Maslow develop a theory of motivation in 1943. It remains, in my mind, as the most straightforward and usable model of motivation to this day.
His theory suggested that people are always wanting and what they want depends upon what they already have. Their wants are arranged in a series of levels. When they have achieved their wants in one level they will move on to want what is in the next level.
Maslow suggested 5 levels:
Physiological needs. These would cover our basic needs, the desire to satisfy hunger and thirst, the need for oxygen and sleep amongst others.
Safety needs. These could cover the need to feel safe and secure, be free from pain and threat, the need for predicatability and orderliness.
Social needs. The need for a sense of belonging and friendship.
Esteem needs. This would include the need for self respect and self confidence together with the desire to be recognised by others.
Self actualisation needs. This covers the need to achieve what you think you are capable of achieving whether that be a physical act or a state of mind. This is perhaps the least clear of the stages. I believe that is so because it is the level that can mean so many different things to so many different people.