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Maybe Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Are All Wrong

The Awakened Heart Project.With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 33: What Are Your Basic Needs? 

“We need others. We need others to love and we need to be loved by them. There is no doubt that without it, we too, like the infant left alone, would cease to grow, cease to develop, choose madness and even death.”

– Leo F. Buscaglia


Life Lesson: What Are Your Basic Needs? 

Last week we talked about define who we are from our internal world rather than external world. We tried to rid our identity of labels with “assumed roles” to define who we feel we are at our deepest levels, -our souls. This week, we expand on the theme of internal and external influences, but more specifically needs.

More than often, we put the external world in which we live in before anything else. We put our jobs first, the carpool first, the expenses, etc., well before we put our internal needs and desires. We are raised to believe that “This is how you live”, -this is what is means to be a “productive member of society”.

In 1943, humanistic psychologist, Abraham Maslow proposed his theory of The Hierarchy of Needs. This hierarchy suggests that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other, more advanced needs. He displayed this hierarchy as a period. At the foundation level, humans much fulfill basic physical needs like food and shelter before moving onto other needs, such as self-esteem and relationships needs.


This theory does makes sense. However, I recently came across a somewhat opposing viewpoint by Mark Nepo, author of The Book of Awakenings that I found just as true. Nepo writes:

While this is in part true, I believe there is a dimension of the inner life that is as imperative and equivalent as food and shelter. Without the fulfillment of these basic inner needs, we are just fed and sheltered bodies void of life. Without love, truth, and compassion, all the comforts of modern life don’t matter, because we are simply reduced to biological machines, not even as present as animals.

Nepo argues that when we begin to live our life from the perspective that basic needs must be met first, the result is that we often defer the risk to love in the process. We make comments like, “I need to establish myself before I can get involved in a relationship”, or “I need to lose some weight and buy new clothes before I’ll be desirable”. We try to eliminate all of these external issues (which by the way, we will always have, -life is never void of problems).

“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do…but how much love we put into that action.”

-Mother Teresa 

Sadly, even when we do find love, and companionship, we continue to void ourselves of it. We say, “I can’t go out to dinner with my friends, because I’ll need the money to buy a new car when mine breaks down”, or “I can’t take that vacation because I’ll need the money when I retire in twenty years”. Or my favorite, “I can’t afford to enter counseling with my partner because we need storm windows”, to which Nepo writes:

Certainly, we have to balance and make choices, but with no love in the house, there is no need for storm windows.

 It’s an interesting perspective is it not? What would you do if you suddenly became ill? Would you “start” living then? Would the money that you saved still be as important? One might argue that if you were faced with a year to live, you would spend it all on love, and compassion? Your basic needs would no longer be shelter and food, but living. Your basic needs would be love, life, and time. Money, can be helpful in fulfilling basic needs, and it can be helpful in allowing you to spend time with loved one, and spend on loved ones. But it shouldn’t be a reason NOT to be with loved ones. Isn’t true that the more money you have, the more money you think you need?

I’m not saying don’t save. Save what you need, and in the words of Nepo,

Spend whatever you can afford on making love work, bringing true into being, and allow generosity and compassion to flourish. This is more altruistic. It is necessary to be fully alive. It’s part of the wood that keeps that inner fire burning.



  • Beyond rent, health insurance, and survival money, what is it that you are saving for?
  • What amount is enough to fulfill your spirit? What amount only adds “perceived value”?
  • If you were suddenly ill, and didn’t know how long you had to live, how would you spend your money?
  • What would happen if you suddenly lost all of you money? What would be left in your life holding you together? These are the things that matter…
  • How can you spend your money on love, relationships, generosity, compassion, and value?
  • How would your life change if you worried less about money and spent just 5% more a month on love? 10%? 20%?
  • What changes will you make going forward? Why are they worth it?


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