Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs - Search for Happiness | GCC Principal Blog

The search for happiness



  • June 23, 2022

No one would argue that the last couple of years have been tough on everyone. We feel a bit battered and knocked around emotionally and there is the very real grief for what we have missed out on. In particular, I feel for those who didn’t have the opportunity to be with loved ones at their end of life or weren’t able to attend their funerals to farewell them. There are countless others who had to cancel a once-in-a-lifetime holiday or had their dream wedding changed beyond all recognition. 

Thankfully, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel but we are still feeling the effects of what we have been through. We are all tired and feeling a little worn down. We want to feel good again but are not sure where to start the search for happiness.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

A lot of psychologists and doctors have researched what humans need to be happy. A famous example you may have heard of is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which talks about the need for:

  1. Basic physical needs like food, shelter, water, etc.
  2. Safety needs – physical, emotional and financial.
  3. Belonging and feeling loved.
  4. Esteem: to feel respected and have a sense of self-worth
  5. Reaching your full potential through personal growth and experiences.

I’m sure that somewhere between #2 and #4 we would want to add the need to take a holiday or throw a huge party and the freedom to never have to wear another mask again!

Is happiness relative?

Going by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs model, happiness could be anywhere between #3 and #5 on the scale. It would be difficult to feel happy if you are hungry, homeless or in danger but feeling loved (#3) is enough for many to be happy.

When our students went on mission trips to Fiji, the one thing that really impacted them was how happy the Fijians were even though they lived in poverty and had a very tough life. It was a wake-up call for our students and staff alike. They couldn’t understand how the Fijians could be so happy with so little.

On the other end of the scale, we’ve all read of celebrities who have made it in the world, well and truly surpassing point #5 but seem miserable and find life futile after they have reached their full potential. Sometimes it even seems that the richest and most famous people are the most miserable so I’m not sure how Maslow’s hierarchy relates to these situations. Their search for happiness was not met by having all five needs satisfied. 

The most famous search for happiness

There is a famous example in history of one man’s search for happiness. He was rich, powerful and had reached his full potential but this didn’t satisfy him so he went in search of happiness. He didn’t find it in working hard so looked for it in partying hard. That didn’t work for him so he built an empire, gathered riches and indulged in lots of sex. That also didn’t work so he tried gaining knowledge and becoming wise. The result was that he hated life and saw all his efforts as useless as chasing the wind. 

The journey to true happiness

That famous person from history in search of happiness is King Solomon. The Bible gives accounts of rulers, kings and queens coming from far and wide to seek Solomon’s counsel on every matter and topic. Solomon lived about 3000 years ago and yet his search for happiness is just as relevant today. You can read more about it in the fascinating book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. 

Happiness can’t be found in a career, riches, sex, reaching your full potential or gaining the respect of others.  So, how do we search for happiness?

Fortunately for us, Solomon reached the end of Ecclesiastes with the answer to true happiness in chapter 12, verse 13. “After all this, there is only one thing to say: Have reverence for God, and obey his commands, because this is all that we were created for.”

I believe Solomon’s example and his conclusion is still relevant today. It is worth thinking about. 

We have been created by God. We are not cosmic accidents with no purpose and completely at the mercy of our circumstances and emotions. While mindfulness, relaxation and other well-being techniques will have their place, I believe true peace and happiness come when we have peace with our Creator. 

I would encourage you to read through the book of Ecclesiastes; it is fascinating to see that the search for happiness, peace and truth is as old as time itself. The really wonderful thing is that peace with God can be achieved. To find out more ask a Christian friend or go to your local church and find out how God can provide you with a true and lasting sense of happiness.

I hope these school holidays will provide you with good times with your family, rest from the school routine and the opportunity to explore what true happiness is all about. 

Mike Curtis, Principal

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