posted on June 10, 2019
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
You need to take care of the basics before you can reach your full potential.
If you’ve been following our blog, you know that we really preach “the basics” – sleep, nutrition, hydration, and stress management. If you don’t get these things in check, your athletic goals will be considerably harder, and maybe even impossible, to reach. In this blog, I’d like to reiterate the importance of the basics, but also give you a broader breakdown of WHY they are so important. This goes way beyond your fitness and weight loss goals – this is about your whole life. We want you to thrive, not just survive, and it all starts with your base.
Yes, I said base, because we’re looking at a pyramid. My fellow undergraduate psychology majors, now’s our time to shine, because we’re talking about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Abraham Maslow was a mid-20th century psychologist, and this pyramid is his best known contribution to the field. In his paper “A Theory of Human Motivation,” he spelled out the steps needed for humans to reach true “self-actualization” – their full potential as a creative individual. Before we can climb to our peak, we need to handle the base and the basics.
Our physiological and safety needs come first, always. Without enough to eat and drink, enough sleep, and a safe place to live, there is no room to focus on anything (or anyone) else. Once those are met, we get to move on to our psychological needs – loving relationships and success in meeting our goals, be they in our careers, with our families, or in the gym. With all of these levels locked down, we can ascend to our peak. Meeting all of our needs – taking care of ourselves in these essential ways – means we’ve given ourselves the time and space needed to be creative, in whatever way that means to each of us.
The idea is this: each level of the pyramid must be built before moving to the next level. You’ll never be fully “finished” with any of these levels (you need to focus on meeting your basic physiological needs every single day; you need to put work into your relationships throughout the span of those relationships if you want them to last), but you CANNOT skip levels.
So what does this all mean?
It’s pretty simple really: you need to attend to your base before you attend to your relationships or your personal goals.
Does that seem impossible? I can totally relate. There’s some comfort in focusing just on the higher level stuff. But in reality, those things are a privilege afforded only to those who build the necessary base to get there. And the tricky part is that we CAN try to surpass the process and put those relationships and bigger goals first. It works for awhile, but then we hit a wall. We break down and have no base to pull from!
I’ve hit this point more times than I care to admit, both as someone who tends to try to take care of others before myself and as someone who might be considered a workaholic, both in my career and in training. Just a few weeks ago, I tried convincing a coworker that it would be a great idea for me to train 6-7 days a week. I got shut down immediately, and for good reason.
Training that hard is something that needs to be earned, and I hadn’t earned it.
It’s earned with proper sleep, nutrition, hydration, and stress management, all things I’ve neglected while putting work and training and my relationships ahead of myself. And the worst part? I may have been pouring myself into those bigger things, but I wasn’t really doing them justice, because the reservoir I was pouring from was almost empty.
How good could I be if I’d attended to those basic needs first? How good could you be?
I’m challenging myself – and every one of you reading this – to take this opportunity to build the base of your Needs pyramid. Understand that while many aspects of your life will seem more important than your sleep and nutrition, if you don’t take care of those first, you’re doing those higher level things a disservice. It’s basic airplane safety logic – you need to put your own air mask on before anyone else around you, no matter how much you love and value them. So for the sake of your bigger goals, protect your bed time, eat the most nutritious food you can find in just the right amounts, and drink some damn water. Then you’re on the vertical path to reaching your true potential.