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Maslow’s doing a handstand!

Posted on: Wednesday, April 22, 2020 Category: Blog (58)
3 min read

Do you remember Maslow? The author of the seminal psychology piece in 1943,“A Theory of Human Motivation”. I remember meeting him for the first time at university in a subject called Consumer Behaviour. It seemed that, no matter what we learned, all roads led to Maslow and his bonny coloured pyramid. And I was hooked. The ability to be able to easily place people’s motivation and subsequent actions in a level stratum made so much sense.

And then COVID-19 hit and something went wrong. The pyramid is upside down, teetering on its apex. Apart from those people posting online from their expansive holiday homes about taking ‘time out for yourself’, taking time to meditate, contemplating nature and enjoying the time with your family – most people are worried. Really worried. And they have found themselves back at the bottom of the pyramid – at physiological and safety.

The whole aim of Maslow’s motivation theory was that each of us took our own personal journey to the top. To self-actualization – to understand and define our ‘purpose’. A life without purpose is a life without meaning (Frankl and Peterson make this argument compelling). But this has been shaken to the core in the last two months. Suddenly, many of us are finding out that our jobs don’t matter. They are not ‘essential’. That we can be ‘stood down’ or furloughed – seeking government support. That our purpose that we spent so much time defining is undone when there are no customers, audiences and no people to work with.

The things that we bought on our way to the top (esteem) – don’t matter. Instead, we are worried about the most basic of human needs; food, medicine and safety. Mother nature has reminded us that we are simply animals. Governments and health experts are making us scared.

Look at the image above. Look at what we are buying and what we have left behind. Suddenly, we are all deciding to sit at home in gloves, baking our own bread (really – have you actually tasted that crud?), guzzling cough medicine, eating packaged food (seriously? Does that help to fight off a virus?), lifting a dumbbell and counting our rolls of toilet paper.

And the esteem products? Dumped in a panic.

Interesting isn’t it? This is not necessarily a time to meditate, rather, it is a time to understand human motivation and think about how this impacts your personal brand. The people who have the most influence right now are one of two types:

1. The people who will tell you what to do.

Before we get all overly descriptive – these are leaders. The ones who take charge and make decisions when there is uncertainty. They do things because it is the right thing to do. Keep working whether they are stood down – because they won’t be stood down forever. Help others, will not let fear dictate their behaviour and are ready and willing to change.

2. The people who know things.

These are the connected ones, the ones that gather and share knowledge. The ones who connect people, even if there is nothing in it for them. The ones who can talk about things other than COVID-19 and how bad it is.

So, while these are times that none of us expected, the way that we behave right now will be remembered long after the virus. Look to your strengths, think of how they can help you think about what your real purpose is now in this incredibly different world.

Don’t know your strengths?

We use the VIA Character Strengths tool. Developed by Dr Christopher Peterson and Dr Martin Seligman, the founders of positive psychology, this is a great, free tool to get you started thinking about your strengths.

More than 8 million people around the world have completed this survey.

Take the Character Strengths survey and we will send you some information about your strengths!


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