Inverting Maslow’s Triangle

Author: Jeff Rosbrugh  //  Category: Jeff's Musings

While thinking about my life, I started wondering about my priorities and began to think that maybe I have it backwards. For example, is it more important to have job security or job satisfaction? Doing what I love or loving what I do? Appreciating the accomplishments of others or accomplishing something myself? Do I spend so much time taking care of the basics that I never get around to doing anything I consider fulfilling or fun?

Anyone who has taken a beginning psychology course probably had to learn about the hierarchy of human needs, described by Abraham Maslow. Maybe you have never taken psych, or maybe it’s been too many years to remember. (Don’t worry, I had to look it up too…Maslow? Maslowe? Self-something?). Anyway, here is a wikipedia link to enlighten us and refresh our memories: (if you remember nothing else about psych, you might remember the pyramid)

He’s probably right in his research as far as importance of those needs. However, I’d like to talk about the amount of time spent at each level. I don’t personally believe that the pyramid indicates how much of your day you need to spend where. I think it’s more a degree of urgency. If you’re hungry, you’re probably not going to think about fulfilling your destiny, at least not until after you’ve eaten. We’ve all seen babies, kids, and grownups get cranky when they’re tired. And it’s almost funny how the urge to pee will override EVERYTHING else you’re doing or even thinking about. You could be one step away from saving the world, but when you gotta go, you gotta go.

I’m not saying that the lower levels are not important, because they are. Nor am I saying that Maslow was outlining a regimen for our daily lives. But I think we spend too much time dealing with the bottom “stuff”, and we don’t reach the upper levels often enough as a result. So many of us are trying just to “get by” with the basics of food, shelter, and clothing that we forget about creativity, achievement, or even family and friendship.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could invert the pyramid as a reflection of the portion of time spent each day at those levels? Well, I suppose it would have to be waking hours, since we do sleep almost a third of our lives, and if you’re like me, you don’t just need sleep but enjoy it. So let’s not count that. Even so, I think people would be happiest if they spent the largest amount of time doing what they truly love, what their gifts are, what makes them feel unique, what their calling is.

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