The Drive to Achieve Personal Success is a Human Need
The need to achieve personal success is just one of our human needs. This article discusses the differences between wants and needs and concludes with a simple exercise to help you achieve personal success.
“Serendipity. Look for something, find something else, and realize that what you’ve found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for.” – Lawrence Block
Wants vs Needs
We have many needs that are essential, or at least very important, for healthy life. For example as an organism, humans need oxygen to breathe, live and reproduce. In everyday speak needs are often freely interchanged with wants but the two are different. Needs are distinguished from wants in that not meeting a need leads to suffering or other clearly negative outcome including as with oxygen, death. Some needs are physical and objective in nature such as food while others can be subjective and psychological such as the need for recognition.
Needs Motivate Us Towards a Goal
In psychology, need gives us purpose, driving us towards action and goals. So needs drive how we show up, what we do, what we say and how we act.
The most widely known academic model of needs is one proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”. Maslow proposed that people have a hierarchy of psychological needs:
- physiological needs (breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, and homeostasis),
- need for safety and security (health, employment, resources, property),
- love and/or belonging (friendship, family or romantic attachments and sexual intimacy),
- esteem (confidence, self-esteem, achievement, respect) and
- self-actualisation (creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, acceptance and morality).
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.” – John Muir
Manfred Max–Neef’s 9 Fundamental Human Needs
Manfred Max Neef a Chilean economist known for his fundamental human needs model on the other hand, based his research and observations by living and researching the poor and approaching the topic from the perspective of working with development of the Third World communities. Fundamental human needs according to Max-Neef stemmed from the human condition and were constant through all human cultures and time periods. What changed across time and cultures were the strategies used to satisfy the needs.
In this model there are nine basic needs:
What I Love about Human Need Models
What appeals to me most about Abraham Maslow’s work is that he chose to study the healthiest students and the exemplary people rather than ill subjects. I really like the work of Max Neef because it filters out a specific cultural, socio-economical or ethnic bias and presents needs as something that equates the king with the pauper. As the wise saying goes “Love makes kings into paupers and paupers into kings.”
You may think the two models have a lot of overlap and that would be true. However, what distinguishes the two models is that Maslow’s needs are hierarchical in nature, human needs are more like a family system where the nine needs interact with one another and are interrelated.
It’s a minor but important distinction because in my experience it divides people into two camps: the Maslow client is one that will work systematically, step by step towards self-actualisation, and will not for example be willing to take a risk with their career or business until they feel safe, have sufficiently robust plan B in place etc. A client that follows the Max Neef model will feel comfortable working on all needs simultaneously or will prioritise them in a way that is subjective and unique to them.
So what now you may wonder? Or, how can this info help me? If our behaviours are needs–based, and the needs are pretty much hardwired into us, this leaves us going about the world trying to meet our needs either consciously or unconsciously.
Stop, Think, Reflect, Succeed
In my experience as a coach, many people including myself are surprisingly unaware of what they truly need unless they stop and think or reflect on it. Often in a leadership programme I run when we do this segment of work, people voice massive realisations and can’t believe how enslaved they have become to needs they didn’t even know they had. It is not surprising.
Today’s busy, commercial and superficial world is regularly telling us what we should want and what it thinks we need but only we can tell what’s real and what’s not. And that’s part of our inner work.
Achieve Personal Success by Identifying Your Unique Needs
Let me illustrate this with a practical example. For some time I worried about how I would pay my bills if I went freelanced as in my mind it didn’t feel safe to do so. And yet steady employment carries about as much safety as working for oneself. In fact, showing up to a job may in fact be riskier because one assumes safety where in fact a company may fold leaving us unprepared for what’s next. When one is self-employed, one is always preparing for times when work may decrease. When I took time out to consider the two options and weigh them up properly, I realized that the need for safety while important had a couple of close siblings: creativity and freedom. Collectively, their needs and mine could be met far better through a mixture of portfolio work some of it more stable and predictable and some of it truly creative.
Need-based versus Healthy Relationships
Some people couple up with another person to create more safety when in fact they may leave themselves more vulnerable to the other person in the process. This is the basis of countless unhealthy relationships that we can find ourselves in when we go on autopilot and forget to question what we really need and what will make us happy in the short, as well as the long term. So, what’s key in our modern, fast world more than ever before, is to become a conscious decision-maker and to get to know yourself well. In other words, everyone can benefit from as much personal development as possible. So for example, by reflecting on the needs above whether that’s Maslow or Max Heef, you will be able to decide how to shape your life so that you meet your needs most elegantly.
For example, two people may seek out a romantic relationship, which for the first person meets their need for status, and therefore esteem– they matter to someone – whereas for another person the relationship is designed to satisfy their need for deep and meaningful connection with another soul through love and belonging, or ultimate freedom because they give their heart to someone willingly. A troubled employee insisting on more regular catch-ups with their manager may be doing this because they want understanding or connection, or they may in fact be driven by a need for growth or esteem – proving to their manager and themselves that they are capable. One person’s lack of trust in a relationship may arise from their need for having more certainty that their partner loves them no matter what or an even stronger need for connection that, in their eyes, isn’t being met.
Deciphering Needs Proves Essential Personal Work for Success
As you can see while needs will drive behavior, the precise need that may be responsible for what we do or how we are will differ and may result from a combination of needs we have met to date, as well as those we have not met yet. It will also matter whether we follow more of a Maslow model or Max Heef. The bottom line though is that when we are unaware of the actions we take to meet our needs, or fail to pinpoint actions that help us meet our needs elegantly, we take on a major risk that the actions we take prove messy and potentially damaging in the long run. Sometimes this can even leave us with regret, grief, sorrow, and avoidable disappointment.
In other words, by being less conscious, we risk being highjacked by our needs instead of being in control of them. Both being ‘in need’ and meeting needs through less than effective means can create additional suffering and pain that could be, in my view and experience, avoided. Having been able to pinpoint many of my own life difficulties to the same lack of clarity and conviction about what I truly need, I’m very passionate about helping my clients do better by facilitating their personal development journey and raising their self-awareness.
Exercises to Help You Achieve Personal Success
So having read this article, I’d like to invite you to undertake a bit of valuable personal work right now with these four steps:
- Take a moment to consider each of the needs above and note down what they mean to you right now.
- On a scale of 0-10, where 10 is being met fully, score each need for yourself to take stock.
- Go through each need in turn, and examine how you generally tend to meet this need?
- When you finish step 3, go back through your needs and ask yourself how would a person with lots of wisdom meet each need.
You may find that you are totally on top of things and your and well on your way to achieve personal success. Or you may find yourself desperately needy making a lot of short cuts and choosing quick fixes to help you out. It doesn’t matter. By doing the work, you will have taken an important step towards becoming a captain of your own ship and being free.
What’s Next on Your Personal Development Journey
Now you’ve started on the road to personal development and achieving your success goals, you can go on to read Strategies for Personal Growth and Development as well as Career Success. We will look at how we develop behavioural patters and how those patters can imprison us and cause suffering. Then, most importantly, you can begin to set yourself free and truly achieve personal success.
I wish you peace, joy and daily satisfaction.
“I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty. I hear your need. I feel your feelings. My wisdom flows from the Highest Source. I salute that Source in you. Let us work together for unity and love.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Many people get highjacked on their way to achieving their success goals by their needs which they struggle to explain with logic. This causes suffering and stress. Achieve personal success in a healthy way by getting to know your true needs.
Make Time Count Can Help You Achieve Personal Success
If you would like some help understanding your needs check out The Grid, a revolutionary system that can help you ground your life priorities and needs to clarify your goals. If you enjoyed doing this exercise on your own, you may want to get your copy of Get Productive! which contains many exercises to help boost your productivity through greater self-awareness and clarity of thought. Or consider our Grid Introductory Course and learn how to connect your vision, values and need to results that deliver growth, genuine satisfaction, and bring you closer to the person you want to be.