An Individual’s key motivating factor depends on his/her level in Maslow’s hierarchy

Our needs drive our social, emotional and intellectual satisfaction and growth. Progress of human civilization based on the various sets of continuously evolving needs. Need is the key to our development. Maslow explained it level wise in his theory of the hierarchy of needs.

Once I asked a colleague whether he heard about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs ever? His answer was negative. He was a top executive of a renowned business group in India and was an alumnus of a premium engineering institute. I was a little surprised by his reply.

How can we be a successful manager without having a fundamental understanding of human psychology? Without proper knowledge about human needs at different junctures of life, how can we strike the right chord in our transactions? Maslow’s theory helps us to understand those fundamentals.

I have seen – like my colleague – many managers in the industry either don’t know or have forgotten Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. I describe it here to equip them properly to deal with the people (including themself) successfully. 

Level-1 of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: Food, Water & Sleep

A famous Indian poet wrote that, to a hungry man, a full moon looks like a ‘tandoor roti’ (a type of Indian bread in round shape). That is true.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs: flood,water,sleep
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At level-1  life of an individual gets governed by physiological needs. These are our biological needs for survival. We essentially need air to breathe, sufficient food to fill hunger, water to quench the thrust and enough sleep.

When these needs are not satisfied, our body and mind can’t function to the optimum level and eventually collapsed.

Even today a lot of people around the world are suffering from the deficiency of physiological needs. Unfortunately, they may also be present in our daily surroundings and are struggling to survive.

Level-2 of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: Safety & Security

There is a colloquial saying in India: ‘a beggar doesn’t have the fear to be robbed’. 

Therefore, a sense of insecurity gets developed in our mind only when we meet our level-1 of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs: safety & security
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I have seen beggars are sleeping on the pavement peacefully. As they don’t have anything to lose, do not worry about any adversity.

Once the needs of food, water and sleep are satisfied, a new set of needs gets emerged in our life. Need for safety and security.  

A desire to have a good shelter to protect self and belongings become a priority. We also desire to have enough cloth to cover ourselves appropriately. 

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs explains, need to get medical support, social protection to have a secure, peaceful and stable life

Level-3 of Maslow hierarchy of needs: Love & Belongingness

Crave for love and belongingness is an inherent requirement for every individual, but till the time we are busy securing level-1 and level-2 needs, it may take a back seat in life.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs: love & belongingness
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It happens naturally. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs explains that once the physiological, safety and security needs are fulfilled the third set of need take birth.

Maslow’s theory termed it as the need for ‘Love and Belongingness’. At this level, we want to create a group of kith and keens, a family. 

We want to be part of social groups, have some friends. Loving others and get loved becomes an essential part of our overall wellbeing.

Affiliation, friendship, intimacy, trust, acceptance in family and society become an inevitable need of life.

So, the first two levels of need are to satisfy our physical body and our physical existence. The third level is the crave to fulfil our emotional thrust.

All needs up to this level can be seen as “deficiency needs” and the needs that comes in the next levels are ‘growth needs’.

Level-4 of Maslow hierarchy of needs: Self-Esteem

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, once deficiency needs are met reasonably, our needs get shifted to the next level. 

Maslow's hierarchy of needs: self-esteem
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Now we want to satisfy a set of needs called ‘Esteem Needs’. It has two parts.

The need for self-respect comes first, which yield from the sense of achievement, acquiring some skill in something and from a feeling of independence.

The second part is the need for status and comes from earning reputation and respect from society. 

According to Maslow’s theory, this second part is essential for a child for his overall development and required throughout the mental growth period. It fortifies self-respect (first part) eventually. 

Level-5 of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: Self-Actualization

After achieving all desired goals and discharging all responsibilities, we arrive at a level when we sense a state of fulfilment. At this state a new need, the need for ‘self-actualization’ gets emerged in our life.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs: self-actualisation
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It drives us to do whatever we want to do entirely for happiness without worrying about other needs of life.

It comes at a different juncture of life to different individuals and the way to fulfil it is also different for every person.

If I consider myself, I grew up from the next to bottom level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and now fulfilled all the needs stated up to level-4. 

I am somewhat at the level of self-actualization. I said ‘somewhat’ because am not sure and Maslow also found that achieving self-actualization in a complete sense is rare in life.

Some characteristics of attaining this level in full are as under:

  1. Perceiving reality efficiently and tolerating uncertainty.
  2. Accepting self and others as the way they are.
  3. A strong sense of humour.
  4. Spontaneity in thought and action.
  5. Coming up beyond self and focusing on the problem only.
  6. Looking at life objectively.
  7. Being highly creative.
  8. Concern about the wellbeing of humanity.
  9. Resistant to socializing in general.
  10. Privacy preference.
  11. Appreciating life as the way it comes.
  12. Holding high moral and ethical values.

Key Takeaways

People behave in a particular fashion or get motivated by a specific stimulus according to his level in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. 

However, it isn’t straight forward as discussed, a little complex and overlapped in real life.

Maslow indicated that the levels have no clear boundary line and can overlap each other. 

We needn’t satisfy the needs of one level exhaustively to focus on another level similarly, working on one particular need might meet some other need as well. 

Sharing food with someone first meets the physiological need of both and simultaneously meet the need for belongingness. 

Therefore, tuning our transaction with people according to the ‘level’ of the person and determining the key factors for his motivation can give us an improved rate of success in our professional as well as in personal life.