In my book, Secrets of the Black Belt Mindset, I take a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how it relates to a person taking martial arts. The reason for this is, while many people, like me, start practicing martial arts because they think it will help them learn how to defend themselves, there are many other reasons people start training in the martial arts.
As a psychology professor and researcher of human behavior, I’ve found that these reasons seem to fit neatly into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
What is Maslow’s Hierarchy?
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a part of psychological motivational theory. It is composed of a five-tier model that describes human needs. This hierarchy is often represented by a pyramid.
This theory needs comes from humanism which focuses on the inner good in a person. Instead of focusing, as Freudian Psychoanalysis did, on how one’s past experiences or relationships with one’s parents drives a person’s unconscious motivations or, as Behaviorist did, believing that all human behavior can be conditioned in the same manner that you would train a dog, humanism focuses on the inner good in a person. Humanism tells us that over time and with the right experiences, a person grows and develops through a process Maslow called “self-actualization.”
In his theory, Maslow seeks to answer questions like:
“What does it take to become an accomplished individual?”
“How do you ‘win’ at this game called life?”
While there are many answers to these questions, Maslow theorizes that humans have a number of needs that they must fulfil to be truly happy and accomplished. He goes on to postulate that only the world’s most successful people reach the top of the pyramid.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
According to Maslow, a human’s psychological needs are:
- Physiological – The need for food, water, and warmth.
- Safety – The need for shelter and a lack of danger.
- Belonging and love – The need for relationships, community, and love.
- Esteem – The need of self-worth, status, and feelings of accomplishment.
- Self-actualization – The need for a sense of growth, purpose, meaning and creativity.
As you can see, the most pertinent and pressing human needs are those most basic ones. Without food and water, we will die.
But having food and water does not make you feel safe.
Without safety and security, we are in a constant state of anxiety.
But having a safety and security doesn’t help us feel like we belong.
You see, without relationships and community, we feel alone. Some of the most unhappy people in the world are those who feel alone. There are few things worse that being isolated and alone during the holidays or on your birthday.
But even if you have the family, you have the friends and you have the love, you still won’t reach your full potential if you have no sense of meaning, growth, or purpose. You need to feel you are living an authentic life, one filled with purpose and passion.
This is why so many people are depressed even when they seem to ‘have it all.’ You can be happily married, in a good job and with a sense of family and community. You can even like yourself.
But if you don’t feel like your life has meaning, that you aren’t living in alignment with your true self, you’ll feel like your life isn’t going anywhere. As a result, you’ll feel restless and won’t be truly content.
Why Growing Can Be So Difficult
The biggest reason most people never reach the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is growing is painful. The only way you can grow is to challenge yourself and get outside of your comfort zones. But this can be very difficult to do.
While you may not be in alignment with the work you do, when you have a nice warm bed and loving family, why would you quit your job? When you have all the conveniences we have in the developed world, why would you hit the gym? When you are comfortable with where you live, why go on a long expedition to a third world country?
It is so much easier to live a comfortable life. This level of comfort can make self-actualization seem to run counter to our physiological needs. The problem here is that until you find what makes you feel like you’re living in alignment with your authentic self, you won’t be truly fulfilled and happy. Even more, you won’t have met your true potential.
So, ask yourself, “What one thing can I do today that will move me out of my comfort zone and on to the path of authentic success?”
Continue to ask yourself this question for the next 30 days. Let me know how this makes a difference.
You can live a life of purpose and passion. Go ahead and take the first step today!