If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there. - Lewis Carroll.
I had been working with a young bloke, (let's call him Alex), for several months, when he mentioned that he had been having difficulty making a decision about a promotion that he had been offered. Alex described that he'd been successful throughout most of his career and that the company that he was working for was extremely supportive. Furthermore, he was highly respected by his boss and his peers. He felt like he had everything going for him, however, he was troubled by his lack of ‘mojo' when he thought about this new opportunity.
So, I asked him. "Alex, can I ask? What is it that you need?
Alex: "What is it that I need?".
After a long pause…
Alex: "Damn, I don't know, Honestly, I really don't know. I've never asked myself that… you know… I've just done what I thought I wanted at the time or did what I thought I should out of obligation or loyalty… but what I need… that's a tough one".
We spent the rest of the conversation exploring Alex's needs. We took the time to separate his needs as opposed to his wants and unpacked the meaning and association of each need that he had identified. Eventually, we ended up identifying a couple of very significant needs for himself. A week later Alex stated that he had a very clear understanding of his preferred path forward. As a result, he was able to make a very deliberate and authentic decision. Alex reclaimed his mojo.
The quote above by Lewis Carroll highlights that when we haven't taken the time to explore what our needs are and what they mean to us, we might just find ourselves on a path that contradicts who we really are.
Identifying our needs is the first important step to creating meaningful relationships, rich experiences, and purpose in our pursuits.
Our needs are unique to who we are as individuals. Needs come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes (see the list below) and that they constantly evolve throughout our lives. Needs range from basic existence needs (physiological and safety needs) to relational needs (intimate and social relationships and external esteem) to more complex personal growth needs (Internal esteem and self-actualization).
"A human need, or, more accurately, the object of a human need is something which a human being must have to live a recognizably human life." An important consideration is a difference between a need and want. "A want, or more accurately, the object of a want, is something which one desires to have, or the notion of preference" (Garett, 2004).
For example, an employer states "I ‘need' my employees to respect me and tell me when they need my help". This is an example of a want or a preference rather than a need. What is more aligned to the concept of a need is: "Being a trusted, efficient and relevant leader is an important need of mine".
When we are aware of our needs, it becomes easier to move towards their fulfillment. We learn to align our cognitions, emotions, and behaviors to effectively achieve them. Communicating our needs in an honest, open manner is critical. Recognizing an unfulfilled need is surprisingly relatively simple task – if we're being honest with ourselves we experience harmony with ourselves and positive connection with others. When we experience impasses or conflicts within our relationships or experience heightened emotions such as anxiety, anger or fear - it is typically an indicator that a need is not being satisfied.
Because of the heightened emotions that are connected to unfulfilled needs, it can be difficult to convey them to the people who we feel matter to us the most. We often fear what may (or may not) occur if we expressed our needs. While it does take courage to express our needs, it is also our responsibility to ourselves and to others to try.
So, how do we fulfill our needs?
- Recognize that having needs is not selfish, weak or dependent. It takes strength, to be honest, and attuned to our needs.
- Create space to explore, acknowledge and celebrate your needs. It takes time to connect with what's important to us. Give yourself permission to dig deep and when you find what you're looking for, honor yourself.
- Communicate your needs to yourself and to others. Convey your needs in a respectful, empathic manner that recognizes that others have needs too. Acknowledge similarities in needs and celebrate differences. Offer to help others fulfill theirs.
- Nurture and evolve your needs. Think of this as a life long journey. Attend to your needs as they develop.
To help explore your needs, take a few moments to reflect on the list below. This list is not all-inclusive, but it offers some ideas to get the creative ‘needs' flowing.
If you struggle with fulfilling your needs or have difficulty communicating your needs with those in your life, then let's start a conversation. Click on the link below and schedule a free 20 min consultation. Who knows where it might lead you.
Carroll, L (No Date). Retrieved from Brainy Quotes: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/l/lewiscarro165865.html
Garrett, J. (2004) Needs, Wants, Interests, Motives. Retrieved from: http://people.wku.edu/jan.garrett/ethics/needs.htm
McClelland, D. (1961) The achieving society. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Need_theory
- To be seen
- To be known
- To be heard
- Preservation of life
- Connection with something greater