Perhaps you’ve heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Depending on the source you find it from, the specifics named under each category may change, but the main headings are typically consistent.
The idea is that the bottom level–physiological needs–are the most basic, and it is only after these are met that one can begin to focus on the needs in the next level up. Physiological and safety needs are more physical, where the upper three are more internally focused.
I’ve had numerous conversations lately about ol’ Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. Many people I know have recently graduated from college or will soon be doing so, and most of us feel like our pyramids are…a little lacking in some areas.
My most basic needs are met: having moved back home with my parents, I have a bed, a roof over my head, and a well-stocked fridge and cupboards to raid. Starting the end of this month I will be working at least 20 hours a week, so I’ll have at least a little financial income. Physiologically and safety-wise, I’m doing okay.
After those two levels though, things get messy. Many of my friendships are in a weird spot, needing to adjust to new locations and stages of life. Honestly, I don’t know how or if some of them will survive, which pains me. It does not shock me; I knew moving on from college meant things would change. But knowing that this was coming doesn’t keep me from mourning good things, and maybe wishing they could be different. On the same level of the pyramid, I find myself having graduated from college without so much as a possible mate anywhere on the horizon. I’ve bemoaned this before (over here), and though it feels a little raw to admit it…it’s still something I would like to happen, but that hasn’t yet.
From where I sit, perched above level two but somewhere in the middle of level three…those top 2 levels seem kind of a far stretch up. Not unattainable, but a little ways away given my current state. I’m still adjusting to my status as a non-student, learning to face the realities of adulthood from the sheltered dwelling of my parent’s house, and everything feels in flux. Though in general I consider myself a fairly happy, well-adjusted, confident individual, I’m just not solid enough in my place in level 3 to concentrate too much on levels 4 and 5.
However, I have a much bigger picture to look at than simply Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Sure, it’s fairly logical reasoning that basic needs must be met before higher-order ones can be fulfilled, but I’m not (or at least I shouldn’t be) looking to fulfill those things on my own. Though right now I don’t really know what it is, God does have some sort of plan for me, even in this weird land of in-between. There is a purpose to this bit of floundering I’m doing, if for no other reason than to prepare me for whatever will come next.
Having done hardly anything of measurable productivity since graduating, I’m not feeling very accomplished or fulfilled…but my fulfillment shouldn’t be coming from things I do anyway. I fall into that thinking often, but that’s not how things should be.
So if Maslow were to take a look at my life, he’d say I’ve got a ways to go. When I look at my life lately, I say I’ve got a ways to go. And really, I do. I’m only twenty-two, after all…hopefully I’ve got lots more life to live, much more to do and see. But maybe God’s trying to say, “Hey, Maslow’s missing the mark here. Because I say where you are is exactly where you’re supposed to be, and I’ve got you. You’re okay.”
And his okay should be enough.
Til next time…
2 thoughts on “Me and Maslow: Thoughts of a Recent College Graduate”
I think Mazlow’s Hierarchy is taught in an inconsistant manner with how he laid it out. It is a scale of motivation, not what the world can offer you. I say this to give you hope. The power to succeed is in your hands, all you have to do is work your butt off to achieve it. What Mazlow is saying is that almost everyone will be motivated to make sure their basic physical needs are met. Some will go a step further and make sure their basic psychological needs are met. Few people are motivated enough to, once meeting the basic needs, strive to reach their full potential. This is because meeting the basic needs takes much labor and sacrifice. Most don’t wish to take on more of the same to achieve the non-essential.
The educational system has twisted MHON to mean that your basic needs must be provided in order to allow you to reach higher. This is a grave disservice to students. You are the one who is responsible for being motivated to make an impact. Don’t look for a place where you can make an impact, instead think about something you want changed and find a way to change it. God’s people are responsible for motivating ourselves, even in the midst of uncertainty. This is done by faith, yes, but not without your actual doing.
In a nutshell, Mazlow is saying that the power to succeed lies in the motivation to do so, against all odds. It is intentional and determined. Think David and Goliath.