The principle lecturer on my Human Resources Management masters course would be mortified to know that the greatest subject matter that has stuck with me since I graduated is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs motivation theory. Well, maybe she would be fine with this but it was a miniscule topic compared to everything else that we studied for 2 years. The reason why it reasonates so much with me today is because it’s a theory that helps explain what motivates people in life. And life I have always found very interesting.
According to Maslow there are 5 levels of needs starting with the most basic at the bottom of the pyramid (physiological needs such as air, water, sleep, excretion) and working your way up to what I would describe as first-world or Western problems (esteem and self actualisation). I mean you must be pretty lucky indeed if your struggle for self actualisation is your biggest worry!
Enter me stage left. I’m neither Gen X, nor Gen Y. I do remember life before the internet came around but I began my adult life after it and I can’t honestly imagine a world without it. How on earth did we used to make restaurant reservations? By looking up a number in the phone book and calling on the phone? I don’t remember the last time I called a restaurant let alone looked up a number in a phone book. I’ve been making my restaurant reservations online for at least the last 5 years.
I was raised during an era when saving your money was what you were supposed to do, I came of age when overleveraging yourself on credit cards was too easy to do and Manolo Blahniks became a more accessible brand for the modern woman. I have been having an early-life crisis since my late 20s and now in my early 30s it doesn’t show any signs of relenting. What is life all about? Why are we all here? I’m doing everything that is expected of me. I have a good job, a wonderful family, I take a vacation every 3 months abroad. So why do I feel unsatisfied that I’m not ticking all of the boxes at the top of Maslow’s pyramid?
Let me beat you to the punch. Yes I’m aware we are in one of the most devastating economic crises since the Great Depression of the 1930s. So I should really count my blessings that I still have physiological and safety needs met. Many people today are losing their jobs and therefore their security. If you stand in line at any soup kitchen or visit any developing countries you’ll see that many more people are even losing basic physiological needs such as food and water. Note to self – get some perspective mate. I know this in my mind, but why can’t I feel it in my heart?
Interestingly no where in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is happiness listed. I guess happiness is what you get if all of your needs are met. Or does it mean that happiness is not a motivator? Or is happiness a fairly modern concept since Maslow first published his Hierarchy of Needs in 1943? UK Prime Minister David Cameron is taking an active interest in his citizens’ happiness. In fact, he asked the Office for National Statistics to try to measure it. Click here to find out the results.
In yogic terms I should be expressing gratitude for all of the needs that I have met or in the immortal words of Bobby McFerrin “Don’t worry, be happy.” It’s impossible not to be happy listening to this tune!