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Maslow’s hierarchy of needs explained

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs explained

Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs Explained

The 5 levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs to boost your motivation

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: what is it? How many levels does it include? Abraham Maslow is an American psychologist who in 1954 published a new model of hierarchy of human needs, which later became known as the pyramid of needs. Although it has received numerous criticisms, it still represents a reference point in modern psychology today.

What is Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational model of human development. Motivation is the set of determining elements underlying our behaviour. We feel an urge to act whenever a need arises. It can be aware (hunger, thirst, etc.) or unconscious (instinct, drives).

Maslow’s pyramid of human needs

Maslow’s pyramid of needs groups 6 levels, which become more and more complex as the basic ones are met. The fulfilment of basic needs is necessary to bring out those of a higher order.

Therefore, below we will go to see what are the different hierarchical levels of our needs. We will start from those essential for survival to what leads us to exploit all our potential and beyond.

What about you? How far can you go? Let’s find out together with an explanation of the theory of human needs.

Maslow hierarchy of needs theory
Maslow hierarchy of needs (1954)

Basic needs

What are the physiological needs

The first level of the pyramid includes all the needs that allow us to respond to our survival instinct. Something more advanced cannot be accomplished if the physical and vital conditions do not allow it. It groups together actions that we perform almost automatically, following the instinct of self-preservation.

The physiological needs are: nutrition, hydration, breathing, sleep, sex, homeostasis.

Imagine that while you are doing very important work, your breathing suddenly stops. It is clear that your task will automatically take a back seat because if you don’t breathe you will lose your life in no time.

Safety needs

With the entire first level under control, the need for security takes over. It manifests itself in many areas of our life, from health to financial status.

The protective instinct is what intervenes when we deal with the control and order of our life. Consequently, we tend to reject everything new, because it takes us away from this state of predictability. This is because this need is not yet fully satisfied.

Safet needs include physical security of employment, moral, family, health and property.

We are driven by safety needs when we are looking for a stable job or a house to live in. Other examples of actions are: seeking health care or going to the hospital when health is in danger.

All of these physiological and safety needs are called “basic” as they prevent the emergence of emotions such as anxiety and worry.

So, have you noticed any of your daily actions that respond to the needs belonging to this level? If so, which one?

Psychological needs

Belongingness & love needs

Belongingness & love needs include everything related to the social and relational aspect of our life: love, acceptance, belonging. Therefore, the third level includes friendship, family affection, intimacy and community.

In the first two levels of the pyramid, we have seen the needs for survival and protection. In this category, for the first time, we also act on the basis of what is outside of us.

For example, participating in activity groups such as theatre, cinema or sports teams satisfies these needs. In addition, some social networks also respond to our need for belonging, such as Facebook.

However, if we do not meet the needs of the first two levels it will be difficult to have healthy relationships. Those who are worried or anxious about something will not have the priority of relating to the outside world.

Esteem needs

In this section, we find first and foremost: success and prestige. The desire to get due consideration for our efforts lies on this level.

At a certain point in our life, there also comes the need to find a place in the world. It includes respect, approval and self-esteem. These are the so-called “social needs”. Instagram, for example, was created precisely to fulfil the desire for esteem and gratification.

However, this does not necessarily mean depending on the opinion of others, but it also means confronting oneself. An example of an action that responds to this need could be the achievement of a promotion or a degree.

Nevertheless, each of us acts according to our own map of the world. Both fighting for a medal at the Olympics or winning an amateur tournament can satisfy this need.


Esteem needs group was initially regarded as the highest level but, as we shall see, the sixth is even more complex.

The need for self-actualisation groups together: awareness, morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem-solving, acceptance and absence of prejudice.

Why are so many people dissatisfied with their work or life in general? Probably because they fail to meet the needs of this section.

Self-actualisation requires a lot of effort to be achieved. Satisfying this need means realizing one’s identity and making the most of one’s potential. We are often unhappy with our work because we feel we can give more.

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Successful people are self-aware and interested in personal growth. They do not pay attention to the opinion of others and are constantly motivated to give their best.

Now I ask you a question: what are you doing daily to reach this level? Know that it requires healthy habits and constant effort.

Maslow’s sixth level of motivation


We often tend to stagnate in our level or retreat in the hierarchy, because we follow up on a lot of distractions. There will come a point where the need to learn and evolve will disappear.

What to do in this circumstance? If we stop we will tend to regress towards mediocrity. It is like a parasite that resides within us and takes away our energies. We can decide to feed it or let it die thanks to healthy habits for our mind and body.

So, having arrived at the full realization of ourselves and at the maximum of our potential, now what do we have left? Exceed your limits. Transcendence consists precisely in going beyond, beyond our potential.

We can see this state of life in personal challenges. Sometimes, for example, world-record holders get back in the game to beat their own score. This is a clear example of continuous evolution and excellent work on oneself.

What direction do you want to give your life?

In the sixth level you begin to act for a “mission” that goes beyond yourself, which includes something greater. Your actions are designed to change the world!

The position in Maslow’s levels can change throughout life. We can be at the fifth level, and tomorrow go down one or regress to the first or second, even in 24 hours.

Maslow’s pyramid of needs in marketing

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs did not consider that each of us can be pushed by several needs at the same time, and therefore we can cover more than one level. Nevertheless, this pyramid remains current and it is still consulted today in digital marketing. It is used to identify different targets because people on different levels respond to different stimuli.

At this point, where are you taking your life? Discover your potential and you will realize that you are much more than what you think.

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