Maslow’s Motivation and Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow made five basic assumptions about motivation within his famous theory of personality. The first one is that motivation affects the entire organism, not its part (holistic approach). Secondly, several diverse motives (factors) contribute to motivation’s complexity (Taormina & Gao, 2013). Third, Maslow revealed that human beings are continuously motivated at least by one need. The fourth is that fundamental motivational factors (needs) are met differently in various cultures but remain the universal motivation source. Finally, the prominent psychologist stated that individuals’ needs have a hierarchy configuration, and only higher need motivates people to act since the lower one is satisfied.

The hierarchy of needs introduced by Maslow has five stages (innate needs). It starts with basic deficiency needs running upward to self-actualization (Acevedo, 2018). According to the American psychologist, self-fulfillment can be achieved only by alternate satisfaction of needs from the bottom to the top. The first and most important one is physiological, which includes oxygen, food, and water. It is a basis for survival and further personal development, as a hungry individual will care only about the food. The next rung is safety-security needs that consist of stability, shelter (safe place), a guardian (police), and an ethical, legal system. In other words, people tend to facilitate their survival by addressing various threats following the satisfaction of psychological needs.

The third level is represented by belongingness needs that reflect human beings’ social nature who seek interpersonal attachments and want to feel belonging to others. They comprise the desire for friendship, the need for family (love), club, or active membership in other social groups (belongingness). These needs can be seen in every human society; thus, they are universal. The deprivation of them leads to negative personal consequences, such as anxiety and depression caused by loneliness, isolation, and social rejection. According to Hoffman (2017), Maslow believed that self-actualizing people have deep friendships mainly to sustain the emotional well-being they met before. Moreover, these individuals have more emphatic and caring love relations due to already satisfied needs for respect, self-esteem, admiration, and dominance.

The fourth stage is esteem, which includes competence, confidence, self-respect (self-esteem), and esteem from others. It means that esteem needs come from the lack of respect an individual receives from the community and themselves (Taormina & Gao, 2013). For instance, people who engage in socially undesirable behavior receive less esteem from others. In general, it is a furthering of belongingness, as it is not enough for one to be a part of the group. The person should be respected by the group members to fulfill this need. The self-actualization needs comprise the final level of the hierarchy. At this stage, an individual seeks self-fulfillment and wants to realize the full potential.

The Bible also provides prominent examples of motivation and its factors. For instance, in the book of Philippians, Paul shared his own attitude to human needs and revealed what motivated him through his sufferings. He stated, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). The Apostle also said, “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things” (Philippians 3:7). It means that his greatest motivation was to follow God’s plan and live for Christ. The wealth and other material benefits are garbage compared to the true faith, as Christians can experience joy in believing, serving, giving, and even suffering.

To conclude, Maslow revealed that every individual has the capacity to achieve self-actualization. To do that, he or she should gradually satisfy the five needs: physiological, safety-security, belongingness, esteem, and ultimately self-actualization. He revealed that human beings do not always strive for ultimate need since their self-esteem is met. Some people stay at this stage, others go down, but those who achieved self-actualization would have a truly healthy life.


Acevedo, A. (2018). A personalistic appraisal of Maslow’s needs theory of motivation: From “humanistic” psychology to integral humanism. Journal of Business Ethics, 148(4), 741-763. Web.

Hoffman, E. (2017). The social world of self-actualizing people: reflections by Maslow’s biographer. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 60(6), 908-933. Web.

Taormina, R. J., & Gao, J. H. (2013). Maslow and the motivation hierarchy: Measuring the satisfaction of the needs. The American Journal of Psychology, 126(2), 155-177. Web.