Do you have an “issue” you’re trying to work on? Well, have you ever heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Abraham Harold Maslow was a positive psychologist who reframed all our “problems” into “motivations”. Essentially, he said that all humans have “needs” they are motivated to achieve, and these needs can be placed along a hierarchy as seen below:
To understand Maslow’s hierarchy of the human experience, let’s use an analogy:
Imagine a sailboat gusts through the wind and waters of the sea. Should there be holes in the boat, it will sink as the seawater rushes in to weigh it down. However, a boat without holes is safe and secure from drowning and is able to handle the wind currents. According to Maslow, the bottom-most part of the boat is comprised of Safety, Connection, and Self-esteem. See the picture below:
Safety needs mean that a human’s basic needs are met including their need for air, water, and food. Their Connection needs are met when they can form intimate relationships with family and friends. And their Self-esteem needs are met when they develop self-respect and respect from others. A sailboat that meets each of these needs feels secure staying atop the water currents.
Now, imagine that the boat’s sail is full of holes. Then it wouldn’t be able to provide itself with direction, it would lack momentum, right? Maslow theorized a similar idea in his hierarchy of needs. The sail of the sailboat represents how he suspected human beings grow. Growth is comprised of Exploration, Love, and Purpose. Humans are meant to explore new skills, experiences, and opportunities. Further, they are meant to love themselves so that they may share it with the world around them in the form of altruism. And just as a sail without holes is able to direct the boat, a human with purpose has a sense of direction in life.
Not as direct as the pyramid makes it seem, right? That’s because the human experience is not a linear climb, it is not a summit meant to be “reached”. The human experience is ongoing, meaning you can find yourself anywhere along with the sailboat, at any point in life.
So, why should you care about this theory? Well, consider a situation where your occupational therapist is trying to assist you with dressing or your physiotherapist is assisting you in walking again and suggests you use a walker for the time being until they can assist you in walking independently again.
These may seem like tedious and “small” goals, however, they are the very basics that you need to grow, to keep your sailboat afloat. Keeping your sailboat afloat starts with meeting the basics the boat needs to remain above water before seeking to achieve the next need toward self-actualization and human growth. The basics include working on Activities of Daily Living and mobility. Once you meet the very basics, your boat can grow stronger to withstand the harsh winds that it may encounter in the future. Every sailor dreams to have a sailboat that can float on water while withstanding the harsh sea winds. The sailor keeps this big goal in mind as they begin to build the boat piece by piece, from the bottom-up. You, like the sailor, can sail one day, too.
So, what is motivating you today?