Malaysiakini
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COMMENT | When needs are simple, life will not be suffocating

Rais Hussin & Margarita Peredaryenko

Published

COMMENT | Behavioural sciences have long informed us that human need is one of the greatest inner motivators of our behaviour. However, what type of individual needs leads to what kind of behaviour? Also, how does it all add up on the national level? Given the recent pervasive lapse of moral-ethical integrity and wide-spread corruption, it probably makes sense to revisit these questions.

The initial scientific findings suggested that we are all driven by a group of universal needs prioritised by individuals in a hierarchical order (Maslow's hierarchy of needs). The hierarchy starts with the basic needs such as biological and physiological and ends with the highest order needs such as self-actualisation or transcendence.

The existence of these universal categories of human needs has been firmly re-established in contemporary empirical studies. The researchers strongly confirmed the universality of human needs regardless of the cultural differences but found no evidence of any universal hierarchy. In other words, human beings appear to pursue all these needs at the same time.

From these theoretical insights, it appears logical then to portray the universal human needs in the form of a sliced pie (refer to the graph below) rather than a hierarchical pyramid as in Maslow's original representation.

Now, this pie visualisation of our needs is critical to understanding why "when needs are simple, life will not be suffocating".

Each of us has our own "needs pie", and the size of this pie can be viewed as being relatively fixed by our life energy potential. However, it is within our control to decide how we slice our needs pie - which needs we choose to prioritise more and pursue the most.

Before we slice though, let's notice that all those needs can be broadly categorised as either deficiency or growth needs. The same graph below helps us to see how contrasting these two groups of needs are.

The deficiency needs arise due to scarcity of resources and are fuelled by our self-interest and focus on the accumulation of material possessions, often in a competitive manner. On the contrary, the growth needs do not stem from scarcity but create abundance. These needs have an ultimate outward focus on wealth creation for the selves and, importantly, for others done in the spirit of cooperation and respect for the dual value of life (our own life and lives of others).

Self-interest and pursuit of our own deficiency needs are not wrong; rather, ...  

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