As I have gotten older balance becomes more prevalent a need in my life. Earlier on in my profession I remember sitting with my VP in Soho and saying that “I work hard and play hard, so because I love what I do there is no distinction.” He was disagreeing with me, and at the time I didn’t get it because I do what I love.

That said the concept of doing what you love is not a new one, and some of us are blessed in the opportunity to do that. However, then I had fulfilment of esteem, self-actualisation, cognitively, financially, and intellectually but to the cost of the earlier needs without admitting it: sex, health, friendship (constantly travelling), and no partner to share my life with. I also did not have a partner or indeed children.

Now I have those things but that demanded several negotiations in my life, not least with myself. It now means that with each move I make I consider what is important to me and negotiate in that manner:

  • Physiological – Maslow puts things such as breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis and excretion as a basic need and once we meet those needs they can not motivate us. However, one of the realisations as I have gotten older, is how this motivates my decisions more. As a wife and mother of two: time for sleep, and a healthy sex life is important. Negotiating flexible working arrangements that allow me to sleep and have a healthy sex life is a motivator. What times do you want to work? Can you work flexibly? Can you work from home?
  • Safety – security of employment, of resources, of morality, of the family, of health and of property is a second tier need. However, again my health is a predominant feature. I realised if I did not have my health, I would not be able to be there for my children, and my partner. This was not through a health scare but pure self-realisation of what was important. So the terms that I negotiated allow me to practice yoga at least 3 times a week. This is a motivator. Can you work flexibly? Are there facilities that can be accessed in a lunch hour to stay healthy? What’s the salary is it fair for the role i.e. what they would pay a man? Is it enough to live?
  • Love/ Belonging – Friendship, family, sexual intimacy – these now a significant motivators for me as life is precious and I actually consider them on par with self-actualisation. How much do you want to travel? What time will I have for family and friends? Can your spouse be based with you if the assignment is abroad? What support framework is there for your spouse? What are the people like? What social activities are there? What hours do I want to work? What are the expectations? Is it a presence or productivity culture? I am not willing to work excessive hours.
  • Esteem – self-esteem confidence, achievement, respect of others, and respect by others. Strangely enough this became less of a motivator. I no longer needed the recognition of others that was not important. However a respectful workplace is. This may vary for everyone: Are people driven off their job title? Is it hierarchical? Do people respect different people’s views? What is the challenge, and is it challenging enough for me? What future challenges could there be for me? What development is available? What is my manager’s competence and leadership style?
  • Self-Actualisation – Morality, creativity, Spontaneity, Problem Solving, Lack of Prejudice and Acceptance of Facts. An environment where I can fully realise my potential, be creative, get up each morning and think ‘yeah’, be authentic and act with integrity is a predominant motivator and deciding factor. What empowerment is there in the organisation of their employees? Is it a command and control organisation?

Some critiques have added other levels like ‘Transcendence” “Cognitive” and “Aesthetic.” In my experience many people are neglecting the lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy in thirst for the higher motivators. As I have become more self-aware of my needs, the base of the hierarchy: Physiological, Safety and Love can act at the higher levels of motivation.

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