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Hierarchy of Needs

American psychologist Abraham Harold Maslow (1908 – 1970) is considered the father of humanistic psychology and is known for his theory that that there is a “hierarchy of human needs” that determines human motivation. The first in this
hierarchy of our needs Maslow called “animal survival needs” (food, water, reproduction, shelter, instinctual behavior). As each set of needs is met, we progress toward the next level, which, in turn, allows us to pursue and fulfill a whole new set of human needs. According to Maslow, as we satisfy these needs, we pass through a series of five levels that both expand in complexity and broaden our perspective and ability to make an impact in life. While this progression takes place, we increase our awareness, our attention and our focus to a larger set of concerns. This progression culminates with “self actualization”- becoming the best of who we are meant to be as the highest level.

As you can see from the following diagram, the highest levels are about being more outwardly directed. In the fourth and fifth levels, we begin to turn our attention outward toward others, as opposed to focusing on our own needs as was required and appropriate in the early levels. The two highest levels allow us to look out into the world and imagine how we might make the world a better place to be. My experience tells me that people want to make a difference more than anything else. When they find themselves in a position to contribute, they will strive to do so. Most people will go to great lengths to contribute to a worthwhile cause if they know that they can succeed and, therefore, matter.

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