Physical Training and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

In Mental Mastery by admin3 Comments

How integral is your training to your life?

Here’s a couple different possibilities:

1 – You don’t train so it’s not.
2 – It’s something you feel like you have to do to be healthy and look good
3 – It’s something you look forward to every day (and if you don’t train every day, then you‘re looking forward to your next workout).
4 – It becomes a part of who you are, taking precedent over a whole lot else.
5 – It then becomes what you do, professionally on some level.

Now let’s take the time to look at each one of these in turn and framing them with Maslow‘s Hierarchy of Needs.

1 – You don’t train so it’s not.

Shame on you. But seriously, if you’re reading on this site then I highly doubt you fall into this category. Even if we don’t look at the higher needs training can provide, like self-actualization, which I realize won’t be the case for many people, exercise ought to be a necessity. On some level it is. The body must move around in order to function well. The better it can move the better it can function.

The benefits to your health are well established. Quality training can be done in a short amount of time. So while it’s not critical for short term survival, if you look at the long term I would say it is.

2 – It’s something you feel like you have to do to be healthy and look good

Here we move onto realizing that exercise is beneficial. But this area would be categorized with statements like “I must exercise,” and “I don’t like to but I have to.” Here we begin to look at the benefits in the second area of safety. With proper exercise you are ensuring yourself of your health, which helps to secure many other things in your life.

The looking good part may include safety but can also include the higher levels, like belonging and self-esteem. We’ll discuss these more in a moment.

Still if you stop here, then you’re leaving out the higher benefits that exercise can bring.

3 – It’s something you look forward to every day (and if you don’t train every day, then you‘re looking forward to your next workout).

In this area exercise is no longer something that you have to do but something you want to do. This is where the real fun begins. Here you’re possibly accessing the levels of both belonging and self-esteem. This will depend on how you train, and your interactions with others. For people that are more others oriented it will be important to train with their friends or be a part of a community (think Crossfit).

On top of this training can not only give you health benefits, but psychological benefits as well like self-esteem, confidence and achievement. If you’ve ever talked to a family member and been excited about a goal you achieved in the gym but they just didn’t get it it’s because you’re coming from these higher levels, where they’re not at.

Here is where training becomes a part of your lifestyle, something you do regularly, and something that you love to do. At this point exercise is not a chore, and I feel sorry for those who feel it is. All they have to do is find a way of enjoying it and it changes from “I have to” into “I want to.” I often tell people if I had to run on a treadmill for an hour I wouldn’t do it either. But you put a kettlebell in my hands and I can have lots of fun.

4 – It becomes a part of who you are, taking precedent over a whole lot else.

This is just a step beyond the previous. This is where your training becomes a part of your identity and to take that away would make you not you. At this point you couldn’t even fathom not working out. To not train for me, leads to depression. This is were what you do in the gym becomes a means of self-actualization.

How you mold your body, how you become stronger, how you develop your ability to move, it’s not about getting a workout but becoming more of who you wish to be. Working out is no longer about health or even enjoyment but about mastery.

5 – It then becomes what you do professionally on some level.

If training becomes part of your identity then what often happens is it becomes part or all of your vocation too. You become a personal trainer, a coach, a performing strongman, etc. This cements the identity further in. After all you’ll hear yourself say “I am a personal trainer,” which is different from “I like to work out and lift kettlebells,” where your identity is not in the statement.

Here you can spend even more time and energy on your path of mastery and working to become who you wish to be. And hopefully you can find a way to make some good money while doing it. 🙂

Which is Best?

If we look at the opportunity in each area some things become clear. Area one is not very useful. I guess we could say that’s the only bad category to be in, as it is disempowering. In area two you may be getting some results, but with a small switch to area three you’d get all those and more.

But are areas four and five necessarily better? For some yes but not for everyone. There are many other areas where you can seek mastery and self-actualization, and physical culture won’t be right for everyone, even though some may think it is. If you do choose that it is, then go for it with everything you’ve got.

My hope is that by writing this you can understand where you and other people are coming from. With better understanding you may be able to improve your results. Which category would you place yourself in?

(If you’re in the higher levels here, or can’t seem to get out of the bottom ones, then the upcoming Wizards of Strength Workshop is the place to be. Claim your spot right now.)


  1. It’s cool to see how I progressed through that sequence. As I got better at exercise and health, I enjoyed it more. As I learned what is more effective and what is not effective, it became more and more integral to my life. If I had never bothered to figure out what worked, I would still be doing my weight machine circuit at the gym and I’d hate exercise. Now that I am capable of gymnastics and know good weightlifting technique, I actually enjoy doing it.

    That in turn inspired me to help other people learn the right way to do things so they too can eventually enjoy health.

  2. I like the way you think. I have been very much on this self actualising or mastering journey since the beginning of the year. Its good to hear like minded people are out there- even if it’s a few- there’s probably more than we think though.

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