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Maslow's Theory of Motivation

Maslow’s Theory of Motivation has made a significant impact on society's understanding of human behavior. Coming from a minority Jewish background, Maslow created a new perspective of humanistic psychology when he published The Theory of Human Motivation in 1943. Previously, psychologists came to their conclusions after studying people and animals with serious psychological issues … patients who were very sick. Maslow’s Theory of Motivation, on the other hand, is based on his work with vibrant and mentally healthy individuals. Real everyday people like you and me. He wanted to know how the minds of normal people worked. His studies also included the healthiest one percent of college students at the time. This led him to the conclusion that people only reached peak experience and performance after certain criteria was achieved … when their lives were in harmony in the most basic areas.

Maslow based his Theory of Motivation on his studies of many notable achievers, including Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt as well as many other people he knew to be self actualized. He studied how often these high achievers could reach their peak experience (became fired-up) throughout each day or week. Through his study of Taoism he also concluded that people need not obtain personal meaning or pleasure only by seeking material possessions.

What emerged as the basis of Maslow’s Theory of Motivation was a hierarchy of human needs. He believed that every person has a strong innate desire to achieve their full potential, but would resist those loftier goals until the lack in the more basic levels of life were satisfied. In his later years he proposed that there may even be a mystical or spiritual factor attached to these highest levels of experiences. That was quite a revelation within the psychological world of those early days.

The Theory of Motivation calls this the “Hierarchy of Needs”, the basic and fundamental requirements of a human being. He showed this hierarchy of human needs as a pyramid consisting of the five levels. The person striving to achieve self actualization, or the individual’s maximum potential, must past through each, and satisfy these five steps before being psychologically free to move on.

The five basic levels of needs are:


Breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, excretion.


Security of body, employment, resources, morality, the family, health, property.


Friendship, family, sexual intimacy.


Self-esteem, confidence, level of success, respect of others, respect by others.


Harmony and understanding, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts. In conclusion, Maslow’s Theory of Motivation charts the path toward achieving the highest human potential. It passes through five areas, beginning with level 5 – Physiological and progressing to peak at level 1 – Self Actualization. Each level satisfies a fundamental basic human requirement.

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