In 1954, Abraham Maslow published his hierarchy of human needs in his book, Motivation and Personality. Before this most of psychology was looking as what was wrong with the patient rather than what makes them who they are.
Maslow believed there was something fundamentally human about these needs and about our desire to be better and more fulfilled.
While Maslow never expressed his theory in a pyramid, it has become one of the most popular ways to present it.
I believe the bottom is where we spend most of our time and the top is where we aspire and want to be. A simple and meaningful life can help us get there quicker, more easily and hopefully stay there longer.
At its basic, there are the physiological needs such as food, shelter, warmth, sleep. I recently moved house and while I knew I had another home to go to the shear stress of organising the logistics of it all stopped me from functioning as a higher level. I couldn’t even begin to think about my safety and security or my relationships during the period up to and after the move.
By owning less and living simply, we are not a target for theft. With fewer or less expensive items you become less of a risk and therefore more secure and safe.
By owning less and living simply, we can have more time and resources to devote to others to forge stronger and more meaningful relationships.
By owning less and living simply, there’s no need to be bound by the aspirations of others and of our society. Our expectations of ourselves and of others are lower or non-existent. There is no need hold our successes and achievements up for display and criticism, but instead, to be more content. Caroline Casey argues “that no matter how brilliant other people think you are, or how many things you might have achieved, if you don’t think you’re valuable, if you don’t like yourself, all of that is worthless.”
By owning less and living simply, we can find our own meaning and purpose in life. Maslow describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be. Individuals may perceive or focus on this need very specifically. For example, one individual may have the strong desire to become an ideal parent. In another, the desire may be expressed athletically. For others, it may be expressed in paintings, pictures, or inventions.
It’s easy to say that living a simple life can help us to reach these higher needs but putting them into practice can be the hard part.
I won’t go into detail too much as there is a wealth of information out there but some of my personal highlights and starting points are
This post was inspired by NPR’s TED Hour: Maslow’s Human Needs.