Recently, on a Maps training session, my friend asked me about the strange anomaly of the eight levels of the Maslow Hierarchy, according to the version that we refer to, and the way we fit the nine motivators into it. How does that work? he asked. It’s a good question, and important to get to grips with.
To refresh , the eight Maslow levels of need are, from the bottom up: biological and physiological, safety, belonging and love, esteem, cognitive, aesthetic, self-actualisation, and transcendence. These are eight levels of need; and to make things more complex, from the Maps point of view we discount the lowest need. We do this because it is a basic need and not a want. It is not a ‘motivator’ per se, because it lies like a survival instinct at the root of us. Without shelter, food, water, we all enter a state of survivalism in which we lose sight of planning for the future or getting things we want and instead seek the swiftest possible ways to meet our basic needs. There are people who operate at this level of existence: those in extreme poverty, or those in war-torn countries, ghettos, born into crime, prisoners, addicts (who may have food, shelter and water but have created another basic need within themselves which eventually takes over and must be met at all costs). This type of need is so powerful it overrides any other motivator.
Usually, it is not found in business or most organisations; when it is, you have a person who is a game player. The Map may be accurate about their higher motivators, but their survival instinct at level one will render their other wants obsolete or irrelevant – they are in the grip of a more primitive need or emotion. This, bizarrely, creates a complex duplicity, where their survival urge becomes a kind of smokescreen. One would think that a survival instinct would simplify things, and in the case of people genuinely in need it does, of course. But for someone living in the modern world with a job and all their needs met, but yet who is operating at a survival level, the story is very different.
Thus, we now have seven levels in which nine motivators fit! You will know from our diagram that each of the motivators correlates especially with one level of Maslow’s hierarchy. We start, then, with safety needs and this correlates with the Defender motivator. Belonging and love corresponds with the Friend motivator. How we solve the problem is at the esteem need level; for here we suggest that three motivators are involved: the Star motivator, wanting recognition, the Director motivator, wanting control, and the Builder motivator, wanting material possessions. Why should that be?
Two powerful reasons. The first is that if we consider our own wellbeing and our own effectiveness, then self-esteem is invariably considered to be the single important factor. Indeed, Dr Nathaniel Brandon, a foremost authority in this area, said self-esteem is the single most powerful force in our existence: on it everything depends. And he goes on to say: “Of all the judgments we pass in life, none is more important than the judgment we pass on ourselves.” Thus, esteem is core to motivation and wide-ranging; therefore, should it surprise us if more than one motivator fell within its orbit?
But the second reason explores terminology. I am of the view that what is meant here by self-esteem is actually the self-concept, which of course incorporates self-esteem, but also more beside. The self-concept has three components: the self-esteem (or how we feel about ourselves), the self-image (or how we see ourselves) and the ideal self (how we want to be in the future).
These three elements or components, then, each have their own motivator as it were. The self-esteem is very much connected to our internal locus of control, and this is related in a sort of inverted way to the Director motivator where we project the control outwards. Similarly, our self-image is about how we see our self and this finds a correlation in the Star motivator where we – projecting outwards – want others to see us in a certain way, to recognise us if you will. Finally, we have the ideal-self that wants to grow, to become, to be successful in the future, and so needs nutrients to do that – in other words, the soil of material possessions that enable this to happen even if one finally becomes a St Francis or a Buddha or a St Thomas Aquinas. I mention these three in particular because they all started from wealthy backgrounds which enabled them finally to eschew material things and transcend; but they started there.
So we see that the fourth level, half way up the hierarchy, is quite pivotal in terms of moving towards self-actualisation and beyond, but also pivotal in motivational terms. The correlation between Motivational Maps and the Maslow model is profound. Understanding both systems can lead to a fuller picture, and deeper insight when interpreting a Maps profile. Both systems recognise that our needs, and motivations, are not fixed points in time. Whilst some might be more dominant than others, circumstance and time change us in significant ways, leading us on a journey – ultimately, I believe, towards the ‘transcendence’ that Maslow spoke of.