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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

Understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: 5 Levels Explained

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Understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: 5 Levels Explained

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory of motivation that lists five categories of human needs that dictate individual behavior. These five categories refer to physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs.[1]

Motivation plays a big part in athletic coaching. I spent 44 years coaching basketball and each day at practice, I was trying to motivate our athletes to give their best effort. In this article, I will examine Maslow’s hierarchy and five areas of needs from an athletic perspective.

1. Physiological Needs

These needs represent the most basic human survival needs. They include food, water, rest, and breathing, and all four have importance in athletics.

Food has had an evolution in the world of athletics. I cannot recall my coaches in the 1950s and ‘60s mentioning anything about food. As time went on, the pre-game meal became important. Steak seemed to be the meal of choice early in the evolution. Research then indicated pasta would be the better choice.[2]

Today, I think most coaches prefer pasta. However, if the players are ordering from menus, some coaches believe the players should stick with their regular diets and order accordingly.

The next step in this evolution was that the pre-game meal, although important, is not nearly as critical as the athletes’ overall nutrition. At our University of St. Francis athletic seminars, we invited nutritionists to speak and to educate our players on their nutritional habits.

The ultimate change in food intake may be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, Tom Brady. He adheres to a specific, disciplined diet that has allowed him to play superb football at age 43.

Water also has had an evolution in sports. It went from not being allowed in practices to coaches scheduling water breaks during the practices.

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Rest is extremely important in all sports, and statistics validate its importance. NBA research found that during the course of the season teams win 6 of 10 games at home but only 4 of 10 on the road. In the NBA playoffs, the statistics change to 6.5 at home and 3.5 on the road. Many coaches believe rest is the key factor to these statistics because the players are sleeping in their own beds for home games.[3]

Our St. Francis basketball team found the importance of breathing on a trip to play in a tournament in Colorado. In our first game, we were playing great and winning by 12 points early in the game. Then the altitude kicked in, adversely affected our breathing, and we lost the lead and eventually the game.

In our second game, having learned our lesson, we substituted more frequently! Maslow’s idea of physiological needs plays a major part in the athletic arena.

2. Safety Needs

Safety needs include protection from violence, emotional stability and well-being, health security, and financial security.

If a fight breaks out during a basketball game, there can be serious injuries. This is the reason a coach steps in immediately when there is any violence or dirty play in practice. The coach must protect the players. You drill your teams to play hard—never dirty.

The importance of emotional stability has gained more credence in sports in recent years. Many teams hire psychologists to help work with their players. There is a great deal of player failure in sports and it is critical for the players to stay emotionally stable.

Health security is much more prevalent in sports today than in my playing days. I once got a concussion during a basketball game. We had no trainers. The coach handled it by telling me after the game, “Sullivan, you play better when you don’t know where the hell you are!” He was right, and my medical treatment ended there! Games today have trainers available to protect the health of the athletes.

Financial security is predominant in professional sports. Most players today use free agency to go where the money is because they consider sport not to be a sport at all. They believe it is a short-term business at their level. I personally appreciate the athletes who have taken less money so the team can retain teammates or use the dollars to bring in new players.

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3. Love and Belonging Needs

These needs can be summed up with two words: love and relationships.

After teams win championships, you will often hear coaches say, “I love these guys” or “I loved coaching this team.” You can tell by their body language and the tone of their voice that they really mean it.

I think coaches say this because the season can be a tough grind. Practices, scouting, film work, travel, and problems that arise take a toll on coaches. However, when you have teams that give all they have every night in practice, you do come to love them.

ESPN did a 30-30 segment on the North Carolina State national championship team coached by Jim Valvano. I was especially interested in watching it because I knew a player on the team who used to come to our camps. Terry Gannon played a major role in their championship.

The program was a reunion of their players. This was 20 plus years from their title, and if you were to take one thing away from the show, it would be how much the players loved each other.

In the last analysis, sport is all about relationships. You can meet former teammates with whom you played 40 to 50 years earlier and that athletic bond is as strong as it ever was. Although you may have not seen each other in years, your friendship is so cemented it’s like you have been seeing each other weekly.

David Halberstam’s book, The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship, validates the relationship between athletics forges. Ted Williams is dying and three of his former Boston Red Sox teammates—Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, and Dom DiMaggio—make the trip to Florida to see him. Even though 50 years had passed since they played together, the bond among them never waned.

Love and belonging epitomize the essence of sports.

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4. Esteem Needs

These needs are characterized by self-respect and self-esteem. Self-respect is “the belief that you are valuable and deserve dignity.” Self-esteem is twofold—“it is based on the respect and acknowledgment from others and esteem which is based on your own self-assessment.”[4]

Often the players on the bench are the ones the coach respects the most because they work so hard in practices yet receive none of the glory. The best coaches never let the starters or stars ever denigrate the players on the bench. Coaches must always acknowledge the value and the dignity of those who play little. They often turn out to be the superstars of their professions.

Some coaches will never get “it.” They think they can motivate their players by degrading them. They embarrass the athletes during games and they constantly berate their performance in practices.

Great coaches are just the opposite. They are encouragers. They do push their players and they push them hard, but they always respect them. Great coaches enhance the self-esteem and confidence of their players.

5. Self-Actualization Needs

“Self-actualization describes the fulfillment of your full potential as a person.”[5]

I believe three words are the key to self-actualization: potential, effort, and regrets.

You often hear in athletics that a player has potential. It also is not uncommon for the person introducing the athlete to rave about his potential. I was fortunate to work with an outstanding man in the Milwaukee Bucks camps, Ron Blomberg. Ron had the best definition of potential that I ever heard: “Potential means he hasn’t done it.” Will he do all the work necessary to fulfill his potential?

Effort is great, but it’s not enough. If you want to reach your full potential, you must have a consistency of effort in your daily habit. Only consistency of effort can lead to success.

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John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, said that success is becoming all your ability will allow you to be. He agreed with his friend, major league umpire, George Moriarty, even though he used to kid him. Coach told him he never had seen Moriarty spelled with just one “i.” He followed this with, “Of course, the baseball players accused him of having only one ‘eye’ in his head as well.”

In his poem, The Road Ahead or The Road Behind, Moriarty wrote,

“. . . for who can ask more of a man
than giving all within his span, it seems to me, is not so far from – Victory.

When your life is winding down and you look back if you can say you gave “all in your span”—that you consistently gave it your best effort—you will have reached your full potential and there will be no regrets.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve learned more about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, consider reflecting on the last two needs (esteem needs and self-actualization needs) and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you doing all you can to enhance the self-esteem of those around you?
  • Are you doing all you can to self-actualize the potential you have been given?

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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Pat Sullivan

Pat Sullivan is a speaker and the author of two books "Attitude-The Cornerstone of Leadership" and "Team-Building: From the Bench to the Boardroom"

The Psychology of Motivation: Why Is Motivation So Powerful? Understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: 5 Levels Explained How To Excel At Work And Achieve Career Success How To Focus on the Good Things In Life (When Times Are Tough)

Trending in Meaning of Life

1 Confused About Life? Try These 4 Things to Find Clarity 2 Feel That Life Is Meaningless? Here’s How to Find Meaning 3 20 Invaluable Things Money Can’t Buy 4 Understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: 5 Levels Explained 5 How to Find Purpose in Life and Make Yourself a Better Person

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Last Updated on November 30, 2021

Confused About Life? Try These 4 Things to Find Clarity

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Confused About Life? Try These 4 Things to Find Clarity

Life is a mystery. We all know that. There are parts where the light at the end of the tunnel is clearly visible, but there are also parts where feel extremely confused about life.

It’s pretty normal to go through these highs and lows. Everyone experiences them, yet only a few speak up about it. So, if you’ve been feeling lost in the maze of life recently, don’t worry, because you’re not alone.

Luckily, since a lot of people have already gone through this before you, the key to unlocking this grave matter has been found!

Why Have I Become So Confused About Life?

Life is like an amusement part. Sometimes, you try a ride that will take you up to the sky. Other times, it brings you back to the ground. If you feel like life is a bumpy ride most days, you are probably questioning why you have become so confused about life.

So what’s going on? Why do you feel this way?

One of the major reasons why you may feel like this is because you don’t have time to enjoy your passions.

If you’re passionate about your career, that’s amazing. However, it may not be an outlet where you can exercise your creativity. If you’re too busy with your job and other daily routines, you’ll eventually feel like you’re stuck in a rut.

Aside from that, you may have also become detached from your purpose. It’s hard to see where you want yourself to end up in the future if you have a shallow idea of what your motivations are.

Third, you may feel confused about life because you’re alone. Even though you’re always with people, there may be a lack of substantial and genuine support around you. Building vital connections with other people is a must.

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Finally, you may be facing cognitive overload. This affects people of all ages. You may have so much stuff on your plate that you feel overloaded and feel out of control. Because of this, you need to find time to offload your current load.

How to Overcome Confusion and Find Joy in Life

You don’t have to be making any more bad decisions due to your confusion. Instead, try out 4 simple things to find clarity.

These things will pull you out of the swamp of confusion and place you on clear, dry land.

“Good. Be confused. Confusion is where inspiration comes from.” –– Robyn Mundell

1. Don’t Panic

When most people feel mental fog starts creeping in, they panic. While it’s human nature to get anxious about feeling like you’re not in control of your life, remember that this is just temporary.

Do not run away from the situation. This temporary solution will only make your problem worse. Instead, reassure yourself that you can get through this. Try to think of a hard situation you have handled before and remember how you powered through it.

It’s absolutely normal to feel like you’re making wrong decisions about your life, but when you fill your mind with negative thoughts, you will begin questioning your ability to overcome challenges. You may even become irrational and make wrong decisions.

As much as you can, be conscious about the way you talk to yourself when you are feeling lost or when you make wrong decisions. By practicing positive self-talk despite your confusion, you can feel more control of your life.

2. Discover Your Direction in a Confused Life

The first of the three things you need to sort is your life’s direction.

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We all are living this life with a deep purpose. There’s a reason why we’re here. Whether you believe in a religion or not, every scientific and religious belief tells us the same thing.

No matter how small or big your life’s purpose is, everything you do in life is connected to it. So, if you can figure it out and follow the right path deliberately, your feelings of being confused about life will be diminished. You will know that every step you take is meaningful because it’s leading you to where you’re supposed to be.

To be honest, finding the direction of your life isn’t the easiest thing. It is a long journey, to say the least. However, if one stays consistently motivated to get an answer, the answer will present itself.

Your life’s direction isn’t written in a secret book, nor is it enclosed in a buried treasure box. It’s closer to you than anything else in this world. The answer that you need is right inside you. That is why it’s so hard to get it out. Since it’s always been inside you, you have to struggle with your own self to bring it out.

But once again, the key is saved because millions before you have already experienced this journey. They succeeded, and so can you.

How To Bring Your Life’s Meaning to the Surface

To find the solution to your confusing life, all you have to do is interrogate yourself. Ask yourself the following questions, test your memory, listen to your intuition, and let clarity find its way to you.

1. What Do You Enjoy the Most in Life?

Currently, nothing is life might seem enjoyable, but look back. There are always certain things that your heart is in deeply. Make a list of the things that you have enjoyed the most in your life. It could be something as small as a 5-minute meditation session or a whole other state that you lived in.

2. What Do You Hate to Do in Life?

Just like some things come naturally to you, some you just naturally cannot enjoy, no matter how hard you try. You don’t necessarily have to be bad at these tasks, but you just don’t like doing them. These are definitely the things that are pulling you away from your life’s true direction.

3. What Are Your Goals?

Based on the things that you enjoy or don’t, you need to come up with some goals. You don’t know your life’s direction very clearly at this point. Hence, your goals don’t have to enforce a certain aim. Just think of the things you’d love to achieve in the longer run. Make a list of SMART goals with all of this knowledge in mind.

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4. Is Your Current Lifestyle Allowing You to Reach Your Goals?

Sit down with your list of goals. It’s time to contemplate. With an open mind, think about everything in your life that is helping you achieve your defined goals. Simultaneously, make a list of things that are pushing you away from them. You already know that whatever is diverging your path needs to be avoided.

5. What Can You Control to Fulfill Your Dreams?

Of the goals that you have, which ones can you achieve by changing parts of your life? Change things that are in your control if they help you reach your aims, dreams, and mental peace.

For things that seem to be out of your control, just accept them[1]. This is a huge factor that causes confusion. Don’t struggle to change everything around you. Some things are out of your hands, and maybe it’s better that way.

3. Figure out Your Ideal Career

The next dilemma that makes your life confusing is regarding career choices. Of course, your well-being depends majorly on your source of income. Now, not only does everyone want a career that makes them wealthy, but they also want to enjoy it.

People who are looking for a stable job, especially fresh graduates, are ones who experience this confusion in the worst possible way. However, some people who already have a well-paid job may also be unhappy with their career choice.

Steps to Shortlist a Career Option

There is a very simple, step-by-step process to help you figure out which career will be your ideal route. Keep in mind that more money doesn’t guarantee mental peace, and, similarly, a job that you enjoy may not pay as much as you want.

1. List Your Skills and Qualifications

Start with self-evaluation. There are two parts to this. The first is your qualifications, and the other is your skill set.

Your qualifications are everything you’ve studied or learned. Include your educational background, majors, subjects, short courses, online seminars, and everything else that you’ve learned over the years.

Next, you have your skills. Everything you’ve learned may not have translated into practicality. The things that you learned to do or know how to do from experimenting or experience all classify as your skills. Include every minute detail, even if it is something like making delicious pancakes.

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The next step is to figure out which careers can use your skills[2]. So if you’re a great cook, you can teach it to other people, work in a restaurant, write a cookbook, etc.

2. Take an Online Career Test

It’s all right if you’re having a hard time putting 2 and 2 together. Matching your skills to a career may be hard for you. That is why there are so many online tests that help you put your finger on it.

You can search online to get access to hundreds of quick tests that ask you a few questions. Based on your answers, they give you some options that you can consider. Look for the ones that jump out immediately, not necessarily the ones at the top of the list. If you feel good about one suggestion, follow that idea further.

3. Look Through Job Options That Require Your Skills

In today’s digital world, searching for jobs is way easier. You don’t have to go door-to-door and ask businesses what they require. Instead, look at the job descriptions that most businesses have posted on their websites. You should follow their social media, too.

If you know of some online job portals, be sure to sign up. Look through the different job postings to figure out where your skills can come in handy. You are highly likely to find a suitable job in this way.

4. Avoid Emotional Attachment If You’re Not Ready

The last thing that may be causing confusion in your life is vagueness in terms of emotional commitments. Should you be romantically involved with someone? Is it time to get married? Should you stay single for a while?

Some signs indicate your unpreparedness for a commitment. If you’re experiencing the opposite, you can go ahead and settle down with a person that you love.

Here are some signs that you may not be ready for emotional commitment. If you identify with any of these, take some time to explore your own goals and direction before offering dedication to another human.

  • You can’t compromise, and things always have to be your way.
  • You can’t spend too much time with the same person because you get bored.
  • Sharing your personal space, time, and things is a big no for you.
  • Your shoulders are already burdened with one too many responsibilities related to career, family, education, etc.
  • Career-wise, you’re not where you want to be, and your attention and focus are on your career goals with no time for distractions.
  • You went through a bad breakup or heartbreak recently.

Final Thoughts

Life is complicated, and confusion is a natural result of that. Fortunately, moments of confusion, if worked through properly, often lead us to higher levels of clarity about our direction and purpose. Take the time to identify why you are confused about life and tackle them to get back on your desired path.

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More Tips for Finding Clarity in Life

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rawson-Harris via unsplash.com

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