The Story of the Mouse and the Elephant


The Backstory

I have been thinking a lot this past month about the fact that I am a bit out of whack as it relates to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Ok, so how many of you are thinking “what’s that?” 

Maslow’s hierarchy is something I learned about back in college.  Something that has stuck with me and has demonstrated the power of a good model and/or metaphor.  For those unfamiliar with this model, Maslow’s hierarchy falls within the domain of psychology and was first proposed by Abraham Maslow in 1943.  He explains this model in his 1954 book on Motivation and Personality. 

Now you might be thinking “that’s a very old model – 60 years! – does it really apply today”.  While there are those out there that argue with specifics – typically other psychology theoreticians – his model really is very solid overall.  If you want to read details of the model and the criticisms, you can find them on wikipedia.   

I have personally found Maslow’s hierarchy useful in:

  • Understanding where I am
  • Understanding where others are
  • Understanding where I want to or should focus time and energy
  • Identifying what is most needed and how to best help 
  • Answering the question “are you solving the right problem?” 

I’ve observed that some business interventions (and social too) are geared towards higher levels when the people who are in the midst of the change really need help with feeling that the lower levels are stable.  Something for you to think about during your next Change Program…   How might this affect how you craft Communications?

Maslow’s hierarchy is often seen as a pyramid.  The idea being that you are climbing to the top.  At the top of the pyramid is this concept of self-actualization. 

Self-actualization (in my terms, not necessarily Maslow’s) is when you reach that place of full potential.  You are becoming the person you want to be, what you are capable of, and expressing yourself and your beliefs.  You are truly living who you are.  However, to reach this level, all the other levels must be in place and stable.  In order to self-actualize, you must first master the four levels of needs found below:  physiological, safety, love, and esteem.  

Recently I’ve been feeling like I’m sliding backwards.  I also know that I am not alone in that feeling these days.  With all the chaos in the world these days – layoffs, business challenges, foreclosures – it can be hard to find time and/or energy to focus on yourself.  Where you truly are and who you truly want to be. 

I’ve been thinking about the fact that I want to be working on level 5, but that I seem to be living in the chaos of level 2, safety.  Safety you say?  Well in Maslow’s hierarchy, safety includes the roof over one’s head.  I find it hard to write, share, and support others the way I truly want to when faced with the on-going stress of keeping the house over our family’s head.  Sound like anyone you might know?  Yourself maybe?

The Story

If you have been reading my recent posts you will know that I have been talking (and thinking alot) about Elephants.  Today I realized that I have the big, hairy, ugly Elephant sitting on my shoulder with his trunk shoved into my ear repeating these phrases (or something similar):

  • “you are not good enough”
  • “you can’t keep up”
  • “you are letting other people down”
  • “who are you to think that you can write those books”

Mighty Mouse as envisioned by Sydney Purvis, age 8 upon hearing this story. ~~~@o:>

Guilt, guilt, guilt.  I’m sure you’ve been there, felt that.  Anyone saying “been there, done that”?

Ah ha, I went.  There’s an Elephant.  It’s hitting on my Maslow’s level 4.  I can name it.  It’s the Insecurity Elephant.  I can own it.  I can change it. 

So I decided to take action.  To get out my Mighty Mouse to fight that Elephant.  I’m going to own that Elephant and then kick it off my shoulder – metaphorically that is.

So here’s my Mighty Mouse  ~~~@:> (who I designed earlier today when emailing a friend).  Mighty Mouse, go to work my friend.  ~~~@:>  SQUEEAAKEEEEE!!!


In addition to helping myself mentally, when that metaphorical squeak resounded earlier today I thought hey, something to share.  Something to send out to the readers with hope that it helps, even if just a bit.  Bonanza, something that I can do related to Maslow’s level 5!  So here I am tonight, writing. 

Mighty Mouse might be small and often overlooked, but small things can have big impacts.  (Just ask the lady who gets a small box with an engagement ring in it)  Biggest isn’t always best.  Our self-dialog isn’t always helpful.  If nothing else I hope that my Mighty Mouse makes you laugh, even if only inside.  Laughter truly is good for you…in more ways that we often realize.   

I ask you to join me.  Let’s take some control back.  Maybe it will last for just a day, maybe for a week.  But that’s better than before. 

So I’m sending out my Mighty Mouse to visit you.  When in need call to Mighty Mouse.  Feel free to ask Mighty Mouse to help you with any of the Elephant(s) on your shoulder.  Don’t be afraid to send them to visit a friend too, Mighty Mouse travels well over email after all.

Here’s a Mighty Mouse for you.  ~~~@:>  SQUEEAAKEEEEE!!!


  1. Elta Boshard says:

    Thank you Faith,
    The reflection on Maslow made me reaaly think about the roof etc too… But I’m most grateful for THE STORY: the laughter supplied much needed happy hormones – Mighty Mouse is most welcome in this office. I hope my friends on FB would welcome MM’s SQUEEAAKEEEEE!!! ~~~@:>


Guiding Principles

- Think Holistically
- Seek the Root Causes
- Respect the Individual
- Demonstrate Accountability
- Collaborate with Clients
- Work with Integrity, Always
- Relate to the Business Strategy
- Ensure Alignment
- Demonstrate Responsibility
- Transfer Skills

Thoughts and Quotes