I’m not sure who said it first, but we’ve all probably heard the saying, “Find a job that you love to do and you’ll never work another day in your life.” Although I would quibble with that definition of work, the point is well taken. Life takes work, so we may as well get used to it. We might also find ways to fall in love with what we do. That has certainly been my approach to life, and it has enabled me to approach each day with zest. Being active is not a curse, it’s a blessing. It’s a need we all share in common.
I have been enjoying the opportunity to collect my thoughts regarding those life-giving needs that we all share as human beings. Even though I have been aware of the concept of universal human needs for many decades, it has not been until relatively recently that I have gone beyond the hierarchy of needs identified by Abraham Maslow in the early 1940s. I have “gone beyond” in three senses:
- I no longer understand needs as being arranged hierarchically. All human beings have the same universal needs at all times. What we choose to emphasize is not based upon other needs being met, in serial and sequential fashion. That choice has more to do with the focus of our attention and the stimulation of our feelings. If we think that meeting a need will make life more wonderful, then we turn in that direction. The meeting of needs is a dynamic dance.
- I no longer think of universal human needs as the subject of psychology courses (promptly to be forgotten upon their conclusion). Thanks to Marshall Rosenberg and Nonviolent Communication, I now understand how the language of universal human needs can be incorporated in everyday conversations and speech. I also understand how powerful such communications can be when it comes to establishing connection and generating possibility. The use of such language is a healing tonic.
- I no longer think of universal human needs in five large categories (Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging, Esteem, Self-Actualization). Since Maslow’s time, many others have developed schemas of human needs which are much broader and more complex. The Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef, for example, has developed a matrix of nine fundamental human needs each with four dimensions (Being, Having, Doing, Relating). That generates 36 possibilities for a pretty robust understanding of human needs.
My own work in this arena has been inspired by Jim & Jori Manske, since I first saw their circular diagram of ten different need categories. I have taken to calling this the Wheel of Needs, and I have developed a version which arranges needs across spectrums and in family groups. Every time I work on this, it evolves a bit more. To keep an eye on my progress, click on the link for theWheel of Needs at www.CelebrateEmpathy.com.
Today we swing to the other side of our existence needs. Last week I wrote about our need for comfort, including such things as security, safety, protection, justice, respect, consideration, and conservation. The classic image here is of little children running to their mother’s side when they are startled, troubled, or otherwise upset. That need never goes away and, in the age of global warming, it is becoming increasingly difficult to run to the side of Mother Earth for comfort. That’s why I appreciate all efforts to save the planet. They meet my need for comfort.
They also meet the activity needs of those who are expending the effort to save the planet. Comfort and activity are two sides of the same coin. Even little children need to receive comfort from others, so do those others need to extend comfort to others. It’s not exactly a quid pro quo, but it’s close. And that’s because life takes work.
I return to it frequently, but the first sentence of M. Scott Peck’s first book, The Road Less Travelled, reminds us of a fundamental truth: “Life is difficult”. In these challenging times, just about everyone is feeling that truth more painfully than before. Accepting that truth makes all the difference in the world. As long as we expect life to be easy, we chafe under and rail against the effort it takes to get where we want to go. Once we understand that life is difficult, we are freed to enjoy the effort it takes to navigate our way through.
People often come to coaching to develop strategies for meeting their activity needs. The process never starts there, however. As long as getting on the treadmill or working hard every day is viewed as an unpleasant, unfortunate, and unmerited chore, then no talk of strategies will do much good. The problem is not one of inadequate strategies; the problem is one of inadequate understanding.
“Life is difficult!” That may sound like the opposite of what you would expect to hear from a life coach • aren’t we all about making like effortless? • but it is actually the secret of our success. The only way to make life effortless is to make less effort about life. Once we accept that life takes effort, the strategies to get things done become opportunities to be enjoyed rather than burdens to be avoided.
I think about that every time I work out or go for a run. I know people who think it’s crazy to exercise for an hour or more a day. What I call fun they call misery. What’s the difference? It’s certainly not the expenditure of energy. I burn calories just as surely as the next person. It’s rather the appreciation of that expenditure. I enjoy both the experience and the ancillary benefits. Once you accept the fact that our bodies were made to move and that activities of all sorts are part of the equation, then you become much more sanguine about the prospects of finding ones that will bring you joy.
I also think about that every time I work to make life better for others. These Provisions don’t just write themselves, for example. They take effort, many hours a week, as do my coaching conversations with clients (some of which happen on a pro bono basis). I love those expenditures of my energy and time. They work my mind and spirit more than my body, and here, too, I appreciate both the experience and the outcomes. Once you accept the fact that it takes work to get things done and to make a contribution, the whole enterprise becomes much more meaningful and enjoyable.
It can even take work to relax. To get a massage, for example, I have to make the appointment, arrange my calendar, get in my car, drive to the office, take off my clothes, lie on the table, and release both my mind and muscles. Then I have to do it all over again, in reverse, an hour later. During that hour, my need for comfort connects with my therapist’s need for activity in the dynamic dance that characterizes all true needs. They complement more than they compete with each other. They work together for good.
So get over the fact that life is difficult. Of course it takes energy. Look around right now and you can probably see something worth doing, even if it’s just cleaning the sink, sweeping the floor, or weeding the garden. Life is like that. Stuff breaks, gets dirty, and needs tending. In the past week I’ve been dealing with a wicked computer problem; at times it’s been variously frustrating, vexing, and confusing. So does that make this a terrible, no-good week? Absolutely not. Working on computers is like everything else: it’s an activity worth doing.
Everything hinges, of course, on the “worth doing” part of that equation. When there is a good-enough why, most people are happy to expend the energy (at least in theory). But that’s a topic for another day, since it relates to other sectors in the Wheel of Needs. And it is also a great topic for coaching, since activity without purpose or pleasure cannot be sustained. We encourage you to give us a call.
Coaching Inquiries: What activities do you enjoy? How could you meet your activity needs more fully? What things fill you with purpose and pleasure? How can you become more conscious of the connection between what you do and who you are? Who could you talk with to bring these dynamics into focus?
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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..
There were no replies last week • so I guess everyone was feeling comfortable with their Comfort Needs! ☺ Enjoy the week.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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