What Does the Humanistic Theory of Motivation Say About Your Entrepreneurial Potential?

Plotting your course on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Are you really cut out for an entrepreneurial life? That may sound like a confusing question, especially if you already own and operate a business. However, if we look at it from the point of view of the humanistic theory of motivation, then the question becomes clearer, and you’ll have a better idea of whether you’re at the right point in your life to really push through the barriers and create a business and life with purpose.

What is the humanistic theory of motivation?

Some psychologists believe that people are the product of their environment. That’s kind of limiting, don’t you think? Humanistic psychologists believe there is more to life than your environment. They believe that:

  • You’re influenced by deeper meaning attached to your experiences

  • Rather than your actions being determined by what is done to you, you make conscious decisions based upon your needs and current circumstances

  • Your needs must be fulfilled to reach your full potential

Introducing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Perhaps one of the best-known humanists is Abraham Maslow. He developed his Hierarchy of Needs as a tool to determine which order you must fulfil your needs to become fully able. This humanist theory of motivation describes what motivates you along your personal path to growth.

Here’s how it plays out:

  1. Your physiological needs

You must have food and water to survive. Warmth and rest are also important to you. These are the most basic of needs, and the first of the four need groups that are called ‘deficiency needs’. The deficiency of food or water, for example, spurs you on to do what must be done. Primarily, your motivation is money to live.

  1. Your safety needs

Once you are fed and watered, your mind will move to the need to be safe and secure. You’ll put a lock on your front door, set the burglar alarm.

Security is also experienced financially (investing for retirement, for example), emotionally (your family and friends), health and wellbeing (safeguarding against accidents), and so on. In this category, Maslow also included factors such as law and order, social stability, and property.

  1. Your belongingness and love needs

Now we move to your need to belong – the first of your psychological needs. Your need for relationships motivates your behavior. Therefore, some people assimilate their behavior to align with that of a desired partner.

  1. Your esteem needs

The fourth level, and the second of the psychological needs describes your self-esteem and the esteem with which others have for you. Think of mastery, independence, and achievement (self-esteem), and reputation and status (the esteem of others for you).

  1. Your self-actualization needs

This is the peak of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, describing your desire to realize your potential. This is different for all of us. For example, you may be driven by the desire to:

  • Be the best parent possible

  • Achieve academic success

  • Invent the next time-saving device

  • Create masterpieces of art

  • Build a multi-million-dollar business

  • Develop the wealth needed to live a more philanthropic life

When bread alone is not enough to fulfil you

Although it appears that you need to move through each of the stages above to reach the point at which you desire to become your full potential, this is too simplistic. You still have need for food and shelter even when doing the things that you must do to achieve your highest goals.

However, when there is enough bread to put on your table, your other needs become more important to you. As Maslow says, “At once other (and ‘higher’) needs emerge and these, rather than physiological hungers, dominate the organism. And when these in turn are satisfied, again new (and still ‘higher’) needs emerge and so on.”

Are you ready to do what you were ‘born to do’?

In our Podcast ‘Defining the Entrepreneur’, Kate Jaramillo says that entrepreneurs, “crave freedom to work the hours they want; freedom to create; freedom to not have a cap on their salary; freedom to have time to travel or spend time with their loved ones, the people they love the most, or to do the things they love the most.

Ken Andrukow explains, “An entrepreneur does not operate well in the status quo. They are always looking to shift things up.” He goes on to say:

I think they should stop worrying about how much money they’re making. It’s not about money. It’s about doing what you love to do, what you are uniquely qualified to do, which will differentiate you from anyone else in the world, and making sure that you are headed toward the things that you love to do. 

So, having the freedom of time, money, health, relationship, and purpose. The amount of money is not a part of any of those things. 

People who start with a preconceived notion of how much money they need to make are often wrong. Ultimately, this holds them back.

In short, while money and stability are important, your motivator now is your desire, your values, and your purpose. If you can say this is you, then you are ready for the next stage in your life journey – to achieve your entrepreneurial journey.

Where are you on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Let’s get our heads together and help you create the entrepreneurial life you deserve.


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