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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Its Applications

Numerous people have heard about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs many times, as it is one of the world’s most famous psychological theories. Abraham Maslow created it about 80 years ago, during the Second World War, and it stays relevant nowadays according to different scholars. Therefore, it is essential to pay attention to it, realize its key concepts, and see how they can be applied.

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Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states that each individual has five human needs, and their fulfillment makes life meaningful. The psychologist emphasized the importance of physiological needs, safety, love and belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization in his theory. The first two are crucial for individuals’ bodies, while the last three fare or their minds. Maslow believed that people, who are only concerned about food, housing, and money, as well as those, who occupy themselves entirely with spirituality, cannot live fully to their potential. The theory explains that psychological needs can be met if physiological needs and safety (the first two levels of Maslow’s pyramid) are satisfied. Otherwise, it is impossible to live a balanced and meaningful life.

Each person needs to have the opportunity to fulfill physiological needs and live in a safe environment. “The underlying motivation in all humans is the satisfaction of the physiological needs, which support homeostasis, and safety, which is especially evident in children, as they enjoy and seek a predictable, orderly world in which to thrive” (Healy, 2016). Without any doubt, the lack of resources and a dangerous environment have adverse effects on people’s health. Moreover, they prevent them from meeting their psychological needs and growing mentally. For example, a mother of several children, who does not have enough money to pay bills and buy products, is unlikely to care for her spirituality but focus on earning and improving her family life. Unfortunately, such an individual cannot live to her full potential, as the last three levels of Maslow’s pyramid are ignored.

However, if people build love and belongingness, self-esteem, and self-actualization upon the satisfaction of physiological needs and safety, they can live happy and fulfilling lives. First, Maslow believed that social connections and intimate relationships are essential. Individuals who lack love and belongingness, experience depression, and feel miserable. Second, esteem is another critical element of the theory, which serves as the backdrop for the modern conceptualization of professional wellness as respect, fairness, and control (Hale et al., 2019). Finally, according to Maslow, self-actualization is the last step in making one’s life meaningful and fulfilling. Individuals at the top of the pyramid “are deeply motivated to follow a path called growth motivation that shifts focus from self-interest to social interest, resulting in personal satisfaction and communal peace” (D’Souza & Gurin, 2016). Hence, Maslow’s theory proves that the satisfaction of five human needs leads not only to one’s fulfilling life but also to social improvements.

Furthermore, analyzing the lives of many prominent individuals contributes to the understanding of the importance of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Shahrawat and Shahrawat (2017) explored the psychological theory’s application at the individual level through case studies of four prominent historical figures. For instance, they analyzed the life history of Mother Theresa. They concluded that she was an extremely healthy individual, as her work and outlook on life reflected that she was very motivated (Shahrawat & Shahrawat, 2017). The woman represented the best human traits because she was self-actualized and cared about others’ needs after fulfilling her own. Undoubtedly, her case depicts the considerable significance of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Individuals who succeed in reaching the last level of the pyramid can change their communities, countries, and even the world like Mother Theresa. Therefore, humanity must pay more attention to the theory, which may lead to further development and social improvements.

Moreover, there are numerous applications of the theory, which widely expand beyond the individual level. For example, Ron and Dantzler (2017) argue that the use of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides a practical, humanistic framework for counselors who work with refugees. In most cases, the latter are at the bottom of the pyramid; thus, they need to get sufficient resources and feel safisirst, and then counselors can help them fulfill their psychological needs. Besides, Hale et al. (2019) stated that Maslow’s theory also provides a framework for preventing burnout and promoting wellness. The researchers noted that that food, sleep, physical activity, safety, financial security, group gatherings, supporting family relationships, shared reflection, respect, fairness, control, and self-actualization are vital elements in achieving the goal (Hale et al., 2019). It is clear that they are based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and the theory likely provides frameworks in many other fields as well.

In conclusion, the psychological theory created about 80 years ago stays relevant nowadays. The idea that each individual should meet his/her physiological needs, live in a safe environment, experience love, belongingness, esteems, and self-actualize to live fulfilling lives and improve the world is powerful. Maslow believed that the five levels of his hierarchy are essential for realizing the meaning of life, and many people do so in the 21st century. The significance of the theory is proved by the life stories of many prominent individuals such as Mother Theresa. Besides, it can be applied in many spheres ranging from helping refugees to promoting wellness, as it provides practical frameworks. Therefore, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is worth everyone’s deep consideration and appreciation, as it has proved to change lives and societies.

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D’Souza, J., & Gurin, M. (2016). The universal significance of Maslow’s concept of self-actualization. The Humanistic Psychologist, 44(2), 210-214.

Hale, A. J., Ricotta, D. N., Freed, J., Smith, C. C., & Huang, G. C (2019). Adapting Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a framework for resident wellness. Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 31(1), 109-118.

Healy, K.J. (2016). A theory of human motivation by Abraham H. Maslow – Reflection. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 208(4), 313.

Lonn, M., & Dantzler, J. (2017). A practical approach to counseling refugees: Applying Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Journal of Counselor Practice, 8(2), 61–82.

Shahrawat A., & Shahrawat, R. (2017). Application of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in a historical context: Case studies of four prominent figures. Psychology, 08(07), 939-954.

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