Maslow and motivation
Where does your drive come from?
Maslow wrote one of the most famous theories about motivation: the Hierarchy of Needs. However, this is just one of the multiple existent theories about motivation
The origin of motivation can be uncertain because it is the by-product of multiple combinations of variables. But we all know that motivation is fundamental. It is a key factor for continual improvement and growth.
Motivation at work is paramount and can determine our professional future, and in many ways, our daily life as well.
Motivation is a fire we all need to keep feeding!
How motivation leads to success is a question I get asked frequently, but to better understand the possible answers, we need to explore the different theories behind them a little.
What will we be covering here
Some of the most famous theories about motivation are:
📌 Hierarchy of needs, by Maslow.
📌 ERG theory: Existence needs, relatedness needs and growth needs, by Alderfer.
📌 Two-factor theory, by Herzberg.
📌 Reinforcement theory, by Skinner.
📌 Need for achievement, affiliation and power, by McClelland.
There is also:
📌 Adams’ equity theory
📌 Locke’s goal-setting theory
as well as so many more.
In this post, we will cover one of the most famous theory’s: Maslow’s.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
American psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed, in his 1943 paper called “A Theory of Human Motivation“, a first draft of what would be a complete theory regarding human needs.
That theory would be fully explained later in his 1954 book, Motivation and Personality.
At the time, it revolutionised the behavioural sciences worldwide.
Based on stages, Maslow envisioned a theory that takes into consideration the universal needs of human beings and also, that those needs would be at the base of human motivation.
Each level represents a need that must be satisfied first in order to move forward.
That’s the drive for motivation: ultimately, the satisfaction of the needs. And the ultimate goal would be to attain the last level.
The theory is typically depicted as a pyramid where, at the bottom, we find the fundamental, physiological needs (those that relate to survival) and then self-actualisation at the top, the needs that deal with personal growth and development.
Let’s take a look at the hierarchy in detail:
1. Physiological needs. Here we find the need for food, sleep and any activity that prevents distress at a physical level.
2. Safety needs. Here, Maslow talks about the need for safety in terms of protection and being free from danger.
3. Social needs. At this level we find the need for love, affection, friendship, and also, a sense of acceptance, community and belonging.
4. Self-image needs. Also known as self-esteem, includes self-respect, the feeling of achievement and being respected.
5. Self-actualisation needs. The last stop, the ultimate attainable goal. This includes the need to grow and develop as well as the need for personal fulfilment.
How is the theory viewed in today’s world?
Maslow’s theory has been deeply criticised mainly because he made it perfectly clear that each level of the “ladder” had to be climbed before passing to the next one.
In 1976, Wahba and Bridwell presented a paper about the need for additional research that backs up the theory.
In 2010, Renovating the Pyramid of Needs: Contemporary Extensions Built Upon Ancient Foundations, a paper by Douglas T. Kenrick, Vladas Griskevicius, Steven L. Neuberg, and Mark Schaller, published in Perspect Psychol Sci, proposed a new theory (with more levels) and not without controversy.
Today’s view of this is slightly different, as levels are regarded as continuously overlapping each other and not as a strict hierarchy.
“Motivation theory is not synonymous with behavior theory. The motivations are only one class of determinants of behavior. While behavior is almost always motivated, it is also almost always biologically, culturally and situationally determined as well.”
― Abraham H. Maslow, A Theory of Human Motivation
Why is his theory of any relevance to us?
Because you can use it as a route map, to develop a style of entrepreneurship, management or leadership focused on the needs of your clients, teams, employees and stakeholders.
For example, if you’re an executive or a manager, you can use it in the workplace for:
🔸 Improving safety in the workplace
🔸 Promoting cooperation and teamwork
🔸 Giving credit and value
🔸 Providing space for career guidance and mentoring
If you are an entrepreneur, you might get ideas for producing products or services that have to do with some of the needs. For example:
🔸 Offering support and insurance, as in a refund or a 100% satisfaction guarantee policy
🔸 Creating bonds and the sense of belonging, as in social media communities
Also, if you want to appeal to the need for esteem, you can touch on any area related to lifestyle, vehicles, clubs, entrepreneurship, entertainment, beverages, etc.
And any charity, social responsibility or investment will be linked to the highest level of fulfilment: Self-Actualization.
“Self-actualized people…live more in the real world of nature than in the man-made mass of concepts, abstractions, expectations, beliefs and stereotypes that most people confuse with the world.”
― Abraham Maslow, Hierarchy of Needs: A Theory of Human Motivation
Public speaker and author Denise Brosseau, in her course “Becoming a Thought Leader”, mentions that Chip Conley updated Maslow’s hierarchy when he was writing his book about “building one hotel into the second-largest boutique hotel chain in the world”, so that the resultant framework was detailed enough to clearly show the principles behind his actions”
And in fact, in his book, Peak, Conley shows how to apply the “fulfilment principle” to a company, so the businesses can achieve their fullest potential.
Before closing, I’d like to suggest a very short exercise which has already been shared with my LinkedIn friends. It is about self-motivation, and I’d like to know the results if you give it a try.
It goes like this:
📌 write down (in capital letters) one goal you want to accomplish. Just one goal!
📌 below that, write down the reasons for wanting that. Think about Maslow’s pyramid and write down which of the mentioned needs this goal will fulfil
📌 now, write one thing that you can do TODAY to be closer to that goal. An achievable, realistic, very simple thing, you can do TODAY to be closer to that feeling of achievement
📌 commit to it
📌 at the end of the day, go back to your writing and reflect: did you do it? How does it feel?
Drop me a line and let me know.