Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, published in 1943 is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. I’ve encountered it in my work with numerous health and social care charities in the UK.
Abraham Maslow stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others. Our most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behaviour. Once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us, and so on.(1)
However, I recently found out from this Big Think article something which I think is highly significant. Maslow later modified the hierarchy and added 3 more tiers with self-transcendence added at the top.
“Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos” (Farther Reaches of Human Nature, New York 1971, p. 269)
I’m not surprised that the modified version does not get referred but I am disappointed and frustrated that it isn’t because it makes perfect sense to me.
From the Big Think article:
This is what the final stage of Maslow’s pyramid is about: Having met our basic needs at the bottom of the pyramid, having worked on our emotional needs in its middle and worked at achieving our potential, Maslow felt we needed to transcend thoughts of ourselves as islands. We had to see ourselves as part of the broader universe to develop the common priorities that can allow humankind to survive as a species.
Maslow saw techniques many of us are familiar with today — mindfulness, flow — as the means by which individuals can achieve the broader perspective that comes with self-transcendence. Given the importance of coming together as a global community, his work suggests that these methods and others like them aren’t just tweaks available for optimizing our minds, but vitally important tools if we hope to continue as a living species.