ – life’s essential motivators – and it stands the test of time.


When you feel able to fully and creatively use your talents to fulfill your potential, the crown is yours. Self-confidence and being less reliant on other people are a part of this, for example, pay alone is not enough to feel motivated about your job. It helps (or hinders), of course, but you need recognition, too. And motivation requires that you take on responsibility and a level of challenge – no challenge, no sense of achievement – be it losing weight, cutting down drinking, taking more exercise or aiming for promotion.


Maslow sets the levels

Level 1 

Physiological: breathing, food, water, sex (purely to procreate), sleep, homeostasis, excretion

Level 2 

Safety: security of: body, employment, resources, morality, the family, health, property

Level 3

Love/belonging: friendship, family, sexual intimacy

Level 4

Esteem: self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect for others, respect by others

Level 5 

Self-actualisation: morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts 



Written by Dr. Noel Duncan

Goals & motivation
Mental health
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