Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness through spending

What is happiness? It may reasonably be described as the fulfillment of our most basic needs. In 1943, the psychologist Abraham Maslow suggested that our needs must be satisfied in a particular order (he described this order as a "hierarchy of needs") for us to achieve true happiness. Though he would add to the hierarchy in subsequent writings, Maslow initially organized mankind's needs into five groups.

  • Basic Biological Needs: These are the items we must have to survive, such as air, water, food, sleep, etc. When these needs aren't satisfied we may feel irritated, tense or uncomfortable. These feelings motivate us to remedy the situation as soon as possible. Once these needs have been satisfied to a certain extent, we may think about other things.
  • Safety Needs: Safety needs have to do with establishing stability and consistency in an unpredictable world. We need the physical security of a home, good health and employment, as well as the sense of physical security that comes from being surrounded by family and friends.
  • Love Needs: Love and belongingness are next in the hierarchy. Humans have a desire to belong to groups: to families, clubs, work groups, religious groups, even gangs. We need to feel loved and accepted by others.
  • Esteem Needs: There are two types of esteem needs. The first is self-esteem, which results from competence or the mastery of a task. The second has to do with the recognition of your positive actions by others. We not only need to be respected, we have a need to respect others.
  • Self-Actualization: This refers to our inward desire to become everything we're capable of becoming. Only people who have satisfied ALL of their other needs can maximize their potential. They can seek knowledge, peace, aesthetic experiences, self-fulfillment, etc.