Human-Centered Management

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – A Motivational Theory

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

The Original 5 Stage Model of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow first developed the idea of a hierarchy of needs in 1943 (Cherry, 2018). The purpose of the hierarchy was to show what motivated people and when that motivation would occur. As the needs are met on the lower levels of the pyramid model, people are motivated to work on satisfying the needs within the higher levels.

The general idea of the pyramid is that if one is focused on a simpler need, they may not be able to work on satisfying a more complex need further up the pyramid. If one is exceptionally hungry, they may forego any concerns for their safety or continued happiness in order to meet their basic physiological needs. If the person is working on meeting their self-esteem needs, it can be assumed that they have mostly achieved security, love, and belonging needs.

It is important to understand that not everyone may be motivated by the same things and motivation may change over time. No one needs to meet all the aspects of each level of the pyramid before working on higher levels. For example, it is possible to live in an unsafe neighborhood but still find love and belonging within your home.

While the theory is generally portrayed as a fairly rigid hierarchy, Maslow noted that the order in which these needs are fulfilled does not always follow this standard progression. For example, he noted that for some individuals, the need for self-esteem is more important than the need for love. For others, the need for creative fulfillment may supersede even the most basic needs. (Cherry, 2018)

The needs are:

  1. Physiological Needs
  2. Safety and Security
  3. Love and Belonging
  4. Self-Esteem
  5. Self-Actualization

*Learn more about the expanded Hierarchy of Needs here or Alderfer’s ERG Theory of Motivation here

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

The Motivational Needs Explained

The lower level needs stem from a lack of something. A lack of food, safety, or love. Maslow regarded these as deficiency needs. They are needs that arise when something is missing. Self-Actualization is a growth need. Rather than being deprived of something, this is where a person has a desire to grow beyond what they are currently.

Physiological Needs: Physiological needs are the basic requirements for survival. We need to breathe, eat, drink water, and sleep. You probably don’t care about your self-esteem or how good you look if you haven’t eaten in 20 days.

Safety and Security: People need a safe and stable environment. They have a desire to live in a home free from violence or live in a neighborhood where it is safe to walk outside. Ideally, they live in a country free from war. Not only are they meeting basic physiological needs in the short-term, but their supply of future physiological needs is safe. They can expect not to die from drinking the water and they can expect to have food tomorrow.

Love and Belonging: Love and Belonging is the degree to which you need companionship and acceptance from others in your life. Not everyone needs as much as others, but most desire some love from family, partners, and friends.

Self-Esteem: High Self-Esteem may in some ways be a natural result from meeting the needs of love and belonging you require. It, however, tends to go beyond others acceptance of who you are, it is more about you accepting who you are.

Self-Actualization: Self-Actualization is more about personal growth and finding meaning in your life. When your deficiency needs are met, you seek to grow and expand yourself.

Books on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs




Cherry, K.. (2018). The Five Levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved From

Journal Psyche. (N.D.) The Quest for Self-Actualization. Retrieved From

5 replies »

  1. This is a great summary of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs! I like how you emphasize that each level below another needs to to be fulfilled before the needs above it become more important to a person. I just finished my own post on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and describing how it could possibly be applied to somebody’s own life. Feel free to check out my blog with that post along with others that all tie into leading a more positive life in whatever capacity that may be in. Great post, and I look forward to any contributions that you may have to my content!

    Liked by 1 person

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