Abraham Maslow

Abraham Maslow created a system called hierarchy of needs. This system allows you to think about "where you are in life" in a structured way. If you learn to use the theory well, it can help to get your life in balance. By understanding why you are acting in certain ways you're able to prioritize your time more effectively.

Maslow says that there are five levels of need. They are commonly thought of as a pyramid. At the bottom are the foundation needs rising up to esteem and self worth type needs at the top. The idea of ​​the system is that you need to satisfy the needs at the bottom of the pyramid before trying to work at those at the top.

At the very bottom of the pyramid are your physiological needs. This is really just a complicated way of saying those things you need to survive. These needs include food, water, sleep, oxygen and so on. In short, it's the things that you could not live without. It's great to start with the pyramid because it is obvious that if you do not have food and water then you're going to focus on that before everything else. It shows the theory behind the hierarchy of needs in a strong way.

Once you've satisfied the basic needs, then you move up a level to safety needs. Often this is thought of as security from danger but it is more complex than that. Instead it covers you feeling safe. So it also includes things like having a home and job security.

If you feel under threat of redundancy at work, you start to focus on getting a new job. You feel that your safety, and often those around you, is under threat. Your sole focus becomes a kind of protection based focus. When your safety is under threat you can not really focus on friends and having fun. For example people going on holiday who are about to lose their jobs often postpone the holiday because they feel so upset. They feel the need to protect their safety.

If the first two levels have been met then it's likely that you'll be working on your social needs. This is the third level in the hierarchy of needs. Social needs are what keeps you connected with others. If you can meet these needs then you're on your way to happiness. These needs include friendship, family and all the social groups you belong to.

Social needs would include church groups, football teams, and hockey teams for example. All of these provide plenty of opportunity to spend time with others. It is this interaction with others that helps you to move forward with your life.

By now if you're moving up the hierarchy of needs you're on your way to feeling pretty happy and contented. The next level in the pyramid is esteem needs. This need is harder to fulfill than the other needs. I'm guess that you feel that you can control the other needs. You can get food, get a new job and find ways to make friends. This need however requires you to gain self esteem.

Self esteem is harder since it relies on what you think that other people think. You need to build it through achievement and other ways that will boost your self esteem. Having a solid social foundation would help a lot with this need.

Once you've achieved self esteem you're ready to move onto the next level of the pyramid; Self actualization. To achieve this you need to live up to your full potential. You need to be living a satisfied and happy fulfilled life. This is a hard level to achieve and the general consensus is that very few people are able to achieve it.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a great model to understand. If you think about it in your daily life you'll find that it helps you to understand why you might be acting in a certain manner.

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