Maslow’s pyramid and happiness

Happiness is a subjective feeling. What works with one person, does not necessarily work with another person. The answer to this “mystery” can be found in Maslow’s pyramid of needs. For those who are not familiar with this concept, Abraham Maslow was a professor of psychology. He developed the theory of the Hierarchy of Needs. To explain his theory, he created the Pyramid of Needs, featured below. According to his theory, needs must be met in a certain order. One needs to meet their needs starting by the most basic and essential ones mentioned in the bottom layer before being able to meet the needs mentioned in the layer right above and so on. Trying to skip levels will not bring satisfaction, because the person would still be missing more basic fulfillment.

Maslow's pyramid of needs - Picture Wikipedia

His theory, although widely spread and used, has not got general approval and there are quite a few people who disagree with his hierarchy approach. Some see the overall picture as one whole pool of needs, that all need to be met one way or another in order to provide satisfaction. Although all the needs listed in the pyramid exist for all of us, to different degrees, this discussion is not very relevant, as every person will rank the needs differently. Maslow’s pyramid would probably be more accurate, if it the ranking was adjusted to what different people’s profile groups. Certainly, the basic physiological needs are absolutely essential and common to all of us, and everyone needs a minimum level of security for them to be able to think of needs that are more elaborate.

When it comes to happiness, the key is in one’s values, more than the different parameters that define them. By defining one’s values, which include a number of the needs listed in the pyramid, and by prioritize them, it becomes much simpler to understand why different people will find happiness in different things. Not everyone values Maslow’s needs equally, and therefore his hierarchy cannot describe properly the whole process of increasing fulfillment. The reason why material goods do not necessarily bring happiness can be explained by the fact that some more important values get by-passed in the materialistic thinking. Some deeper and more essential needs are not met, although the new “toy” just bought might bring some short-term satisfaction. The need left unfilled very soon calls for an answer, which another “toy” will not satisfy, either. This explains why, although some people have more and more stuff, many among them still feel empty. The real need is not being answered. They keep looking for the answer in the wrong place. This also explains that some people end up throwing away their current lifestyle to look for a drastic change. Unless this change answers the real need being left unfulfilled, such a move will only bring more damage.

Finding happiness does not have to be difficult. However, it must follow the following steps:

  • Know your values
  • Shape your life around them, which means giving up some things in the process
  • Take charge of your life, do not your let environment do that for you
  • Define your goals and set a plan to achieve them, including timelines
  • Keep working at shaping your own life
  • Celebrate your successes, and do not give up when you have setbacks
  • In the end, it is all up to you to make it happen!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.