Our happiness is derived from how we choose to meet our basic needs. The quality of those activities and how and when they occur are all moving pieces of a puzzle that we are all endlessly trying to juggle.
Abraham Maslow, a renowned American psychologist credited with introducing a foundational ideology for which modern psychology is based upon, has a somewhat dated view of human behavior.
At the time that Maslow introduced his pyramid-based evaluation of basic human needs, the science was ground-breaking. But the human race evolves at a rapid pace and the nuances of modern societies have changed since Maslow’s days.
What is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?
Dr. Abraham Maslow submitted a paper in 1943 titled “A Theory of Human Motivation” that would become a foundation for studying human behavior and psychology, providing the basis for modern mental health treatments and exercises.
We are more than seventy years into the future and the basis for Maslow’s theory still holds value in our modern world. Maslow proposes that all humans share the same basic needs. These needs are arranged in tiered categories with the most basic and most important on the base of the pyramid and ascending upwards to the less-essential and more-fulfilling needs.
At our most basic level, all human beings share a need for things like food, water, and sleep. These are things that are required to support life and not meeting these needs can have a range of consequences, up to and including death.
If we are alive and meeting our physical needs, the next level of needs addresses our shared desire to have safety, security and stability in our lives. In the physical world, we need shelter (home) from the elements, security in our ability to provide (career), and safety in our environment (protection).
If we are alive and we are secure, we need connection. Humans are social creatures with the ability to make deep emotional connections. These connections are as important for our survival as they are for our mental health. All humans need love, friendship, intimacy, and family.
If we are alive and secure, our basic needs are met. And, if we have built an appropriate support network, we can begin to focus on elevating ourselves by meeting our esteem needs. Esteem needs include building confidence in yourself and respect in your relationships with others.
If we are alive and secure, our basic needs are met. If we have well-developed support networks our emotional needs are met. If we are confident and respected, our esteem needs are met. Only when the base layers of the pyramid have been met, can we authentically pursue meaningful self-growth. Creativity, morality, and true leadership come from a place of self-actualization and rank at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
What Maslow’s Needs Look Like in 2021
While our world still sees more poverty and hunger than it should in 2021, sustainable agriculture and well-developed infrastructure is able to provide food and water in abundant supplies. Malnutrition is less common than it was in Maslow’s heyday and most of us take our nutritional needs for granted.
Physical Needs in 2021
Clean-eating or low-carb diets that moderate or eliminate processed foods
Water Intake Tracking Water Bottles
Debating the merits of BPA-free plastics for food and water versus glass or stainless steel
Fitness trackers and smart devices that monitor sleep habits
Sleep meditation, sound machines, and melatonin supplements
Safety Needs in 2021
Home security systems and video doorbells
Educational opportunities (to secure employment)
Self-defense training; concealed-carry classes
Emotional, Verbal, or Physical Abuse Awareness and victim support
Special programs that provide pathways to homeownership (i.e. first time homebuyers)
Social Needs in 2021
Mindful meditation and self-love (meditation, journaling, affirmations)
Peaceful protesting to effect change on important issues like acceptance
Dating apps and social media networks
Emphasis on “company culture” and “work-life balance”
Esteem Needs in 2021
Using the “superman” pose for a quick confidence boost
Embracing individuality with piercings, tattoos, and unique hair colors
Donating or contributing to an important cause; being charitable
Adopting a growth mindset; embracing change
Intention-setting to expand your goal-setting (achievement)
Self-Growth Needs in 2021
DIY Workshops and Canvas Painting Classes (Creativity)
Podcasts, blogs, videos and other sources of content consumption
Mentoring and coaching in the workplace instead of evaluating and reprimanding
Read or write a best-selling non-fiction book
Go back to school or take an online class; change careers
The world might look different today than it did in Maslow’s 1943 summation. But when you strip down the activities that we engage in to fulfill our needs today, we are serving the same purpose.
People are still seeking and drawn to attitudes of gratitude and appreciation. They still seek to find a balance between what they can control and what they cannot control. They still crave authentic, meaningful connections and principle-driven actions.
Modern society affords us a higher level of comfort than our predecessors knew, but our basic needs remain the same, even if the packaging looks a little different today.