Getting our needs met. Yes … it’s the one thing
that can put us in danger of violating our values, give up our goals, and
sacrifice our dreams. WOW!
If you had any psychology courses at all, you will remember Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs.” I was absolutely blown away by the concepts, because it rang so true to my early life.
His concept was that until your physiological needs (food, clothing, shelter) were met, your need for safety could not be met. And when those two needs were met, then and only then could your need for love and belonging be met. Those three were prerequisites for your needs for self-esteem and respect to be met. And finally, self-actualization, becoming “all you were created to be,” became possible.
More recent psychological research looks at
human needs from a different point of view. That point of view says that we all
have the same basic needs for surviving. But then there are an additional three
needs that, when met, move us from surviving to thriving.
As you can see in this chart, the first four needs are for:
- Safety and security
- Significance and importance
- Surprise and adventure
- Support, connection, love
What makes us unique is the priority of these four needs for each of us. There is no deep psychological meaning to our individual priorities. It is dependent on how we were raised, how we were influenced by significant people in our lives, and our life’s experiences.
Like Maslow’s concepts, if those four needs are
not met, we expend all of our time and energy and effort to get them met. We never move on to meet the needs for thriving,
• Self-improvement and growth
• Sharing and touching others
• Spiritual growth and connection
Research has indicated in project after project that every decision we make is driven by whether we’re getting our needs met. This principle holds from the smallest of things … like whether or not we will brush our teeth … to the largest of things … like whom we might marry. Every decision in our lives is influenced dramatically by whether or not our needs are being met in an empowering way. This is an important topic!
Take a moment to thoughtfully consider the lists above. Which need is most important in your life? Once you have determined what priority is first in your life, the question then becomes, how do I get that need met, and, how do I get it met in an empowering way?
Recently, I conducted a free master class, “How to Coach Yourself & Others to Extraordinary: In Life, Relationships, Business, Health & Finances.” I learned later that a dear friend of mine had tuned in. She told me that this particular section of the master class had had a major impact on her. She said that she realized that her greatest need was support, love, and connection. However, sad to say, early in her life that need was not met in the foster homes where she grew up. More importantly, the few times she did receive the love and support she needed was when she was sick. She was bravely questioning herself. Later in life, was she hoping some of her physical ailments would help her get the support, love, and connection she needed?
My reply to her was that being sick is not necessarily an attempt to be loved. But, I also said that I admired her bravery in questioning her way of getting her needs met. She knew intuitively that using sickness as a tool is not empowering. I only confirmed her thoughts that she needed to find positive ways to get her needs met.
My guess is that this small but telling example is a clue you can use to reveal some of the ways that you might attempt to get your needs met in disempowering ways.
Although I did not believe this to be true in her case, I have seen people in similar situations who have violated their values (of not taking care of their physical health), given up their goals (of getting to a 25th class reunion in excellent physical condition), and sacrifice their dreams (of being in good enough shape to play on the floor with their grandchildren) in order to get their needs met.
This is no small matter. It has a huge impact on our daily lives, and certainly on our destiny.
Take some time to consider your top four needs, and the priority in which they fall for you. Then ask yourself if you are getting those met on a regular basis, and whether or not the ways you are getting them are empowering. Also, one of the greatest gifts we can give to the people in our lives is the gift of discovering what their needs are. Then taking the next step by making daily deposits in their lives to support them in getting those needs met. It creates a bond stronger than superglue!
In the same way, it’s also a gift for us to share our needs with those close to us. Further, it is extremely helpful if we make very clear requests about how they could help us meet those needs. Most us find it awkward to ask for such deeply needed help. In my practice and in teaching my Coaches, I have a technique to help ease the awkwardness. I teach them to ask this question, “Would you be willing to…” and then I have them fill in the blank with a positive, specific, behavioral request. By “positive,” I mean exactly that and nothing else. Do NOT tell them what you don’t want them to do. Tell them, specifically, what you would like for them to do. Specifically. Meaning, give them the formula.
For example, don’t just ask, “Would you be willing to show me love?” Give them the complete formula. “Would you be willing to show me love by sending me a sweet text in the middle of the day for no reason at all?” It’s a win for you because this meets one of your top needs. It’s a win for them, because they know how to help fulfill your needs. Specifically!
Few of us are aware of this concept because it isn’t regularly taught. I often work with couples who simply do not understand. Because they don’t understand it, they end up shaming one another for their needs. None of us should be shamed for our needs, as long as the intent is to get them met in empowering ways. The strongest and most fulfilled relationships are those in which partners (or parent/children, best friends, etc.) knows one another’s greatest needs, and make regular devoted attempts to meeting them in empowering ways.
I have been working with a couple via zoom conferences who live in another state. In a recent session, it became obvious how she had been attempting to get her needs for love met in a disempowering way. Their relationship was six or seven years old. Over time, it became clear to me that he enjoyed their time together but had not yet concluded whether he loved her. By his behavior, he had made this clear to her. For example, he had not yet introduced her to his family. He didn’t want the relationship to end, he just wanted her to be satisfied with the status quo.
As the session began, his frustration came out. He asked why she had “an inordinate need to be loved?” As I turned the conversation to her, the pain was quite evident. Though she tried to hold her feelings inside, the sad tears rolled down her cheeks.
I learned that she had trudged along for years, not having her need for support, love, and connection met. She had pleaded with me to help her figure out “what was wrong with her” that she couldn’t just enjoy the relationship as is. She truly enjoyed so many things about the time they spent together antiquing on weekends, working out together at the gym, laughing over silly little things, cuddling on the couch watching football games in front of the fire, and the list went on.
Both were taken aback at my response … that there was absolutely nothing pathological about her need for love. It was simply her biggest need. And, because it turned out to be third on his list, he could not understand her feelings of emptiness and need!
As we talked further, I learned that she had:
1. Violated her values. She had made a vow to herself that she would never buy a home with a man until they were married. Because she had hoped that somehow making this purchase would secure his love. So she moved forward, breaking her vow. Not surprisingly, it did not win his love.
2. Given up her goals. She had a stellar career history, and there was one more major goal she had been working toward since her early college days. She wanted a “C level” position. Several years into the relationship, she was being considered for one of those positions, but after a discussion of the potential travel involved, he made clear that the relationship might be endangered by lots of travel. (Because his number one need was significance.) She gave up that goal, hoping to earn his love. It was loving and kind. But giving up this goal was not an empowering strategy. And it did not produce her desired outcome … to secure his love.
3. Sacrificed her dreams. She had long dreamed of making a major difference by building a network of volunteers to help underprivileged youth and children. Her dream was to have other professionals join her. They would all join together to help others become all that they were created to be. Over time, he made clear that he did not share her dream. Her focus needed to be on him and his dreams. So, she sacrificed her dreams to help him pursue his. Again, a loving and kind thing to do, but not empowering for her. And, it still did not win his love.
What values are you violating in order to get your top needs met? What goals are you giving up? What dreams are you sacrificing?
I’m not suggesting that you should not make strategic adjustments in your life when you are committed to a relationship. We are all aware that adjustments must be made. But when they are done in an attempt to get your needs met, they are quite disempowering, and can throw you off course.
Your needs are valid. You deserve to have them meet. Find empowering ways to get them meet.
I can give you a very happy progress report on the couple above. As often happens, when he realized what had occurred, his heart melted. He saw the anguish, the desperation, quite differently. No longer did he see it as “pitiful on her part,” (as he admitted had been his prior view). Instead, he saw it as “ shame on me” for not recognizing what had happened. They are now working together to meet one another’s needs. He recently revealed the relationship to his family. And even choked out a few “I love you’s.” She has understood his need for significance and has asked for a list of how that need might be met for him. Recently he told me, “she is delivering in spades!”
Early in my life, my number one need was for safety and security. Through years of growth and development, that need has moved to number four on my list. My number one need now is support, love and connection. (Keep in mind that the priority of your needs may not remain constant over your life either.)
Over time, it seems that my top need is being met in more and more empowering ways. Recently, I bought a home that I had leased and lived in for four years many years ago. Interesting. But I was especially delighted to learn that one of my favorite neighbors still lived next door!
The path of that purchase has been a fun project, because when I lived in the home previously, I would often think of what, exactly, I would do if it were mine. So, before I even set foot in the house, I knew the improvements that I wanted to make.
Even though I am ready for them to be completed so I can move in, I arrived this morning to continue my painting in the master closet. As I pulled up, my fav neighbor had left a fabulous welcome message on my sidewalk. What a wonderful way to have my need for support, love, and connection met!
Do not allow unmet needs to leave you making poor decisions. Do not allow unmet needs cause you to violate your values, give up on your goals, our sacrifice your dreams. Get your needs met in an empowering way.
Go further! Help discover the needs of those you truly care about. Find ways to meet those needs. You will find that when you do that for others, your efforts will come back multiplied to you! To paraphrase the Bible, “As you sow, so shall you reap.”
Sow BIG … reap BIG!!