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Thnk: More Like Abraham Maslow

Thnk: More Like Abraham Maslow

Who was Abraham Maslow?

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who is best known for his theory of human motivation, which is often referred to as Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Maslow's theory posits that human beings have a hierarchy of needs that must be met in order for them to reach their full potential. This hierarchy includes physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs.

I was first introduced to Maslow some years ago while studying to be a teacher in college, and his theory really resonated with me. “We must Maslow before we can bloom” is a saying I always keep in my back pocket as an educator. It means that people need their basic needs fulfilled before academic learning can be pursued. I use Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a guide when holding social-emotional lessons at our morning meetings in school, but his theory is one I feel we all can reflect on.


Here are some ways you can think more like Maslow:

Focus on personal growth:

We should take a moment to reflect and identify areas for improvement in our lives. Create an actionable goal that encompasses a specific area of growth, and write down three ways that goal can be met. Seeking feedback from others that support us and using it constructively is a great way we can stay accountable for our progress.

Additionally, we should always celebrate our successes, but take time to reflect on our failures. My father once shared a phrase with me that is used in the military: “embrace the suck.” Reflect on those failures and learn from them, for the most knowledge is gained when we embrace our truest vulnerabilities.


Prioritize basic physiological needs such as food, water, and shelter:

This is the first thing that motivates our behavior each day. I know that if I have not eaten a well-balanced breakfast, I’m not my best self by midday. Making sure our physiological needs are satisfied is crucial for our overall physical and mental well-being.


Emphasize the importance of safety and security:


We, as humans, want to feel safe in our environment. That means having a set plan if an emergency does happen and communicating that plan to others. What do we do at home to help emphasize the importance of physical safety? 


Emotional security is about feeling comfortable expressing our true selves, being vulnerable, and feeling like we don’t need constant reassurance from others. It’s important to build strong relationships with those who support us, but set boundaries. Our emotional security is just as important as our physical safety.


Recognize the significance of love and belonging:

We want to feel love and belonging because it is a fundamental human need. When we feel loved and connected to others, we experience a sense of security, support, and validation. This, in turn, boosts our self-esteem and confidence and helps us cope with stress and adversity. Additionally, love and belonging provide us with a sense of purpose and meaning in life, as we feel like we are part of something greater than ourselves.


Strive to build esteem and respect:

We can do this by establishing self-respect by setting personal boundaries, taking responsibility for our actions, and continuously working toward self-improvement.


Value creativity and problem-solving skills:

If we think outside the box and take risks, we can foster our own creativity and problem-solving abilities. Being creative engages our minds and enables alternative ways of thinking.


Practice empathy and understanding towards others:

We should try to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes to understand their perspective. We can acknowledge their emotions by asking questions and listening to gain a deeper understanding.


Seek out peak experiences and moments of transcendence:

Engage in activities that push our limits. This could involve trying new things, exploring unfamiliar places, or connecting with others on a deeper level. It is also helpful to cultivate a sense of mindfulness and awareness, allowing ourselves to fully immerse ourselves in the present moment. By embracing new experiences and staying present, we can open ourselves up to transformative moments of transcendence.


Quotes by Abraham Maslow:

  • “What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.”
  • "Musicians must make music, artists must paint, and poets must write if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves. What human beings can be, they must be. They must be true to their own nature. This need we may call self-actualization.”
  • "The fact is that people are good. Give people affection and security, and they will give affection and be secure in their feelings and their behavior.”
  • "I can feel guilty about the past and apprehensive about the future, but only in the present can I act. The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.”
  • "If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.”
  • "One's only rival is one's own potential."One's only failure is failing to live up to one's own possibilities.”

Maslow is and remains a Master Thnk’r for emotional wellness.


Further reading for educators and parents:



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