Maslow and Motivation Factor

In general…

…, the thoughts, models and algorithms behind Motivation Factor are influenced by great, well-known theories and research results sourced from Hertzberg, Maslow, Positive Psychology, Appreciative Inquiry, the Flow Theory, etc. Based on modern brain science, we have taken the best from the best, combined, refined and renewed it, and added it into a simple structure – The Hierarchy of Motivation – to make it understandable, actionable and measurable. Yes, measurable! With our methodology, we are able to measure the level of motivation and even the strategic connection to that motivation, something that is incredibly useful when it comes to understanding what drives us.

So what is the connection to the “founding figures”?

In a series of blogs, I will connect the “founding figure’s” theories to what we are offering at Motivation Factor . This post is about Abraham Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs.

Why is Maslow theory still relevant?            

Many years ago, when I was in business school, my teacher explained Abraham Maslow’s 80 year old theory of needs to a classroom of students.  I still remember almost every word. He explained it in such a clear, logical way (more about that at the end of this article) that  Maslow’s 5 steps were simple for me to understand. This made such an impact on me that I still find myself recognizing these 5 steps in my day-to-day life. For example, when I see a movie or when I read a book. If the story’s main character does not follow Maslow’s theory the plot seems unreliable to me. Read through to the end of this article and you’ll see why!

Abraham Maslow…

…was a Russian, American born in Brooklyn, New York in 1906. He had a PHD in psychology and worked as a psychology professor at Brandeis University, Brooklyn College, New School for Social Research, and Columbia University. Maslow believed human motives are based in universal and innate predisposed needs. In 1943, when Maslow was 37 years old, he took this belief and created his now famous Hierarchy of Needs. Ever since, this simple pyramid model has  been one of the most cognitively contagious ideas in behavioral science.


The process of self-actualization played a critical role in Maslow’s theory. He defined this tendency as “the full use and leveraging of talents, capabilities, potentials, etc.”

Maslow claimed that self-actualizing people possess a number of key characteristics. Some of these include self-acceptance, independence, spontaneity, and the ability to have peak experiences. In other words, people are constantly in the process of striving to reach their full potential.

Self-actualization is not an endpoint or a destination. It is an ongoing process in which people continue to stretch themselves and achieve new heights of well-being, creativity, and fulfillment.

Maslow and Motivation Factor

The inner logic of the Motivation Factor® methodology is based on The Hierarchy of Motivation™, which is inspired by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Abraham Maslow belonged to the humanistic branch of psychology, which today is considered the foundation on which positive psychology is built. Humanistic psychology is a value-based psychology that stands for an optimistic and constructive view of human qualities and the ability to be self-determining.

Maslow studied the healthy human being and developed his theory that humans are born with a potential that they must realize. His theory also held to the idea that human beings will find meaning in existence by realizing natural faculties and capacities.

The Hierarchy of Needs

The Hierarchy of Needs is a psuchological, hierarchical arrangement of human needs. Maslow placed the hunan needs in a pyramid with 5 layers, as described below.

  • The 2 lower levels in the Hierarchy of Needs are Physiological Needs and Safety Needs – together these form our Basic Needs. It’s all about the essentials we need to survive: food, sleep, clothes, warmth; as well as basic feelings such as a sense of safety and security.
  • Level 3 and 4 in the Hierarchy are Love and Belonging and Self-esteem – together these make up Psychological needs. Do you have friends, family, colleagues, etc. who love you? Likewise, do you have someone you love? Do you feel respected for what you do? Do you feel that you are contributing and that other people notice?
  • Level 5 in the Hierarchy is Self-actualization or Self-fulfillment Needs. Have you reached your full potential, is your level of education what you need, is your career as you wish, are you satisfied with your family situation, did you climb that mountain, did you run that marathon, did you build that house or achieve that life goal? Maslow claimed that the need for self-actualization will never be fully met.

Needs: Our motivational drivers and triggers

Why does Motivation Factor methodology focus on the satisfaction of personal needs? Because they are crucial motivational drivers and triggers – and what’s more, they control our behavior. According to Maslow, needs must be met at each level of the pyramid before moving to the next level. We do the same with the Hierarchy of Motivation.

 The better we understand our self in each of the levels, the greater insight, awareness and satisfaction we will experience. The less energy we have tied into something that frustrates us, the more we will be ready to take care of fulfilling our personal needs.

If we allow ourselves to be prevented from having our personal needs met, it creates feelings of inferiority, weakness, and helplessness. Conversely, when selfish/personal needs are satisfied, we will be oriented towards new achievements, in the form of realizing ourselves by realizing our talents – and our potential.

What my teacher taught me

As mentioned earlier, I never forgot how my business school professor explained the Hierarchy of Needs. To say it left an impression on me is an understatement. That day in class he drew  the hierarchy on the blackboard – and next to the pyramid he drew a “desert island” and a matchstick man – let’s call him Joe.

  • 1) Imagine that Joe had swam several miles to reach the coast of this island. After a rest on the sandy beach, what is the first thing he will start considering? “Can I find some clean water, some berries, mushrooms, can I get something to eat and especially drink within the next couple of hours – otherwise this situation is untenable.”

Ok – Joe is lucky. He found a spring with fresh, cold water and he found both blueberries and raspberries. Now he considers the food and drink situation to be OK. He has even found a small cave that can provide him shelter from sun and rain. The lighter in his pocket and some dead leaves and dry driftwood allow him to start a small campfire. Life is good so far. Joe’s first Maslow level is fulfilled.

  • 2) Now Joe is thinking. “I wonder if there are predators on this island. Perhaps there are snakes, spiders, etc. who will kill and eat me as soon as I go to sleep.” But Joe is a creative guy. He starts building a platform in a high tree, making it impossible for the enemies to reach him while sleeping. He even constructs a simple “alarm system” using some string and a couple of empty tin cans found on the beach and he creates a spear to defend himself. Now Joe feels safe. Joe’s second Maslow level is fulfilled.
  • 3) Joe now has all he needs to eat, drink, sleep and feel safe and secure on the island. Now he starts thinking – “Perhaps I’m not alone. Perhaps someone is living exactly like myself on the other side of the island. I would love to socialize, share and connect with someone. I’ll go on an expedition to find out.”

Joe will now leave his secure spot to explore the island and see if he can find someone to socialize with. Soon he realizes that he is not alone. After several hours of walking to the other side of the island he meets three people, two women and a man, who have been living on the island for several months. Immediately he feels the connection. The individuals start to get  to know each other and share their experiences. One of the women shows interest in Joe – and the feelings are mutual. Joe’s third Maslow level is fulfilled, and by the end of the day they agree that Joe immediately should pick up his stuff on the other side of the island and join the group first thing tomorrow.

  • 4) Now settled in his new “village” Joe soon asks himself: “Who’s the natural leader of this village? Who will take responsibility and make decisions when needed? Who will guide the direction for our future life together?”

Joe decides to take action. “Power is not something you get – it’s something you take” Joe tells himself. A week later Joe is the “go-to-person” if one of the other three inhabitants of the island are in doubt, have needs, want advice, etc., and Joe is a good leader. His fellow inhabitants admire his wisdom and respect his authority – a respect that Joe will never misuse. Joe’s fourth Maslow- level is fulfilled.

  • 5) At the center of the island is a 4000 foot volcano. Joe has always been adventurous. His buck list includes climbing to the summit of a big mountain. He knows it’s dangerous to attempt to climb the volcano – for days he will be all alone on a seemingly impassable terrain. On the other hand – if (or when) he makes it he will feel the arousal and joy of achievement. He decides to take the chance. And he achieves his goal.

Back in the village Joe cannot stop talking about his achievement. His humble fearlessness has cemented his power as a leader. He describes in detail how he struggled and how he finally made his way to the summit of the volcano. “An unforgettable experience…” Joe explains. The first step of Joe’s fifth Maslow level is fulfilled.

Notice that Joe reached the Maslow levels one by one. He would never have succeeded building his treetop-shelter without first having access to food and water supplies. He would never have been able to explore the island without having his safe spot as a point of departure. He would never have dared to stand up as a leader if he did not feel a connection and love from his fellow inhabitants – and he would not dare to explore the mountain and summit the volcano if he did not have his friends waiting for him in the village.

The big question, what does this all mean?

“Motivation Factor is based on modern brain science, but the connection to established theories is obvious, and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is definitely one of them…”

Motivation Factor is based on modern brain science, but the connection to established theories is obvious, and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is definitely one of them. Maslow was ahead of his time. He new that needs and behavior is close connected and that our needs controls our choises Of course, the times have changed since 1943, but his fundamental research is eternal.

Motivation Factor® enables you to identify what to pursue and what to avoid to manage and control your motivation.

Imagine if you knew exactly how to motivate yourself. Motivation Factor helps to verbalize your vision – and provides you with the tools to work structured and professionally with your own and/or your employees’ motivation factors.

Motivation and research

Recent brain research tells us that our motivation is rooted in our individual needs and talents. When it comes to personal change and the development processes, it is essential to focus on what drives you towards the goal, and it is equally important to know what to avoid in order to stay motivated. With this knowledge, you can maintain determination and focus, along with motivation and willingness to adapt. Learn more about Motivation Factor tools and programs here.

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