Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs should be familiar to anyone who’s studied psychology or social science, had some behavioral training at work, or is just a generally curious person.
It was drawn up by a guy who stole my idea. ☺
In a nut shell, everyone’s level of “satisfaction” varies, depending on their situation. Someone in “survival” just wants to ensure his family is fed and sheltered. The higher up the triangle you go, the less you’re concerned with basic sustenance, and the more you move toward personal fulfillment.
Someone in the upper levels might not be concerned with food and shelter, but the needs in those levels feel just as “real.”
And just as important.
Success demands more success – and often a different kind.
Makes sense. But why talk about it here?
When talking about humanity in general, it seems logical enough that people would want to go “up” the triangle.
But there’s a much bigger lesson to be learned from the model.
It’s that only one level of Maslow’s Hierarchy has the most urgency.
The one you’re in.
Shouldn’t you just “be” happy?
Happiness only rises with your progress, as long as the satisfaction of needs rises with it.
Which, of course, brings us to job satisfaction.
Many self-help books teach us to appreciate what we have, to remember the misery that we could be living, and be thankful that we are who we are.
We just need to repeat how grateful we are for the status quo, and the happiness will arrive as a natural consequence.
Sorry, but: no.
Telling ourselves that we’re happy is not going to make us happy. Yes, a reality check every once in a while might help if we compare a five-year-old BMW to mass starvation.
But trying to solve “Esteem” level problems by focusing on needs in the “Physiological” level will simply not…
A bad case of the “should”s
So please, please, please: do not tell yourself that you “should” be happy. That what you have is amazing, and that you’re being selfish for not being content.
Because then you will be intellectualizing an emotion.
Which can be downright dishonest.
Instead, look at the reasons why you don’t feel satisfied.
Bemoaning a lack of recognition is not being egotistical. Wishing you could have more creative rope is not being flaky. Wanting more money is not being materialistic.
We all have our different goals, and we all have our reasons for dissatisfaction if we’re not meeting those goals.
Don’t let someone tell you that you don’t deserve to get what you want.
Bring the target closer
Fortunately, so much dissatisfaction for Career Nomads come with one common, easy-to-identify problem.
Money is a pretty quantifiable problem, and you know if you have enough or you don’t.
But so very many problems come from boredom through doing the same job for too long.
The learning slows (or even stops). Demands become easier to navigate. Managers get tired of trying to challenge you.
You may have had issues with certain aspects of your job in the early days, but they were easily pushed aside because you felt so excited by the new challenges. Once you mastered the job, however, there was little to excite you – and you became left to focus on what was missing.
But don’t assume that this little bit of “self-help” knows what you need.
Maslow’s Hierarchy keeps it simple
Giving ourselves daily reminders that things could be worse will make them worse.
Because not only will you be ignoring the real problem, but you will be applying the wrong solutions. When the focus is on distraction and not resolution, your “busy-ness” will ensure you’re neither in your uneasy present, or your desired future.
You’ll be somewhere in No Man’s Land, spinning your wheels.
So what’s the solution?
Very simple: be honest about your issues, and be honest about what needs to happen.
If you deserve more recognition, have a hard conversation with your current employer. If that doesn’t work, then find another employer.
If you’re sick of money being tight, then fight for a promotion, or start something on the side.
Most of the issues might take a lot of work, but they’re generally quite simple.
And even simpler to identify.
Maslow’s Hierarchy is a straightforward, no-nonsense tool.
Avoid the nonsense: keep it simple.
Have you ever fallen into the trap of thinking “it could be worse?” Did it prompt any changes? Tell us in the comments!