How to Motivate People Using Maslow’s Hierarchy

How to Motivate People Using Maslow’s Hierarchy | Diet and Exercise

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Everyone knows why one needs doing diet and exercises, but not everyone can bring oneself to do them. What motivators does one need to lead such a lifestyle? First of all, diet and exercises are necessary for everyone to feel fit and healthy. Secondly, it is a way of rising of one’s self-esteem.

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However, for someone, doing diet and exercises is simply a style of life, which turns out to bea way of self-actualization. This paper will explain how diet and exercise fit to Maslow’s pyramid of needs and try to substantiate the set of motivators why everyone have to do diet and exercises. The paper will also examine the hierarchy of needs by taking into consideration both external and internal provocateurs, as well as three key elements of motivation such as direction, persistence and intensity.

The fundamental of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is that mankind is motivated only by uncontented needs. Therefore, for the higher needs (goals) to be realized and become desired, first of all, more basic (lower) needs have to be satisfied. According to Abraham Maslow, there are five universal types of needs, which are: physiological needs, need to feel safe, social needs, esteem needs and need of self-actualization (the most complicated and sophisticated need that differs a lot from person to person). Maslow called first four needs “deficiency needs”. He reckoned that only satisfied “deficiency needs” provide a person with the state of mind to put willingly the needs of others before one's own.

Moreover, he reckoned that satisfying “deficiency needs” is healthy, while austerity makes a person sick physically or ill-intentioned mentally. Therefore, for an adequate motivation of any individual in one’s personal or professional life, it is essential to understand correctly “deficiency needs” and needs of self-actualization (Maslow, 1943).


At first, in 1943, Maslow published the article “Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review. Thereupon, years later, Doctor Abraham H. Maslow expanded these motivation theories in his very first book, Toward a Psychology of Being. Then, in 1954, Maslow finally and formally introduced the hierarchy of needs in his book Motivation and Personality. In his article and books, Maslow tried to formulate and develop a needs-based theoretical description of a complex entity of human motivation. He based his assumptions on his clinical trials on people. Therefore, his findings were much more practically grounded than other psychology theories of that time, which were originated by such famous psychotherapists as Skinner and Freud, whose findings were too theoretical and often based upon trials on animals. The Maslow’s hierarchy of the needs indicates that fundamental, lower-ordered human requirements, such as physiological, safety and psychological (belonging and self-esteem) needs, must be satisfied in order to give a possibility for the higher-level motivators of self-fulfillment to emerge. Such hierarchy can be demonstrably seen in the below depicted diagram, which is also called the Maslow’s pyramid of needs – the physiological needs are at the bottom of the pyramid, then there are safety and belonging needs, as well as the needs of self-esteem and, finally, the self-actualization needs are at the top of the pyramid.

Maslow’s Hierarchy


Figure 1. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Maslow, 1943)

Physiological Needs

Therefore, physiological needs are those, which are necessary for supporting the life. There are no safety concerns until physiological needs are met. First of all, it is the air to breathe, and then there has to be enough water, food and sleep to feel healthy. Moreover, there is a sexual need for the procreation and absolute physiological satisfaction (Maslow, 1943).

Safety Needs

Once physiological needs are satisfied, safety needs reveal themselves. Safety needs include the need to be protected from the external and internal harm, such as bad weather (from an imperceptible cold to natural disasters), external physical and emotional threats from other living beings, internal threats (psychological and physiological (comfort)). Nowadays, these needs can be fulfilled by a safe area for living, comfortable living conditions, medical service and satisfactory financial resources (Maslow, 1943).

Social Needs

As soon as an individual feels secure, the higher level motivators will awake immediately. First of all, it will be social needs that include family relationship, friendship, belonging to social groups, feeling loved and feel love (Maslow, 1943).

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Esteem Needs

Only an individual that belongs to a certain social group can feel the necessity to define a degree of his or her significance. Esteem is categorized by two groups of motivators such as external and internal ones. Internal motivators of esteem are self-esteem and self-respect, which depend on the level of self-expectation. External motivators of esteem are the social status, attention and reputation (Maslow, 1943).

Later, Maslow added an intermediate phase “the need for aesthetics and knowledge” to his pyramid, which he inserted between self-actualization and esteem needs (Maslow, 1943).

Self-Actualization Needs

Self-actualization is the peak of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is about the fullness, meaning and quality of someone’s life. These needs differ a lot from person to person. It is also the hardest need to satisfy. When a person reaches the peak experience in anything, one tends to strive for another more profound one to achieve the full potential as well as happiness and harmony. As a result, the average percentage of self-actualized people is substantially small (Maslow, 1943).

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Intrinsic and Extrinsic Factors

Intrinsic factors of motivation are the internal forces that compel or drive an individual. Intrinsic factors involve mental, spiritual, physical and emotional desires and needs such as pride, firmness of purpose and drive to succeed. Extrinsic factors of motivation are the external forces that compel or drive an individual. Bonuses, promotions, opportunities and other motivators that come from other people and organizations are extrinsic factors (Tay & Diener, 2011).


Direction is “the goal” that drives a person, but the goal, which is consciously selected among other opportunities. This goal can be determined by various impacts, including intrinsic and extrinsic factors, which sometimes contradict each other. For instance, a person may have a natural poetic talent, but be driven by the business lifestyle in order to earn a lot of money (Tay & Diener, 2011).


Intensity is the strength of applying energy towards the chosen direction. Intensity considerably depends on a person’s certitude of the probability that the applying energy will yield a necessary result. There is no difference in terms of whether or not that certitude is realistic. In other words, a person will devote a lot of efforts until believes that the goal is reachable (Tay & Diener, 2011).


Persistence is simply a continuance; it is the time, during which an individual devotes the energy towards the direction. The continuance depends on intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Factors that initially stirred the motivation may not be the same factors that energize and maintain it. For example, a person that works hard may be initially motivated by money. However, this person may become proud with his or her achievements, and this factor may replace the initial need to earn a lot of money (Tay & Diener, 2011).

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Diet and Exercise in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow claimed that fundamental, lower-ordered human needs, such as physiological, safety and psychological (belonging and self-esteem) ones, must be satisfied in order to give the higher-level motivators of self-fulfillment a possibility to emerge. Hence, motivation comprises of various factors, and these factors force people to act in a peculiar way in a specified timeframe. In order to perform at the highest level, a person needs to be motivated. Motivation can be external or internal, physiological or psychological, pecuniary or spiritual. There is no difference. The point is that this motivation has to be correctly chosen, because what motivates one individual may not motivate another one at all. It is essential to choose the motivation and keep someone motivated and devoted to the goal until the impulse becomes the inspiration; then, inspiration becomes a habit, and then the habit becomes a lifestyle (Goebel & Brown, 1981).

In the introduction, the explanation of how diet and exercise fit to Maslow’s pyramid of needs was mentioned. It is also pivotal to substantiate the set of motivators for doing diet and exercises by considering both external and internal factors, as well as key elements of motivation such as direction (the goal), persistence of motivation (the quality of applied energy) and intensity of motivation (the strength of efforts). Depending on a type of personality, doing diet and exercises can be attributed to the need to be healthy, as well as higher needs such as self-esteem and self-actualization. Therefore, the first motive for doing diet and exercises is becoming healthy and fit. Leading such a lifestyle influences not only the physical appearance or physical health, but also the mental health and psychological state of mind. Healthy nutrition not only decreases the calories and helps to burn down the unnecessary fat, but provides the organism with necessary vitamins and minerals to support the nervous system in a stable state. Diet provides with a clean skin and healthy hair, as well as a stable type of mood. Exercises not only keep the physical body in good shape, but stabilize the nervous system. Healthy diet and exercises, when applied together, provide any person with a qualitative night sleep, beautiful appearance, a lot of energy for doing all sorts of things and good physical tonus, as well as a positive state of mind. Summarizing all these motivators, it is obvious that they are influenced by internal factors, rather than external ones (Maslow, 1970).

As it was mentioned before, until the lower needs are satisfied, the higher-level needs will not emerge. It can be explained by the evolutional theory, which states that fundamental needs, such as physiological and safety ones, are primordial. Namely, until primordial needs had been satisfied, the Homo sapiens did not become human beings. Thereby, it is essential to pay attention to social needs in terms of diet and exercise. There is no secret that a person, who does not feel good physically, often does not feel confident emotionally and, accordingly, is not very good in socializing with other human beings. According to the Maslow’s pyramid, if someone does not feel secure, one will not require the satisfaction of social or other higher needs. The matter is that these higher needs will not be even recognized until the needs that are more essential to existence are satisfied. Hereby, doing diet and exercise will significantly improve the social life of individual by simply making him or her feeling better and more confident. The fact that sport clubs are a great place for socializing is true, but it is rather an accompanying factor to the improved quality of life due to diet and exercise. Furthermore, it was also claimed that the healthy life style can essentially raise someone’s self-appraisal or self-esteem. Considering three key elements of motivation, such as direction, persistence and intensity, it is obvious that any person capable of such level of dedication to restraining and organizing himself or herself shows exceptional qualities of character, which are worth of admiration. In other words, the direction, such as being healthy, feeling good and looking beautifully, is understandable to anyone. Persistence and intensity are what rouse the admiration. In this context, someone capable to be devoted to the goal of being fit and healthy to such level, when the initial impulse became the inspiration, and then, the inspiration became a useful habit, whicht turned into a lifestyle. A lot of people are not able to do that; this is why the person, who is able to become more physically fit, more stable emotionally and more beautiful in appearance, is appreciated. Moreover, all these changes are notable for everyone and admired in the modern society. Therefore, it is clear that diet and exercises can raise someone’s self-esteem to a considerable degree; moreover, when the habit turns into an admirable by everyone lifestyle, diet and exercises can become a way of self-realization (Maslow, 1970).


Today, doing diet and exercises is an essential practice in lifestyle of many modern people. However, for some people, the healthy lifestyle, which includes diet and exercises, remains an unreachable mirage, something so intangible and elusive that is impossible to hold on. Everybody knows that diet and exercises are necessary to be in shape and feel healthy, but the substantial percentage of the population fails to keep doing them for a long time. In the paper, motivators and factors that link doing diet and exercises with the Maslow’s pyramid were considered.


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It became obvious that doing diet and exercises is, first of all, essential for satisfying the need to be healthy, feel well and be beautiful; therefore, diet and exercises are directly related to safety needs in the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Second, leading such a lifestyle is necessary to satisfy social needs not only because a sport club is a considerably good place for socializing, but because a person finds himself or herself in a right state of mind, and he or she is simply ready emotionally to socialize. Third, the healthy lifestyle can essentially raise someone’s self-appraisal or self-esteem. Finally, for someone, doing diet and exercises can become a part of the self-actualization process. This fact is very true in the modern society. A healthy, physically fit and beautiful person with a smile is an icon of the today’s civilized human being that can be respected and appreciated.

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