Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one of my favorite theories of motivation because it encompasses all the types of motivation as well as tells which ones offer the most happiness and how to reach them.

According to Maslow, higher needs can only be reached when lower needs are first obtained.

The base of the hierarchy consists of basic physiological needs such as food, water, and warmth. Without these you cannot survive, so you should acquire these needs before striving for higher needs.

Above physiological needs lies safety needs such as security and protection. You cannot reach for higher needs if you feel unsafe and afraid of things like murderers, thieves, and natural disasters.

After basic physiological and safety needs are met, you can begin to reach for needs of belongingness. This is the motivation for intimate relationships with friends and family. It is the desire for a sense of love and belonging to a group.

Above belongingness is esteem needs, which is the motivation to feel good about yourself. This includes the desire for praise, attention, achievement, importance, and power.

Finally, the top of the hierarchy of needs lies self-actualization, which means reaching your full potential. This includes self-improvement, virtues, peace, creativity, morality, and spirituality. This is the desire to have no regrets when you are on your deathbed, knowing you did everything you could to live a good life.

The thing about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is that the higher you reach up the hierarchy, the more satisfied and happier you’ll be. A self-actualized human will feel much better than a person who only cares about food and comfort. This is a fact that many people intuitively know but fail to practice. Too often, people overemphasize basic needs such as food, safety, and comfort. They spend too much time on their couch, eating too much food. This is comfortable but it only provides superficial and non-lasting happiness.

Furthermore, people often top out at esteem needs. Once they improve their self-esteem and ego by being successful, they fail to reach higher for self-actualization needs. At some point, esteem needs begin to feel superficial and unimportant.

Therefore, I suggest you become aware of which needs you have acquired, and know when you should reach higher. Don’t settle for the comfort of basic needs, or even the love and ego boosts of belongingness and esteem needs. Reach higher and strive for self-actualization.

However, remember that you can’t go straight to self-actualization without first establishing and maintaining the needs below it. The key to a good life is to strive towards self-actualization while maintaining a necessary amount of basic, safety, belonging, and esteem desires.

How can you apply this knowledge to your athletic career? The answer is to understand the purpose of your motivations and what needs they cater to. Are you just playing for money to secure basic physiological and safety needs? Are you playing to belong to something greater than yourself, such as a team? Are you playing to be the best (esteem) or to be the best you can be (self-actualization)? Answering these questions can help you reevaluate your priorities as well as give you the motivation to reach your athletic and life goals.