How Can We Motivate Ourselves Consistently?
I made a post recently that talked about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from a psychological stand point and how it effects motivation. We can get motivated with awesome quotes, but why not look at what psychology tells us about it and try to see how we can apply this effectively. Considering how old the model is it’s amazing the insight it provides and the advice it offers if you want to achieve self-actualization which I believe is crucial to living your best life and I want that for everyone so I wanted to dive into this. Now that my motivations are clear let’s begin.
Maslow’s Hierachy Of Needs
Abraham Maslow created the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory and proposed it in a paper in 1943 and then fully released it in 1954 in a book titled Motivation and Personality.
Below we have the original basic 5 tier model which we will start with as it’s what everyone is most familiar with. I spoke about how money isn’t a psychological requirement to be your best self, but as someone pointed out you do need financial stability for your safety needs. I want to be clear that when I say money isn’t how you become self actualized, I mean to say that once you have enough to get by, which is most people who are reading this if you have time to read random blogs, then you are able to focus on your needs beyond the 2nd tier. Of course if you are struggling or homeless I don’t expect it to be so simple to become self actualized, however we all can still pursue any of these tiers, but some require more immediate attention than others.
The first 4 tiers are your deficiency needs meaning that if you don’t fulfill them you will suffer in that you will be demotivated and it will be more challenging to achieve your needs higher up the scale if you’re lower tier needs aren’t fulfilled, but absolutely not impossible. Don’t expect to be out and about earning respect and status if you’re not sleeping, starving, and have no water. The point I’m making here with this entire blog is that to reach one’s full potential you can and should aim to be self actualized. Even someone struggling to meet their physiological needs could in fact be self actualized, but given there are already so few who are it’s highly unlikely that you would be able to achieve that level if you’re struggling on every other tier. Most people aren’t even aware that pursuit of passion will increase their motivation and improve their psychological well being. Not everyone realizes that seeking freedom is a high level need that you require. This is why I’d like to bring light to this. I would also like to take a look at a more updated model with many more growth tiers for us to break it down so that we can more easily identify these and set goals around them.
In the 1970s they added cognitive and aesthetic needs. The model above is the adapted model that was invented in the 1990s. Here we see there are 3 more growth tiers added that cover your motivation in regards to personal growth. Leading up to self actualization we actually have cognitive needs which would be a search for knowledge and understanding and having a need for meaning. Aesthetic needs regard appreciation for beauty, art, form, etc. It’s essentially being able to appreciate more things in life in seeing the magic of it all. It vastly helps you to be motivated to see the world through the eyes of a child and absorb everything. Self actualization which is the goal we’ve been talking about here is realizing your potential, seeking self fulfillment and personal growth. Now when you are seeking cognitive and aesthetic needs you are also seeking personal growth in a sense, but self actualization is the awareness that you want to grow and develop yourself conscientiously. The last tier which few achieve is transcendence. This is where you are motivated by values that transcend your personal self and to connect to something beyond one’s ego or to help others reach self actualization. It’s where you take all that you have gained from the previous tiers and put it to work to bring change and improvements.
How Maslow described self actualized people:
“It may be loosely described as the full use and exploitation of talents, capabilities, potentialities, etc. Such people seem to be fulfilling themselves and to be doing the best that they are capable of doing… They are people who have developed or are developing to the full stature of which they capable.”
Characteristics Of People Who Are Self Actualized
These are more or less word for word, but they vary across academia as to the exact characteristics. They typically hold the same ideals and values though so I will share all of them to give you the broadest concept of what a self actualizer may look like. These are traits you could develop if you follow the behaviors and or strive to be self actualized. This is not an exact template it’s not like you would have to want all the ideals and you would require them all, these are just common among those who are self actualized.
- Seek happiness
- Pursue goals
- Utilize and develop their talents, skills, and abilities
- Perceive reality efficiently and tolerate uncertainty
- Accept themselves and others for they are
- See problems as challenges to overcome rather than as complaints or excuses
- Can look at life objectively
- Reliant on own experiences and judgement and acts independent of culture, collective, and environment to form opinions
- Non-conformist to social pressures and enculturation (however they aren’t unconventional)
- Socially compassionate and concerned for welfare of humanity
- Deep appreciate of basic life experiences, able to find interest in anything
- Have few close intimate relationships with a few people
- Need for privacy and and comfortable spending time alone
- Democratic attitude by being fair and embracing all styles and differences
- Strong and rigorous moral and ethical standards for behavior
- Seek out peek experiences
Do any of these jump out at you? Do you share any of these? Are there any traits maybe this is missing?
What Do Self Actualizers Do That Makes Them That Way?
Well it really comes down to their behaviors so that’s what we will look at. Interestingly enough we can see that these traits are among a lot of the best and brightest today. These behaviors you can try to incorporate into your daily life that should help lead you along the path to self actualization:
- Experience life like a child would with full absorption and concentration
- Trying out new things and getting outside your comfort zone
- Listening to your own feeling and intuition rather than the voice of tradition, authority, or the majority
- Avoiding pretenses and strictly being honest
- Being prepared to be unpopular if your views are not that of the majority
- Taking responsibility for your actions and results
- Working hard and working smart
- Trying to identify your defenses and being able to give them up
Criticisms Of This Model
It’s almost 50 years old, but we don’t have a much more accurate model than this and we’ve almost completely given up on trying to motivate people. The main criticisms were that originally it was thought that one who wasn’t fulfilling even their basic needs couldn’t reach self actualization when that may not be the case and the data that founded this model was a small sampling. That being said after a study was conducted between 2005 to 2010 with over 60,000 participants they found that a lot of these needs were accurate, but as they originally criticized, they found that you could still achieve higher tiers without fully fulfilling lower tiers. A study published in 2011, researchers from Illinois also tested it again. While there isn’t a lot of research around this theory, the results tend to be the same that these needs are strong indicators for motivation and behavior. Again we have to realize that it is much easier for you to have good relationships when you’re not starving and it’s much easier to pursue your dreams when you have a place to sleep.
Given there are other useful theories to consider. I will start a series out of this to cover the rest. However, I do believe the behaviors suggested in Maslow’s model are the most useful and actionable bits of information we can use everyday.
Fundamental Human Needs
This is a taxonomy of fundamental human needs developed by Mandred Max-Neef in 1991, however it doesn’t offer solutions or end goals to aim for rather it identifies all possible needs and categorizes them. It’s a very interesting theory which we will take a look at in the near future.
This is another more recent theory related to psychotherapy developed by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell in the late 1990s. It focuses more on counselling and helping people identify and deal with mental illness associated with not meeting their emotional needs. This is a great one to look at and we will dive into this in another blog post.
This was proposed in the early 1940s and developed after Maslow’s theory in the 1960s. It is a fairly basic model that I will just explain here.
It states that people have a need for achievement, affiliation, and power. Those are the main needs and all other needs fall under that. It doesn’t have a lot of research of backing so I wouldn’t worry about it too much, it’s mostly concerning management styles and behaviors.
Positive Disintegration Theory
This was published in Kazimierz Dabrowski’s 1964 book titled Positive Disintegration. I will cover this later in the series as there’s a lot to unpack here.
Clayton Alderfer further developed Maslow’s hierarchy into his ERG theory of existence, relatedness, and growth. This was just published in 2017 in Organizational Behavior and Human Performance so there isn’t a lot on this yet, but I will cover it in the future too.
There are others models in existence, but believe this model to still be extremely useful for identifying things in our lives that we can change and improve and work on to try to fully fulfill our needs and be as motivated as we possibly can so we don’t need motivation from others. I like this model specifically because it points out the exact behaviors you can incorporate into your life that will help you along the path to self actualization. Many are stuck unless someone other than themselves can motivate them, but by following through this model you can identify where you can improve and thus motivate yourself. If you want to more self aware, less concerned with the opinions of others, and to fulfill your full potential, then try to incorporate as many of the self actualized behaviors into your everyday routine and experiences. The most important one that I found I needed to work on was identifying my defenses and giving them up.
If anything you don’t need to worry too much about the tiers and really just focus on trying to integrate the positive behaviors exhibited by self actualizers to improve your life and the lives of those around you.
Let me know your thoughts below I am always interested to share and learn together.
These sources also references hundreds of their own academic texts that you can skim through