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The Disruption of Maslow’s

The Decision Making Failures of the American Millennial

In this transformational talk, I discuss the disruption of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.


To recap Maslow’s: it's a (self-described) hierarchy of needs that should dictate a person’s decision-making process.

Maslow’s is broken down into three different sets of needs.

  • Basic Needs
  • Psychological Needs
  • Self Actualization Needs

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The failure is happening when Millennials erroneously prioritize needs and make decisions “out of order” that are illogical or misguided.

You see this happening a lot with young adults because they don't have real-world experiences to help them understand the negative repercussions of making bad choices.

All of us make poor choices occasionally, but when we continuously make severe or wrong decisions to satisfy our complex needs, we are likely to see significant consequences.

So let me give you an example of a way in which youth have (mistakenly) prioritized their psychological needs above their basic needs, hence disrupting the hierarchy.

Basic needs are physiological that include food, water, shelter, and so on. The next tier (of needs) is safety, security, and freedom from fear or instability.

So, let's say that a young adult decides to color their hair with a toxic hair dye and they decide to take an illicit drug. This could be the result of peer pressure from social media or from stories they’ve heard from their friend’s parties.

As young adults or teenagers, they make a decision that will hurt their body and violate their personal safety and security--a basic need-- in order to satisfy the psychological need of belonging to a community, building self-esteem, and feeling positive about themselves as the result of a looking or feeling a certain way.

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Unfortunately, the consequence is at the expense of the person's personal or mental health... or worse!

If we violate the hierarchy of needs we can sabotage our own lives, especially when we’re young, simply because we don't understand the massive repercussions.

Now I can hear you saying, “Okay, Wesley... not everyone is dying their hair, taking molly, and living at music festivals... is there another example that would help me understand?”

Yes! I'm glad you asked.

Here’s an easy one. Look at student loan debt. Young adults are taking on a huge amount of loans for their schooling and education so that they can meet the Self Actualization need of being fulfilled, educated, and accomplishing desired goals.

Not necessarily a bad thing, right?! Except for when they put safety, security, and a financial future at risk as the result of willingly accumulating a crushing load of student loans.

So what's the solution what's the answer to this?

Well, there is no easy button.
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Most young adults and youth (actually, most people) don't like being told what to do. Especially when they have access to all the information that they need. They have access to all knowledge and resources online through the Internet

Except there is one small thing that Millennials don't have access to:

Years and years of real-life, informed EXPERIENCE.

And that's one thing leaders usually have…
real-world, hard-knock life, lessons-learned experiences.

It’s our job to do our best to help the young adults in our community and in our circles understand when they're putting themselves at risk.

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