The Curse of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs


When a book will be written about Psychology and Management, a whole chapter will be reserved for Abraham Maslow. The mention of this guy’s name brings to the fore many management and Psychology units in which I encountered him curtsey of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs . If you are in Campus and never heard about him, then you are probably a student in a University and not a University student. For the sake of those who have never heard about him, let me bring you up to speed so that we all start at the same wavelength.

maslowAccording to, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs includes five motivational needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. This five stage model can be divided into physiological needs (e.g. food and shelter), safety needs, love and belonging needs, Self esteem needs and then self-actualization needs. One has to start from the lower needs (which are physiological needs) and move step by step up to self actualization needs.

The deficiency of any needs at any level, are said to motivate people when they are unmet. Also, the need to fulfill such needs will become stronger the longer the duration they are denied. For example, the longer a person goes without food the more hungry they will become. One must satisfy lower level basic needs before progressing on to meet higher level needs.   Once these needs have been reasonably satisfied, one may be able to reach the highest level called self-actualization.

If one goes through all these stages up to the self actualization stage, the person won’t have any hitch in enjoying his success and maintaining his status at the same time. That’s why successful people like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, James Mwangi, Uhuru Kenyatta, just to mention but a few, have got no problem in enjoying their success and maintaining their status. But there are circumstances where one is catapulted from a lower level to a top level overnight, without going through all the levels. This might be due to some luck that wasn’t anticipated. Such kinds of people usually have a problem in maintaining their status. If they are not keen enough, they might experience a free fall up to the first level where they started from. Let’s look at some of the individuals who faced this predicament.

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Ruth Matete became a household name when she won the jackpot in TPF season six. She was a nobody before fame came knocking on her door. She was struggling with the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The fame catapulted her to top levels of needs in the hierarchy. It didn’t take long before we started hearing the effects of her instant success. It started with her break up with her former boyfriend. Coming hot on the heels of the breakup was the news of her lavish lifestyle and the inevitable one was her becoming temporary insane after becoming broke. Finally, she went back to the bottom levels of the hierarchy.

The other guy who went through the same experience is the late Samuel Wanjiru. He was a Kenyan athlete born in 1986 who specialized in long distance running. He became a professional at a young age and broke the world record in the half marathon when he was 18 years old. In 2007, he broke the 20 km road running record and improved the half marathon record by over twenty seconds. He moved to the full marathon and won the event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in an Olympic record time of 2:06:32; becoming the first Kenyan to win the Olympic gold in the marathon.

The following year, he won both the London Marathon and Chicago Marathon, running the fastest marathons ever recorded in the United Kingdom and United States, respectively. He retained his Chicago title in 2010 in a season fraught with injury. On 15th May 2011, he died from a fall off a balcony at his home in Nyahururu. Just like Matete, this is a man who failed to have a grip on his success because he didn’t move step by step up the hierarchy of needs but rather jumped from the lower level to the upper level.

Lastly, we all can recall when some herdsmen in Maasailand were compensated large amounts of money by Britain after their soldiers who were in training left some explosives behind which ended up injuring the locals. Most of them didn’t know what to do with the money. One herdsman got more than $211,000. When you convert this to Kenyan shillings, you’ll know why this amount was beyond their wildest dreams. Some of the herdsmen embraced polygamy while others bought new cars they did not know how to drive. 11 years later, they were back to square zero.

These are some of the few examples of those who encountered the curse of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs by skipping some of the levels on their way towards the top levels. For one to gain sufficient muscles to maintain his status at the top level and enjoy his success, he has to go through all the levels one step at a time.



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