You’re ready to do your best creative work. You put aside everything else and wait patiently for the spark of inspiration. Yet, it doesn’t come. Instead, the food-urge, or other physiological need, owns your entire mind.
How often does situation like this occur in your life? How often do physiological needs defeat your glorified higher self?
Everyone has to eat, drink, piss or…do shit. Yet, some can ignore physiological urge while others cannot think about anything else when it comes. How is it possible?
Hierarchy of Needs
The answer lays in personal hierarchy of needs. Everyone has such a ranking, which is similar to general model developed by Abraham Maslow. It comes in the form of pyramid, where in order to achieve needs from the higher level, you should first fulfill the ones from the bottom layers.
The classic composition of the pyramid is shown at the figure.
However, it’s not that easy. While common pattern is usually similar to the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, details of your personal pyramid are different.
The Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is (like all general psychological models) a great topic for academic discussions but it often sucks in real life.
One the other hand, you could greatly benefit from knowing your personal rating of needs.
Importance of personalization of pyramid of needs
Maslow was right. We rate our needs. What he did not stress out was that everyone has personal individualized pyramid of needs. Moreover, such a pyramid is constantly changing to reflect the present situation.
Thus, you shouldn’t adopt the Maslow’s hierarchy as given. Instead, you had better become more self-conscious and determine your own pyramid.
The Maslow’s concept was that if you have not cover the basic needs yet (from the lower level), it will be extremely difficult to pursue something at the higher level of the pyramid. However, the threshold to pass is personal.
For example, my wife cannot think about anything else than food when she’s hungry, while I can starve myself for up to 48 hours without any visible negative effects. On the other hand, I cannot think about anything but sleep, when I even slightly sleep-deprived, while my wife can cope with that easily.
Additionally, the threshold fluctuates during the life of individual. In fact, it can change in a matter of minutes. In the above example, simple meal would flip upside down the short-term pyramid of my wife.
Two types of pyramid of needs and why you need both
The main conclusion from the above paragraphs is that two types of pyramid of needs exist. They are:
hierarchy of needs
The long-term hierarchy of needs is what Maslow tried to describe. It’s your general ranking of needs, especially clearly visible in the optimal circumstances. This type of hierarchy changes slowly and is a default classification of your motivations in life.
Knowing this type of hierarchy is beneficial. The sense of clarity it provides, vastly improves your chances to increase long-term happiness and balance in life.
hierarchy of needs
The short-term hierarchy of needs is based on your long-term pyramid, and it is temporary by definition. Needs classified there are constantly rearranging using signals from your inner and outer world to better reflect the current situation.
Knowing this type of hierarchy is also beneficial. By acknowledging its existence, you could explain little failures and temporary urges for needs from various levels of personal pyramid.
In the defense of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
The existence of the two types of hierarchy shows the weakness of many Maslow opponents’ arguments. Let me explain this on two common examples of seeming conflict between Maslow’s theory and reality.
- People frequently override lower needs in
order to pursue higher ones. Sometimes, they do so to the extreme and die
for a cause.
Personal nature of both types of pyramid diminishes the above argument. You are the only one who knows what is on the ground level of your long- and short-term ranking. Commonly, it is not in perfect alignment with Maslow’s generalization. However, in the light of the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs on Steroids presented in this article, it’s all as expected.
- People who are suffering from extreme
conditions (death camps during WWII, penal servitude etc.) willingly try
to fulfill higher needs, even when lower needs are not achieved.
Again, existence of two types of the pyramid weakens the above argument. Temporary, the pyramid often turns upside down. It’s just the mater of circumstances. In the presented extreme examples, lower needs are objectively impossible to fulfill. This makes rearrangement of short-term ranking indispensable.
Blind adopting the Maslow’s general hierarchy of needs is a mistake. Instead, you should take time to recognize your individualized short- and long-term ranking of needs, your Personal Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs on Steroids.
To complement your knowledge on hierarchy of needs, I need to clarify one fact about the thresholds within the pyramid. You already know that they are individual and fluctuate (even in the long-term hierarchy). But, do you fully understand how it influences your efforts? Do you recognize that what allows you to barely slip through to the top today, could be not enough to stay there in the next month? It is a pity, but there is a simple solution.
In order to prevent yourself from possible negative outcomes, while staying on the top of the pyramid always remember about its lower levels. Do not take this advice lightly or you will always feel that it is easy to reach the top, but it is hard to stay there for longer.
This article is an expanded fragment of my book: “HABIT LAUNCH: 10-Step Formula to Tailor Routines You Love to Perform and Skyrocket Your Well-being”. For checking it out, click here. You might also look at my author site at moniuszko.net