What motivates us?

Is it money and sex? Or are we motivated by simple positive reinforcement like most animals? Abraham Maslow believed motivation came from more than just Nature – the Primitive Desires,  and Nurture – Reinforcement & Love. He also believed that our needs and motivation for them changed based off of a hierarchy. He wrote an article describing in detail about how these needs are established and played out through our lives.



There are 5 needs that comprise of the hierarchy. Someone is not motivated to achieve one level until the previous level is met. So if you are tired and hungry, you are not going to care too much about about reading a book on how to become more enlightened. Maslow said the longer the person does not achieve their need, the stronger the need will become eg., Increased hunger for a lack of food. Maslow also said that more than one need can be prevalent at once. Multiple needs can motivate individuals at the same time. A person could want to increase confidence and have more sexual intimacy from his partner at the same time.

Survival Needs


Physiological Needs

These needs are the physical requirements for human survival. If not met then your body cannot function and will fail. This need is satiated with sleeping, eating, breathing and maintaining balance. It is the core necessities.

maslows needs - food

Safety Needs

A lack of finances, employment, bad health, and no roof over your head will activate your safety needs. These needs are all about preserving your resources for physical security. Countries in war or economic crisis can cause more people to drop lower in their needs and lose their sense of achieving higher goals.

housing and money - maslows needs

Love Belonging

Once these two basic needs are met, then the person can work towards achieving what Maslow called “Higher Order Needs.” The first of these is being motivated to attain friends, family and a romantic partner. Friends offer you a sense of belonging that can be found through sports teams or other brotherhood based organizations. Your romantic partner and family offer you love and sexual intimacy.

love couple - maslows needs


Esteem (Ego)

Simply having a family and girlfriend does not automatically grant your respect, confidence and acceptance. These are the needs of the Ego. These needs all affect each other as well. If you are not respected by your friends then you will most likely lack confidence. If you are not achieving much in your life then your self-esteem will most likely be weakened.


Self-Actualization (Fulfillment)

“What a man can be, he must be.” -Abraham Maslow

According to Maslow only about 2% of the population achieve self-actualization in their lives. Maslow believed that self-actualization can be measured through the concept of peak experiences. This State of being happens when a person experiences the world totally for what it is. There are feelings of euphoria, joy and wonder. The ego is not present with the person and the person is experiencing flow.

It is important to note that self-actualization is a continual process of reaching for your full potential in life rather than achieving a perfect state. It will never be fully achieved, but rather reached for continually. Self-Actualization refers to the person’s desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially.

meditating on street - maslows needs

“Although people achieve self-actualization in their own unique way, they tend to share certain characteristics. However, self-actualization is a matter of degree. There are no perfect human beings.” -Maslow

Characteristics and Behaviors of A Self-Actualized Person

  • Their view of the world is efficient
  • They tolerate uncertainty
  • They accept themselves and others for who they are
  • There is Spontaneity in thought and action
  • When they hear a problem they don’t make it about themselves
  • They have a unique sense of humor
  • They are highly creative
  • They don’t let society dictate their values
  • They care about humanity as a whole
  • There is an appreciation for the simple things in life
  • They have close and deep relationships with a few people, rather than many acquaintances
  • They experiences constant peak experiences
  • They need alone time in the day to recover
  • They have a strong sense of integrity
  • They view the world with a childlike sense of wonder
  • They enjoy and constantly strive for novelty
  • They have a high sense of emotional intelligence and regulation
  • They are honest and don’t play mind games
  • They have a high sense of responsibility
  • They own up to their mistakes

You can take a free Maslow’s Needs Quiz to see what needs motivate you in your life.

Here were my results:

Maslow Inventory Results
Physiological Needs (20%) you appear to have everything you need to survive physically.
Safety Needs (24%) you appear to have a very secure environment.
Love Needs (44%) you appear to be semi-content with the quality of your social connections.
Esteem Needs (20%) you appear to have a high level of personal competence.
Self-Actualization (53%) you appear to have an average level of individual development.

Take Free Maslow Inventory Test


Maslow Self-Actualization

Check out the video below on how…What it means to be Self-Actualized and how to achieve it.

Here’s Maslow’s Book on Human Motivation if you’re interested in reading it from the man himself:

A Theory of Human Motivation by A. H. Maslow

theory of human evolution

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