Podcast: TED Radio Hour
How does Maslow's Hierarchy of needs apply today?
What a cracking 50 minutes. The TED Radio Hour podcast is a meticulously crafted production covering the big questions while dropping in experts who have previously given TED Talks.
Humans need food, sleep, safety, love, purpose. Psychologist Abraham Maslow ordered our needs into a hierarchy. Before Maslow, psychologists were more interested in what was wrong with people than how they could improve. Maslow designed a framework called Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in 1943 which shows what we need to survive and then to thrive. These 5 stages, even today, shape modern psychology. We start at the bottom of the hierarchy and work our way up.
It is worth considering that when you celebrate your 60th wedding anniversary that you spent 21 and a half asleep (36% of our lives). The key, is the quality of those years will determine the years spent awake. So whats going on while we are asleep? Our ability to come up with creative solutions to problems has been shown to be increased three fold by a night of sleep. In the brain the important synaptic connections are linked and strengthened, while those less important fade away. At night the brain has time to fit those new jigsaw puzzles learnt during the day together. Not getting enough sleep has been shown make you irritable, affects your immune system, hurt your memory, make you less alert and prone to illness. If you are sleep deprived, you release a hunger hormone called Ghrelin, which increases your appetite for sugar.
Without security, worrying about anything else doesn't matter, it's that simple. Security is two different things: It's a 'feeling' and a 'reality'. We can feel secure even if you are not and you can secure even if you don't feel it. As humans, we respond to the feeling of security and not the reality. If it's in the news don't worry about it...by definition news is something that almost never happens. We watch extremes and think these extremes are normal. On the other hand, if you are in a war zone, you are not going to worry about happiness if you are constantly under attack.
- Higher order need (Love and belonging)
The bonds of community and tribe are a very particular thing. The main unit is generally family. However we evolved in species of groups of 30/40/50 people, relying on one another. The closest environment to this in the modern day is a platoon in combat. The sense of belonging in these groups is like nothing we see in civilian life. To understand why, we need to understand what happens to the mind during combat. What is happening is quite simple. An enormous adrenaline release. Combat can be addictive. When asked, many servicemen say they miss almost all of their time working together, in their teams, in combat. What they are missing is not killing people or loosing their friends but they miss brotherhood. Where almost everyone is willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good of the group. Brotherhood is different to friendship. This is not friendship. This is a contract to put others ahead of yourself.
This step requires an inward focus. Esteem is often based on what others say about us or what they say about us. Truth is, the sooner you can detach yourself from this mindset the better. It isn't easy. This doesn't happen over night. You have to work on it. The real question is, can you follow a path for yourself and no one else.
- Self Actualisation
In 1966 the concept of self actualisation was a new idea to psychology. This is the final stage in the hierarchy. This is the pinnacle. As good as it gets. This is what we need to be truly happy. So this is when you are living a meaningful life. At a certain point, material goods do not have an impact of overall happiness or actualisation. This is finding mastery in what you do, fully loosing yourself in an experience, for example a pianist loosing themselves in their music. Getting into a state of flow / peak experience. Loosing your identity from you consciousness. Existence is temporally suspended. An example discussed is a gentleman who slices fish in New York. He developed this into an art form. These experiences can be very simple ones. If you can find flow - you can be truly happy.
Listen to the full cast here.