What motivates you?

It’s a depressing thought isn’t it? Being unhappy for the remainder of our lives?

I used this particular quote as a trigger, because no one actually wants to be unhappy. Not that happiness is a destination or a thing to attain, it’s really something to work at, a state of being, and the question is: do you feel like you achieve happiness in your life on a daily basis? No matter what the day brings?

“What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” – Abraham Maslow

Self-awareness is the key to change, improvement, and growth. However if basic needs are not fulfilled then the next level of growth cannot be achieved. Let’s look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and determine which level you are currently operating at. What motivates you?

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s famous framework is a broadly accepted concept that comes from a 1943 paper entitled “A Theory of Human Motivation”, which parallels developmental psychology about the stages of motivation and growth in humans. In basic terms it describes the needs that motivate human behaviour, i.e. our most fundamental and primary needs, right through to self-esteem and finally, self-actualization. Its effective in illustrating why our needs and therefore our motivation changes as we achieve success with each step in life.

Physiological needs (health, food, sleep)

No surprise here, the basic need for human survival are physiological needs – air, water, food – without which the rest is irrelevant. This covers pure survival needs.

Safety needs (shelter, removal from danger)

The next level of motivation is the need for safety, which can come in many forms, the need for financial security (shelter over your head), health safety (looking after the body and mind) and personal security (lack of fear from any violence or threat). All your physical needs are met at this stage.

Let’s pause here and recap – if you have a shelter over your head and food on the table, and you are capable of reading this, on your own computer, then you are in the top 1% of the world population. Really take that in for a moment, you are the lucky 1% of the world population – Congratulations.

Social needs (love, affection, being part of groups)

Once the physiological and the safety needs are satisfied, the next motivation is the need for belonging, the need for love and affection. The Beatles said it best when they said, “all you need is love”. The need to feel like you belong, whether its within a family unit, friendship circles, or within society, satisfies our primary need for interpersonal interaction.

Esteem needs (self-esteem, and esteem from others)

As well as gaining respect from others, this includes all the usual suspects – self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-respect. Imbalance here can result in you feeling inferior, feeling insecure, and can lead to anxiety or depression.

The choices you make in the “Social needs” stage can greatly impact your ability to achieve “Esteem needs”. For example – if you choose an abusive partner in your desire for belonging, this can greatly diminish your self-esteem to the point of insecurity. Worse still you are now in fear for your life and your safety is compromised, so you have regressed to the level of “Safety needs”. If you cannot find a way to break free, you remain stuck, looking for safety and love. If you are fortunate and strong enough to break free, then dealing with the emotional barriers created by the abuse, through therapy or coaching, can help you achieve true self worth and self esteem. The social needs must be met, and emotional balance achieved, for “Esteem needs” to be attainable.

“A positive self image and healthy self esteem is based on approval, acceptance and recognition from others; but also upon actual accomplishments, achievements, and success upon the realistic self confidence which ensues.” – Abraham Maslow

Achieving self-esteem means gaining control over your environment as much as possible – bringing people into your life, who reflect positivity, accept you as you are and who you could be, rather than belittling you because they themselves are insecure. It also means gaining control of your self-bullying and negative emotions, and reducing your self-limiting beliefs so you can accomplish your goals and achieve success.

This is the toughest level to achieve. The most difficult and challenging of the four levels thus far. This is the level most people get stuck, which is why this is also the level where – if you are willing and able – you can experience truly exponential growth.

After this comes Buddha level…

“What a man can be, he must be. This need we call self-actualization.” – Abraham Maslow

Self-actualization (achieving individual potential)

Now before you can come to this level you must not only achieve the previous needs, but also master them. This could be considered a spiritually enlightened level, where you lose all fear, achieve your dreams and live up to your full potential.

“Life could be vastly improved if we could count our blessings as self-actualizing people can and do, and if we could retain their constant sense of good fortune and gratitude for it.” – Abraham Maslow

If you are healthy, safe, and have maintained healthy relationships in your life, chances are you have fulfilled the first three needs. If you are self-aware, self-confident, and asking yourself “what’s my purpose?” you are mastering the fourth need. If you are able to see how lucky and blessed you are, and have true gratitude and peace in your life every single day then you are branching into the fifth! Well done you.

Staying motivated and achieving balance

While I do not claim enlightenment, I do feel that I have mastered the first three levels of Maslow’s needs, am well on my way to mastering the fourth, and look forward to a Buddha-like state by the time I am fifty years old…here’s hoping!

My coaching philosophy is to help others understand what motivates them and achieve success. Understanding your basic needs and ensuring you are achieving them is the first step. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are achievable and as human beings the first three are the foundation of everything else we want to accomplish. Take a look at your own life and determine if you have achieved those first three levels. If you haven’t, what’s missing? What changes can you make to achieve stability and balance?

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs span the four pillars I believe maintain health and balance in your life, they are physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. If you can look to these on a daily basis then you can stay motivated and achieve real success.

My next post will include tips and tactics to creating and maintaining balance in the four pillars.

Stay tuned.

Do you dread going in to work every day? Do you feel disengaged and undervalued? Do you worry that your personal life is starting to suffer as well? Feeling stuck and not knowing what to do next…

Don’t worry, I know how that feels. Fill in your email address below and I’ll send you increasingly action oriented information, tactics and tools that I wish I had known when I was struggling to figure out my next career move. 

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