Ascending Maslow's Hierarchy

Created 2022-09-24T14:26:11.887Z, updated 2022-09-24T16:53:30.066Z, by Ruairi McNicholas.

There are a few ideas in this world that can be truly life-changing if you take them on board and work with them. One such idea is called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Take a look at this graphic and see can you get a rough idea of what it’s about.

This is a theory from psychology, but you don’t need to be a psychologist to understand how it works and to climb the pyramid yourself.

At the bottom, we have everything a human being needs to physically survive and stay alive. At the top we have self-actualisation; the desire, and capability to become the most that one can be, the best life you could live, the one that makes the best use of your unique situation, personality, and set of skills and talents. That’s where most of us want to get to – whether we know it or not. Each level of needs must be satisfied before one can attend to needs higher up the hierarchy.

Heaven on Earth

Personally, I think life itself is about ascending this hierarchy in a sustainable, compassionate manner that doesn’t prevent others from also ascending this hierarchy. Life is incredible. It’s a gift, a miracle, a grand adventure bestowed upon each of us. It’s a window of opportunity in which to ascend this hierarchy and become the best that you can be. Think about the word utopia, or heaven, or paradise. Now imagine a world in which every single human being rises to the top of this hierarchy over the course of their lives. That means no one is hungry or sick, no one is homeless. Everyone has good health, safe & sufficient employment, and personal security. Everyone has a loving, caring family and an intimate relationship. Everyone has a wealth of self-esteem, respect from their peers, status, recognition, and freedom. And this gives everyone the solid, secure base needed to become the best that they can be. Sounds like paradise to me, if it’s done in such a way that is sustainable and compassionate! And I believe that the best way to reach this paradise is for each person to first make this journey themselves; only when you are at the top of this pyramid can you really turn your attention to helping others to ascend it; helping people to do this is onethe goals of this website.

Consider where the majority of people born in the last 10,000, existed on this pyramid. Most of them probably moved between the two bottom levels, physiological and safety needs. Anything above that has generally been a luxury, afforded to a minute minority of kings, queens, royalty, and nobility. Not many peasants, or serfs had the opportunity to ascend this hierarchy (some hunter-gatherers might have– more on that later). And that makes you, my dear reader, extremely lucky. We live in a time where more people than ever have the opportunity to reach the top of this pyramid. If you’re reading this post right now, you’re likely past the first two steps at least, and have a good shot at getting to the top of this pyramid and staying there for a long time.

But getting to the top is going to require some sacrifice. Specifically, it’s going to require you to produce more and consume less; enter another very important diagram, the Consuming-Producing scale.

Consuming VS Producing

At one end of the scale we have the likes of Elon Musk, a man who spends the majority of his waking life producing. At the other end we have someone (or something) who does the bare minimum amount of producing required to survive. People at the producing end tend to be closer to the top of the pyramid, and people at the consuming end tend to be closet to the bottom of the pyramid.

You might be somewhere around the middle. You do a good 8 hours of work 5 days a week, and spend the rest of the day talking to friends and family, watching Netflix, listening to Spotify, and getting a nice big pizza delivered each night.

Or maybe you have a hobby – you like to paint, play guitar, read educational books. Now you’re a little further up the scale.

The reason that producers tend to be closer to self-actualisation is that most people’s self-actualised state involves producing something. Writing music, creating works of art, teaching kids to code, teaching adults to cook, the list is endless. Most people’s idea of self-actualisation is a world in which they proactively do something of worth. They produce something that is of value to themselves and others. Einstein’s version of self-actualisation was to work out deep problems in physics – producing. Bob Marley created beautiful song after song – producing. Elon Musk builds reusable rockets, efficient electric cars, and flamethrowers, amongst many other things – producing, producing, producing! But these are extreme outliers. More common examples are those university lecturers that really love what they teach and inspire their students to enjoy the process of learning. Your local guitar teacher who lives for seeing their students go from not being able to make a chord, to playing and singing Ed Sheeran songs at birthday parties. Every book author, every writer of music, every creator of new technology, every cutting edge researcher, every athlete, every chef, every rally car driver, every police officer, every astronaut, every economist, every writer of political policies, every psychologist, every nurse and doctor. All these people are producers, and if they love what they do and get deep fulfilment, enjoyment and satisfaction from it, then they are self-actualised.

A musician cannot, in most circumstances at least, write great music if they cannot pay their bills, or feed themselves, or sleep under a roof. One’s life tends to be disrupted if their employment is lost or their health declines. It’s hard to focus on your hobby if you’ve just gone through a breakup or had a big argument with a close friend. It’s difficult to engage in any creative or academic endeavour if your respect and self-esteem are low.

So this is the challenge ahead of you. This is the road that leads to your own personal utopia. Climbing this pyramid is the highly important, life-changing skill that wasn’t taught to most of us in school or college. This, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, is it. This is life, and a happy, fulfilled life awaits you at the top of this pyramid.

Make the most of your life by beginning your own unique, exciting journey to self-actualisation!
I will be working on adding resources to this website that help others to do this.