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Thank you Dr. Maslow!

Many books on time management include a discussion of psychologist Abraham Maslow and of his theory of human motivation. I was only vaguely familiar his ideas until I read his book Toward a Psychology of Being with an interesting forward by Richard Lowry.

Maslow wanted psychology to be more positive. He wanted psychology to focus on successful people as well as the unhealthy.

 Maslow (1908-1970) tried to show that human beings are motivated by more than self-preservation and sexual gratification. Yes, they are capable of violence and cruelty and all other forms of nastiness. But according to Maslow, these are not basic, instinctual drives as Freud claimed. Beneath the surface, human beings are fundamentally good and decent. When they’re not, they are reacting to pain and stress in their lives which derives from the deprivation of basic human needs such as security, love and self-esteem.

Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” begins at the most basic level with the Physiological Needs – food, shelter, relief from pain. Moving upward, there is Safety and Security; and then Belongingness – the need for friendship, interaction, and love; Esteem – the need for self-esteem and esteem from others; and lastly Self-actualization or the maximization of our potential.

According to Maslow, if one is struggling with lower-level needs, it is not always possible to be a good person. However, when people manage to achieve satisfaction of their basic needs, they can become better by focusing on their higher needs for self-actualization.

But what does this have to do with time management? ‘Time management’ is a misnomer because it’s not really possible to manage time. It’s not about accomplishing more in a given amount of time – a common misconception. Rather, it’s a method of discovering and focusing on the most important areas in one’s life.

Time management is for people who want more than the satisfaction of their basic needs. These are people who are seeking happier, more productive and fulfilling lives.

The problem with Maslow’s theory is that it is based on subjective criteria that are not scientifically verifiable-especially his notion of self-actualization. This is why it has not achieved greater acceptance among psychologists. But his theory is compelling. We want to believe in his more positive view of human nature. His book ranks high on my list of all-time favorites. Thank you so much Dr. Maslow!

Paul Alpert-Founder

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