According to Abraham Maslow, humans have certain needs that must be fulfilled for healthy living. These needs motivate us to act the way we do, and in particular, in ways that satisfy the needs that are not yet fulfilled. In addition, Maslow suggested that these needs are not all equally important, but exist in a hierarchy (shaped like a pyramid), with the most important, basic needs at the bottom.
The Hierarchy of needs is often presented as a pyramid. Forming the base are the Physiological Needs that are essential for survival. This includes the need for oxygen, water, and food. It is only when these lower-level needs are met to some degree that one can move up to fulfill other needs. The second level is composed of Safety and Security needs, which includes finding stability and an environment where one is safe from harm. This might mean finding a stable job, having a house in a safe neighborhood, or having some money in the bank. The third level refers to Love and Belonging Needs. This might mean having a partner or spouse, friends, family, a church group, or other support network. The fourth level is composed of Esteem Needs, which may include the need for recognition, respect, dignity, confidence, and a sense of achievement. This might mean finishing a college degree, passing the bar exams, or getting ahead in one’s career. The fifth and highest level of needs is the need for Self-Actualization – the continuous need to fulfill one’s potential and be the best person one can possibly be.
People who are self-actualized tend to have more “peak experiences” than those who are not. Peak experiences refer to high points in one’s life – moments of extreme joy, euphoria, love, or rapture – these are defining moments when one feels whole, fully alive and in complete harmony with the universe.