Provision #604: Subsistence Needs

Laser Provision

It’s been said that those who have health have many wishes; those who do not have health have but one wish. That’s how important it is to meet our basic human needs. When it comes to human existence, it’s a never-ending journey to make sure our needs are met. Although there are no guarantees, this Provision identifies the core dynamics of opportunity: timing, nourishment, health, sensory stimulation, hygiene, and nurturing. These six can point us in the direction we want to go.

LifeTrek Provision


On the one hand, all ten of the needs identified in last week’s Provision could be called “existential.” That’s because they can all be derived from the experience of existence. In this case, however, I use the term “existential” in its most literal sense: what does it take to come into existence and to stay physically alive? Those are existential needs in the primordial sense of the term and I want to celebrate them today since they are so easily forgotten, overlooked, and ignored.

Let’s start with the biggest existential need of all: opportunity. Were a particular egg and sperm to have never had the opportunity to find each other, you would not be reading this Provision right now. Depending on your perspective and theology, that opportunity may be viewed as a matter of chance, luck, attraction, genetics, biochemistry, inducement, or divine providence. However it came to be, one thing is clear: life often depends on circumstances outside our control.

Apart from those who subscribe to the view that we pick our parents, in some metaphysical sense, most people are willing to admit that we didn’t have much to do with the circumstances surrounding our conception. Even reproductive scientists take something of a shotgun approach, let alone couples who follow the more traditional way. The best we can do is to increase the odds of success. When it comes to existence, there are no guarantees.

Although I have written about this periodically over the years, I mention it again here lest there be any confusion. Existential needs may be the ground of being, but there’s no way to guarantee their fulfillment. That doesn’t mean we give up or stop trying; it rather means that we keep our efforts in perspective. Sometime, no matter what we do, the pregnancy still doesn’t take. Sometimes, no matter what we do, the life still fails to thrive. So we set up the most favorable conditions possible, and then hope for the best.

I believe in hope. We’ll be talking about it on more than one occasion in our series on life-giving needs. Where there is no hope, there is no life. And never is that more clear than when it comes to our physical existence. We do the best we can, but the plane may still crash. We exercise every possible precaution, but the wildfire may still destroy. We follow doctor’s orders, but the condition may still deteriorate.

Knowing that’s true adds a special urgency to opportunity. We seize the day not because there are guarantees but because there are opportunities. It’s our job to create the conditions where life can flourish, then we step back and, with gratitude and grace, let life have its way.

Perhaps that’s why “foxhole religion” has such a venerable place in the history of warfare. When people get close to the vulnerabilities of life, when they lose the ability to create opportunities for life to flourish, they turn to the last hope they can find. Miracles never cease, and we are especially prone to look for and to notice them when existence is on the line. Stranger things have happened than getting rescued at the last second. Stranger things have happened than getting pregnant after giving up. Stranger things have happened than recovering from a terminal condition.

So we do the best we can, and then we hope.

What goes into creating the opportunity for life to come into existence and then to thrive? I mention only the most obvious: timing, nourishment, health, sensory stimulation, hygiene, and nurturing.

Timing. You may have heard the old joke, “What do you call people who rely on the rhythm method for birth control?” Answer: “Parents!” That’s because timing is notoriously tricky when it comes to procreation. Still, there is much to be said for the importance of timing. That’s true not only for conception but also for gestation. Pre-mature births are not without complications, and the earlier the birth the more life-threatening they become. Something there is about waiting for the fullness of time! That’s as true for couples wanting to conceive as it is for mothers wanting to bear healthy children. When it comes to existence, patience is definitely a virtue.

Nourishment. From the moment of conception, proper nourishment is essential to existence. Long-time readers of these Provisions know all about that. I have written about it frequently, most recently in my series on Optimal Wellness. With increasing reports of contamination in our food and water supplies, from melamine in milk to salmonella in peanut butter, I would guess that most people have become sensitized to the issue. We may be in an economic recession, but going for the cheapest nourishment available does not always turn out to be the cheapest choice in the long run. Cutting corners on vitamins, a staple for pregnant women,  and other supplements may lead to health problems down the road.

Health. When you think of all the things that can go wrong, it’s kind of amazing that more things don’t go wrong. The human body is a healing machine, and it will usually do so, all on its own, if we but get out of the way. That’s especially true during gestation, when we develop from a single cell to a multi-trillion cell organism. The are plenty of risks, but it comes out right a high percentage of the time. Especially when we do our best to create a life-supporting environment. That’s an opportunity worth pursuing regardless of where we are in our lifespan.

I would mention here, by way of illustration, my experience with an acute panic attack in December of 2007. Even though I was doing many things right when it came to my health and wellness, I still suffered a homeostatic breakdown. My journey back has included lots of experimentation • including medication, diet, supplements, practices, and adjustments • to create an opportunity for my body to fully heal itself. As I wrote in Provision #586, it wasn’t until I started taking the supplement melatonin that I began to feel like myself again. Now, almost six months later, I am medication-free and back to feeling healthy. I’m glad I pursued the opportunity with my usual openness and vigor.

Sensory Stimulation. When children fail to be touched they fail to thrive. Let that be a lesson to us! Our need for sensory stimulation does not disappear or even diminish with age. The more we stimulate our senses • sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch • the better off we will be. Neuroscience has documented a brain-body connection from the cradle to the grave. The more we stimulate the body the more we develop our neural net. What benefits one benefits the other. That’s why little children are constantly putting things in their mouth. It’s all part of the learning experience; it’s all part of meeting our existential needs.

Hygiene. And don’t forget about changing those diapers! Human beings are uncomfortable and disease-prone in soiled conditions. That’s why we brush our teeth, wash our hands, and sweep our floors. It’s not just about smelling, looking, or feeling good, it’s about creating more opportunities to meet those existential needs. I remember the surprise of many readers when they learned there was a connection between teeth brushing and ischemic stroke. Who knew! Although it’s apparently possible to be overly vigilant about sanitization, good hygiene is a must.

Nurturing. I remember talking to my children while they were still in the womb. Once they were born, my wife and I did the best we could to bring them up in the way we wanted them to go. That included such basic things as not touching a hot stove and looking both ways before they crossed a street as well as more complicated things such as reading and math. No one gets through life alone, and that’s especially true when it comes to basic human needs. It takes a village to raise a child; it takes friends and family to nurture a life. So don’t even try to go it alone! Offering and accepting help liberally is all part of the equation when it comes to the game of life.

So pay attention to these existential needs if you want to increase the odds of living the good life. It’s been said that those who have health have many wishes; those who do not have health have but one wish. That’s how fundamental these existential needs are to everything else. When we take care of them, the rest will follow. When we neglect them, the rest will suffer.

Coaching Inquiries: How are you doing when it comes to meeting your existential needs? How could you create opportunities for them to be fully met? How actively and faithfully have you attempted new things that may support meeting your existential needs? What have you tried? What else could you try? Who could you talk with to get some new ideas?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation. To learn more about LifeTrek Coaching programs, Click Here.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..


As you may recall, I am one of the two readers who responded to your newsletter last week. As you might guess, I very much enjoyed this week’s Provision! Nothing like being part of the action! 🙂 But, seriously, I want to thank and commend you for your openness to differing viewpoints, even to the point of sharing almost verbatim my feedback.

I look forward to the upcoming weeks to see how your thought process unfolds. You have modeled well the traits of being a good listener and an openness to differing views. I will make sure I do the same!! 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #603: What Is A Need?

Laser Provision

Today we continue our conversation about universal human needs by identifying ten of the most salient and life-giving. We start with a theological digression but we soon get down to business with a clear understanding of what it takes to make life more wonderful. Doesn’t everyone want that? Whether your current strategies are working or not, the ten needs identified in this Provision point the way to life.

LifeTrek Provision


I received two impassioned and strikingly similar reader replies to my novel translation of the Christian scripture, John 1:1-3, in last week’s Provision. Both replies, which you can read in today’sReader’s Forum, made similar points: my translation was unorthodox and my theology was troubling. My responses to both points are a good segue into a more robust understanding of needs.

The Greek word Logos, used repeatedly in John 1:1-3, is a word with many nuances depending upon context and form. According to my Greek lexicon (yes, I once actually knew this language), the word Logos can mean “word,” “story,” “commandment,” “thing,” “reckoning,” “reason,” and “motive.” I took those different meanings into account when I rendered my translation, especially since it led to the provocative statement that “the Need was with God, and the Need was God.”

The two readers who took exception to that translation argued that God, as an eternal and preexistent being, has no needs. Whatever God does, they argued, is unnecessary, since God is free to do whatever God wants. These readers were concerned that my translation might confuse people on this important point of transcendentalism.

Others, from different religious traditions and spiritual perspectives, would probably disagree with the description of God as a transcendent being with no needs. God, they would argue, is inextricably bound with life as we know it. From that vantage point, God has needs because life has needs. The destiny of one is to tied to the destiny of the other, and vice-versa. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Although interesting, at least for some people, both of these arguments miss the import of John 1:1-3 and both fail to appreciate the point I was making last week about the difference between needs and strategies. When the Greek word Logos is rendered with the English word Need, John 1:1-3 does not say that God has needs. It says that God is Need; and that makes all the difference. God is not a strategy to something else; God is Need and in the act of creation the Need is made known.

I apologize for all the God talk, especially for those who do not find it helpful, but stay with me for a moment and I think you will it relevant to even the most immanent of worldviews.

Many Jews, Christians, and Muslims are familiar with the story (the Logos) in Exodus 3 when Moses wants to learn God’s name. God responds with the now famous line, “I am who I am.” No name here, just a clear statement of presence. But this phrase too has many nuances and translations. It can be rendered in the past, present, and future: “I have been who I have been.” “I am who I am.” “I will be who I will be.” It can even be rendered with a sense of necessity: “I must be what I must be.”

I call that necessity because there is a link between needs, values, and identity. God is who God is, and God is no other. That was the revelation to Moses and that is the meaning of needs apart from strategies: a Need is that which Must Be. So put that back into Exodus 3 and you end up with one more nuance of the Hebrew word YHWH: “I need to be what I need to be.”

My readers are right: God doesn’t have needs (at least not in the sense that we have needs). But God does have an identity, an essence, a spirit, and a value that has been expressed, that is being expressed, and that needs to be expressed for God to be God.

Can you imagine God being anything other than love? I can’t, and I see the evidence of that love all around me. It is the Need that has come to be. No wonder order came out of chaos! No wonder light and dark, up and down, wet and dry, plant and animal, male and female • all the things that make life possible and wonderful • came into being. The Need would do no other.

So what is a need? It is that which must be to make life possible and wonderful. That is the essence of love and, some would say, the essence of God. That is also the essence of those who are made in God’s image. There are different understandings of that as well, with some traditions extending the divine canopy over all things seen and unseen, but to the best of my knowledge all traditions extend that likeness to human beings in one sense or another. The Need that created life is in life and will not be denied.

That’s why needs have so much dynamic energy. When needs are being met, we feel wonderful and we want the experience to continue. When needs are not being met, we feel terrible and we want the experience to stop. The living energy of needs is such that it drives human emotions and, in turn, human behavior. We can view all of human history, including the recent machinations of the global economy, as a quest to satisfy needs.

In the purest sense of the word, needs are ends in themselves. We do not meet a need in order to get something else. We meet a need because the need is intrinsically valuable and worth meeting. There is no “so that” when it comes to true needs. They stand alone and require no explanation as to why they are important. They are self-explanatory. When you look at them, you say, “Well, of course, everyone needs that.”

Unfortunately, as I wrote last week, we often confuse needs and strategies. That gets us in trouble whether we are talking about God or human relations. Once we latch onto the idea that we need a particular thing to happen in a particular way, we set ourselves up for power struggles and disappointments. As long as we stay focused on the underlying needs that any particular strategy is trying to meet, we open ourselves up to new possibilities and adventures.

So what are these intrinsically valuable things that everyone needs? We’ll be talking about them for weeks to come. They have been described in many ways by many people for many millennia. No description captures them all, or ever will, but I find the following ten needs, across five spectrums, to cover a lot of ground:

  1. Subsistence-Transcendence. Once we receive the gift of existence, we all share the same basic human needs to support our physical survival. These include such things as sustenance, health, healing, procreation, and sensory stimulation. We fight long and hard over the strategies to meet those needs, but no one denies their importance as long as we are alive. Transcendence appears to lie at the other end of the spectrum, but it is just as elementary as subsistence. It incorporates such things as presence, meaning, inspiration, evolution, beauty, harmony, flow, and space. If we have the eyes to see, we will notice that even little children evidence this need.
  2. Safety-Challenge. Little children also make clear the needs for both safety and challenge. On the one hand they love to venture out, to risk, to learn new things, to discover, and to test their limits. These challenges are all part of the trial-and-correction process that leads to growth and development. But little children are also quick to run to their parents’ side when they feel fear, hurt, pain, anger, confusion, or rage. They need safety and protection. They need security, comfort, justice, respect, and consideration. Don’t we all! These things are not strategies; they are not options relevant to some people and not to others. They are requirements of life itself.
  3. Work-Rest. It’s no accident that God worked for six days, to create the universe, and then rested on one. These needs are universal. People can neither work all the time nor sit around doing nothing all the time. There is a rhythm to making life whole. People get into gear when they have reason to become active; they pull back and rest when they need to recover. Work incorporates such things as industry, exercise, purpose, contribution, competence, and self-efficacy. Rest includes sleep, relaxation, play, leisure, ease, rehabilitation, gratitude, mourning, and celebration. There’s nothing sacred about a 6:1 ratio between work and rest (that’s a strategy), but the idea that we need both is universal.
  4. Honesty-Empathy. This spectrum slides along a continuum between sharing what’s alive with me (honesty) and understanding what’s alive with you (empathy). Both are important and both take courage. It’s not always easy to speak the truth; the same can be said for hearing the truth. Honesty requires clarity, self-understanding, authenticity, integrity, and self-expression. Empathy requires openness, compassion, connection, acceptance, and love. Understanding the distinction between needs and strategies can facilitate both honesty and empathy since it tends to eliminate guilt and enemy images.
  5. Autonomy-Community. I find it interesting that some of the words for God in the Hebrew scriptures are plural words and that many in the Christian faith have found it helpful to think and to sing about “God in three persons.” What’s up with that? It seems to have something to do with the needs for autonomy and community. No one is an island, not even God. Autonomy has to do with independence, freedom, choice, control, creativity, individuality, and empowerment. Community has to do with interdependence, cooperation, inclusion, trust, mutuality, and power with. Everyone needs both poles on this spectrum along with every imaginable combination.

Over the next ten weeks I will explore these ten needs to see what they have to teach us about the good life. Coaches often work with people who have that goal in mind. In the process, we often disabuse people of the confusion between needs and strategies. The idea people have when they first come to coaching is usually a strategy and strategies are always optional, always expendable. Needs, on the other hand, are the living source of what makes life good.

No wonder creation burst forth with such explosive energy: it was the Need itself becoming manifest in love.

Coaching Inquiries: When you look at those ten needs, which spectrums are most satisfactory in your life? Which spectrums are most unsatisfactory? What longings do those needs stir for you? How could you appreciate those needs more fully? Who could you connect with to talk this through?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation. To learn more about LifeTrek Coaching programs, Click Here.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..


Encouragement: I have noticed on a number of occasions in Provisions your willingness to view our world very holistically – and in a more specific sense – your willingness to mix a spiritual perspective with a business perspective. All too often, people separate the two as if they were not integrally linked even though they are. And in so doing, many business writers often literally don’t see or won’t acknowledge the elephant in the room. So, hats off to you for not falling into that trap.

On the other hand, your flippant replacement of the word “Logos”, or in English “Word”, with the word “Need” in your most recent Provision is, in my mind, completely outrageous. Might I illustrate this absurd replacement with the following example. There is another commonly referenced section of the New Testament Bible often referred to as the “Love Chapter”: I Corinthians 13. As you may often know, it is read in many weddings because of its “love” focus. So, might I try to obtain some clarified meaning by replacing the word “love” in this chapter with another word meaning the exact opposite, something like “hate”? If so, the chapter would end, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and hate. But the greatest of these is hate.”

I do this as a complete exercise of lunacy. Replacing one word with another that means the exact opposite is outrageous and meaningless.

So, back to your replacing of the word “Word” with “Need”. The meaning of John 1 is that the Word – Jesus Christ – God’s Own Son – was in fact fully man but also fully God himself. Thus, the Word, or the Son, one of the three-fold manifestations or personalities of the one triune God of the universe, is the exact opposite of “Need”. He is self-existent, in need in no way from eternity past to present to eternity future. He may and in fact has chosen to desire to have a relationship with us, and paved a path to allow us to have that relationship through his Son Jesus Christ, but he is in no way replaceable by the word “Need”.

Thank you for listening.


My wife is a trained coach and I would like to take a coach-training course, but right now I am finishing a seminary degree so I’ve got a lot of classes I’m working on. The fact that I am involved in such theological classes is what brings my interest to what you wrote in your recent Provision.

I’m not writing to criticize the fact that you edited Scripture – I think that is fine within certain boundaries. I like taking ancient Hebrew and Greek and making them relevant to a new situations. The issue that I wrestle with is needs applied to God, and I think it would play out in the Jewish culture and Muslim studies, but I think it is most evident in Christian dogma about the Trinity. I don’t think God needs anything.

God created people to need things – food, air, water, relationships, etc. God, Himself, needs nothing. God didn’t need light – he is the light (described in the end of Revelation). God doesn’t need sky, animals, or any of that. We sometimes attribute personifications to God, and one of those is ‘needs.’

For a long time I thought God probably made people because He was bored or lonely all by Himself and needed something to spice up His existence – that he needed people somehow. As I’ve studied the Trinity more, I’ve learned that God has perfect relationship within Himself. He doesn’t need people to be fulfilled, but rather He invites us to enjoy His fullness. Some describe the Trinity as a “perichoresis” or dance that the three persons of one God are active in, yet they widen their dance as to invite people in, Adam and Eve for starters. Our sin ruined the dance so we had to be made right before we could truly be part of the dance again. I like that picture of God.

We are not sufficient islands. We are not made to be okay on our own. We are only complete when we are part of that relationship with God, though we might have a taste in our relationships with others, especially our spouse.

Blessings to you, and thanks for sharing your helpful thoughts. I wanted to return the favor, if this is beneficial to you at all. 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #602: Needed Translations

Laser Provision

Do you have needs? Many people avoid thinking or talking that way because they don’t want to sound needy. But there is a big difference between neediness and need awareness. Need awareness is universal and life-giving. It is, indeed, what lies behind the creation of the world itself. Life is a need. Everything else is a strategy. Today we start a new series on those life-giving needs with a couple sacred texts and an encouragement to watch our words. I hope you will join me on the journey.

LifeTrek Provision


Today I start a new series on life-giving needs. Not everything that we call a need is a need; neither is it life-giving. This series will make clear those distinctions and will introduce a consciousness of needs that can release us from desperation, judgment, guilt, shame, depression, anger, fear, and neediness. There is a big difference between need awareness and neediness. The former is life-giving; the latter is life-alienating.

Given the global economic downturn that is expected to last through 2009 and beyond, many people are becoming more painfully aware of unmet needs than ever before. Economic desperation has already led to some well-publicized suicides and homicides, including an entire unemployed family in Southern California. Such occurrences will continue to make headlines. Unmet needs have a way of doing that to people: they can drive us to distraction and even to the brink of despair.

But that’s not the only way to relate to needs. Even unmet needs can be appreciated for their life-giving energy and directional creativity. Something is stirring when we become aware of needs. The early creation stories reflect that stirring when they are read from a needs-based perspective. Consider, for example, the following story that is recognized by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike:

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “We need light”; and there was light. And God said, “We need a dome in the midst of the waters, to separate the waters from the waters and need to gather the waters under the sky into one place, so dry land can appear”; and it was so.

Then God said, “We need vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it and we need lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; for signs and for seasons and for days and years. We need the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night and the stars”; and it was so.

And God said, “We need swarms of living creatures in the waters and birds flying above the earth across the dome of the sky. And we need the earth to bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind. And we need them to be fruitful and multiply”; and it was so.

Then God said, “We need humans in our image, according to our likeness, to care for the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, and all the wild animals of the earth, and every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. And we need these humans to be fruitful and multiply”; and it was so.

When all the needs were met, God saw everything that had come to be, and indeed, it was very good. (a Jewish, Christian, and Muslim tale)

I am also intrigued to read the beginning of the Gospel of John that way, substituting the word Need for the Greek word Logos:

In the beginning was the Need and the Need was with God, and the Need was God. The Need was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Need, and without Need not one thing came into being. What has come into being through Need was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Now there’s a concept! God as the primordial Need. What led to the big bang? Need. The need for light. The need for order. The need for water, air, and land. The need for life, including plants, animals, and humans. The need for care taking and companionship. The need for illumination and hope. All those needs and more come out of those stories which is why, perhaps, we so universally find ourselves in them. If they weren’t necessary, they wouldn’t be.

One of the huge distinctions that I have learned from Nonviolent Communication from Marshall Rosenberg has been the distinction between needs and strategies. Mixing up those two, especially when we get attached to the strategy, causes no end of confusion and grief. I do it all the time, and probably you do too. Any time the following words come out of your mouth, you are mixing up needs with strategies: “I need you to….”

No matter how you finish that sentence, it’s never a need. It’s always a strategy. Consider the following examples:

  • “I need you to stop at the grocery store on your way home” is, perhaps, a strategy that meet your needs for ease and nutrition.
  • “I need you to love me” is, perhaps, a strategy to meet your needs for affection and intimacy.
  • “I need you to check the locks” is, perhaps a strategy to meet your needs for safety and consideration.
  • “I need you to work a little harder” is, perhaps, a strategy to meet your needs for support and productivity.
  • “I need you to tell me the truth” is, perhaps, a strategy to meet your needs for understanding and connection.
  • “I need you to listen to me” is, perhaps, a strategy to meet your needs for empathy and mourning.

In every case, of course, there are other ways to meet those needs.

  • You could order your groceries online and have them delivered.
  • You could develop a relationship with someone else.
  • You could check the locks yourself.
  • You could hire an assistant to get the work done.
  • You could ask someone else what happened.
  • You could find someone else to talk to.

I’m not recommending any of those particular courses of action. Especially since there are an infinite number of alternatives for meeting those needs. I’m rather illustrating the difference between needs and strategies. Whenever we say the words, “I need you to…” it would be more accurate to say, “I would like you to…”.  What we want is not necessarily a need.

The creation stories do not misspeak. They identify authentic, life-giving needs. Indeed, they recognize life itself as a need! And they go on to identify other life-giving needs without getting attached to any particular strategy for meeting those needs. God recognizes a need, and it becomes so.

If only life worked that way all the time! We could recognize a need, and the strategies would take care of themselves. The need would be met, as if by magic. Although some report that life works that way for them, often called the law of attraction, many more chart their courses with a great deal of planning, strategy, and design. I’m not opposed to the latter (indeed, coaches often work on the mechanics with our clients) but I do find it helpful to recognize the difference between needs and strategies.

Needs are essential; strategies are optional. Needs are universal; strategies are particular. Needs are life-giving; strategies are life-pursuing. Needs are beautiful; strategies are functional. Needs are expansive; strategies are limiting. If we don’t understand the needs we are trying to meet, then our strategies can do more harm than good.

In weeks to come we will play with this distinction in relationship to a wide variety of needs. We will come to understand the difference until it gets into our bones. We will clean up our language and see what impact that has on the quality of our lives. And when the series is through, my hope is that life will be better for us all.

Coaching Inquiries: How often do you use the expression, “I need you to…”? Would you be willing to keep track of when you say those words in the week ahead? How could you do that? How could you pay more attention to forming your words before you speak out lout? Who could become your partner in mindfulness?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation. To learn more about LifeTrek Coaching programs, Click Here.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..


I think both poems on the occasion of President Obama’s inauguration, yours and Elizabeth Alexander’s, are fantastic. Poetry is an exercise in risk taking and vulnerability exactly because there are so many people ready to pounce on how they would have done it differently. Problem is, they are not the poets! 🙂


There was an interesting (and funny) interview with Elizabeth Alexander by Steven Colbert on the Colbert Report TV show. Perhaps you saw it. Here’s the Web link:

www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/216596/january-21-2009/elizabeth-alexander 


I have been a long time reader of yours, and look forward to your weekly newsletter, including the one today, about Barack Obama’s inauguration.

I voted for Barack Obama, and am glad he has become our President, and know there will be changes for the better. On a personal note, I, like President Obama’s mother, married a man from Africa, and have two accomplished bi-racial children.

But, I do have to take issue to compare this wonderful election with the changes that Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, etc, and their followers brought about. I don’t see most Americans even coming close to making the kinds of sacrifices they made, and none of the participants in this election did either. Although as historic as this occasion was, let’s not confuse what happened on November 4th, 2008 with all that went before to make it happen, or the sacrifices people make world-wide just to have food to feed their families. Our prayers will continue to be with President Obama and all members of his administration.


In response to the “going green” section of your recent Provision I thought I’d pass this along:www.yellowpagesgoesgreen.org. It is a way to register to STOP delivery of telephone books, saving countless trees! It is a free service. Additionally, the organization that brought thisyellowpagesgoesgreen info to me was GreenDimeswww.GreenDimes.org works with stopping catalog mailings. I believe the fee is $20/year. A short reference in Provisions could really spread the word for both of these green efforts! (Ed. Note: Here you go! Thanks.)  



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services