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Read an Excerpt Chapter 2 Ascending the Ladder of Personal Needs Life and transition are inseparable. Most transitions are accompanied by some degree of loss. The greater the loss, the more one’s focus shifts from higher order human needs (meaning and potential) to a lower order of human needs (food, shelter, security). The order of human needs is based on Psychologist, Abraham Maslow’s well-known theory and model:
Hierarchy of Human Needs (Maslow’s 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”). Maslow proposed
that our basic requirements must be filled, in order to focus on our higher order needs. Maslow describes his
Hierarchy of Human Needs in this order: 1. Physiological (e.g., food, shelter, water, air)
2. Safety and Security (e.g., personal and financial)
3. Love and Belonging (e.g., family, friends, intimacy)
4. Esteem (e.g., acceptance, achievement and respect)
5. Self-actualization (e.g., meaning and potential) When our basic, fundamental needs are threatened, it is likely that the pursuit of our higher order needs will be
abandoned. Preserving basic need, according to Maslow, will always be necessary to the foundation of one’s quality of life. Transitions that are likely to cause a threat to basic needs include loss of a close relationship, health issues,
job loss, divorce, or unfulfilled dreams and goals. Retirement, and the time leading up to it, also belongs in the category of transition and loss. The time between ages 55 and 75 – what some have called our ‘third age’, is one of the most impactful transitions. Each person will enter it on terms that have been defined by the ‘first’ and ‘second’ stages of their lives. How are you managing this transition? Where do you find yourself in Maslow’s Hierarchy? You may be leaning toward retirement, or seeking a different kind of work, or a combination of both. These
decisions involve a loss and an ending of what has been known, and is often accompanied by fear of what is
unknown. If it’s time to be thinking about your post-career life, yet you feel stuck and indecisive, take a measure of your
circumstances. Are your needs being met on levels 1, 2, and 3? Are you recovering from a loss or loss upon loss?
Or, have you recovered and are not yet ready to pursue your greater potential and purpose? Wherever you find yourself, and whatever must work itself out, focus on what you are able to do, and the
resources and support you need to get back on solid ground. Put your time and energy there. It’s important
to understand that things will not be the same as before. This takes acceptance in order to take the next steps. When you feel reassured that you have done what you can to satisfy your basic needs, you will once again find
the energy to focus on accomplishing your higher level of needs – esteem, meaning and potential.

© 2014 Donna M. Bennett

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