What Do We Need?

No, you can’t always get what you want
No, you can’t always get what you want
No, you can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime, you just might find
You get what you need

Another weekend spent doing many of the things we love. Cooking, hanging out with friends and family, exercising and listening to music. The Rolling Stones have always held a special place in my heart. I love the variety of styles, the sometimes poignant lyrics and the timelessness of it all.

This song has a place in our family. If you asked our kids they probably would say they had heard me sing it far too many times, usually right after one of them said something starting with ” I want …”. The focus of both the request from the kids and my response is on the wanting, not the needing. It’s interesting to consider why that might be so.

One of the themes of my writings over the past few weeks has been fear. It’s a powerful driver for us, and often we are unaware it is acting upon us. Is it possible that “wanting” is really a fear of scarcity? At work, for example, is wanting a promotion really a concern that we believe that opportunities for advancement don’t come along every day and thus

I want a dog just like Captain!
I want a dog just like Captain!

if we aren’t getting promoted someone else is taking something from us? And if we say we want to present to an executive and miss the opportunity, do we believe that we’ve also missed an opportunity to be noticed? How about wanting to be assigned to a big project as an indicator of our value to our organization?

It is interesting to apply a specific question to each of these “wants” … that is “do I really need this?” We usually find that the answer to that is no. Needs are very interesting when we look at them from solely from our own self, without projecting any relative comparisons to others. Personal development guru Tony Robbins has developed the Hierarchy of Human Needs as follows:

  1. Certainty/Comfort. We all want comfort. And much of this comfort comes from certainty. Of course there is no ABSOLUTE certainty, but we want certainty the car will start, the water will flow from the tap when we turn it on and the currency we use will hold its value.
  2. Variety. At the same time we want certainty, we also crave variety. Paradoxically, there needs to be enough UNcertainty to provide spice and adventure in our lives.
  3. Significance. Deep down, we all want to be important. We want our life to have meaning and significance. I can imagine no worse a death than to think my life didn’t matter.
  4. Connection/Love. It would be hard to argue against the need for love. We want to feel part of a community. We want to be cared for and cared about.
  5. Growth. There could be some people who say they don’t want to grow, but I think they’re simply fearful of doing so—or perhaps NOT doing so. To become better, to improve our skills, to stretch and excel may be more evident in some than others, but it’s there.
  6. Contribution. The desire to contribute something of value—to help others, to make the world a better place than we found it is in all of us.

It is interesting to look at each of these needs with ourselves only in mind and evaluate each need with the words “I AM” or “I HAVE” in front of each need. For example when we say “I AM SIGNIFICANT” we can look from the perspective of our strengths, skills, connections, personal power, etc and know, without ego, that we have significance to our family, our community and our organization. With this perspective we can know that this need is fulfilled and we can move to higher needs such as forming new connections, focusing on personal growth and looking for new contributions to make.

We need good friends in our life!
We need good friends in our life!

By focusing on and fulfilling these higher human needs, can we then look back at those wants we were longing for above, we see that by taking care of our essential needs our wants fade in importance, or even better, truly disappear as something we now understand as simply a creation of our ego.

So how do we use this knowledge as leaders? What if we spent our time understanding where each member of our team is operating on the the hierarchy of needs and then work with them to move to the next level? What if we focused as leaders on ensuring each person truly felt that they had significance on the team and in the organization? What if we truly understood what connections each person wants to make, where they long to grow personally and what contributions they have a strong desire to make? Would we find that if everyone was focused on these things we all would have a much more fulfilling experience at work?

I’m interested in stories from others. Any interesting musings out there about wants and needs? Perhaps a little reminder from the Stones themselves might help!

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Published by

Ian Munro @ leadingessentially.com

Ian Munro is a leadership and vitality coach with a primary passion for working with senior professionals who wish to improve their connection to and vitality in their career, or who wish to make a transition to a meaningful and rewarding retirement. His methods are focused on helping clients understand why they present as they do in day-to-day life, discover their authentic self and give themselves permission to build a meaningful and rewarding future, both professional and personal. Ian’s love for this work has developed naturally as he built his career as an executive and leader in the IT services industry, serving in many roles and facets of this industry over 25 years. As he reached the pinnacle of his career he began to search more deeply for meaning and alternate rewards from his own career and to begin to plan for his own “first retirement”.

5 thoughts on “What Do We Need?

  1. I will actually be moving on to needs and wants in my own blog, in a few weeks. I did touch on it in an earlier post (http://almostspring.com/2012/07/20/week-32-maslows-hierarchy-of-needs/); although I used Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, which lists needs upwards so you climb them, but it is a similar concept. I find it really fascinating because after a trauma, as I have discovered, you do get thrown back to your basic needs of food and shelter, comfort, routine etc and these needs become very strong. When you have healed at that level, you can start moving up.

    However, I do think that some people defy the odds and rise straight to the top – the story of Viktor Frankl being a good example. Whether that is to satisfy a “need” of self-actualization (or ‘contribution’ in the Robbins hierarchy) or whether some people simply have such a strong inner belief in themselves, they simply do not need the basic level; I do not know. However, at times of crisis such as after earthquakes, hurricanes and bushfires; you will see such people put their own ‘basic’ needs aside and focus on helping others to safety and comfort, even though they are in the same predicament as the people they are helping. .

    1. Hi Elizabeth.

      I love these comments. Whether Maslow or Robbins I think we move constantly through our levels. Once we understand each of the levels it is instructive to monitor which level we are in at any time. For example, on days where I find myself “out of balance” I will check in to see if I have a proper perspective on my significance in my world. Then once I reestablish that I AM SIGNIFICANT, I will move to really trying to reconnect with people, which is Tony Robbins’ 4th level Connection and Love. Once there, we can move more easily to the highest levels of Growth and Connection. I look forward to seeing your further thoughts on this!

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