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Positive Thinking 101

A guide to psychologist Abraham Maslow’s pyramid of human needs.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow used a pyramid to show the different levels of innate human needs: physiological, safety and security, belongingness, esteem and respect, and self-actualization. When the needs at one level are met, an individual naturally moves on to the next level. The exception is at the apex. Progress doesn’t stop when your highest needs are met. They motivate you to achieve further and remain self-actualized.

First Level: Physiological Needs
These pertain to the most basic requirements for our survival and physical well-being: air, food, water, sleep. You can best fulfill these needs with good daily nutrition, sound health habits and regular physical exercise.

Second Level: Safety and Security Needs
These encompass the sense of physical safety and security. We need to feel safe and secure where we live and work, reasonably protected from crime, injury and illness. You can benefit from knowing that there is always someone available (a family member or friend) to help keep you safe.

Third Level: Belongingness Needs
Belongingness involves broad sociability and camaraderie—feeling that you’re part of a friendly, caring group, a community. These needs can be fulfilled in many ways, including being actively involved in a church or synagogue, having friendly neighbors, or bonding with coworkers. You can optimize your sense of belonging by joining a voluntary or community organization.

Fourth Level: Esteem and Respect Needs
Esteem comes from feeling liked by others for your personal qualities, interests, and hobbies. Respect is more about feeling valued for your knowledge and skills. To best fulfill these needs, it’s important to develop satisfying friendships, particularly with a confidant who can act as a sounding board, offering sincere advice through life’s ups and downs. 

Fifth Level: Self-Actualization Needs
These higher needs involve our yearning for achievement and meaning in life. Self-actualization is about reaching your full and unique potential. Some of these high-level needs that Maslow identified include:

•    The need to be creative rather than stagnant
•    The need to enjoy fresh experiences and avoid boredom
•    The need to use your talents and abilities and not see them wasted
•    The need to be stretched and challenged in your skills
•    The need to feel that you are helping to make the world a better place
•    The need to experience aesthetic pleasure and delight

To satisfy these needs, identify and examine your peak experiences so you can see what gives you the greatest sense of joy and fulfillment.

Read more about Maslow’s hierarchy in Happiness is Positive Psychology

Download your FREE positive thinking ebook!

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