Without a clear understanding of what you need and value any new project/task that you take on or that you are deciding to let go you are unlikely make the most of the experience.
It doesn't matter if you are at the start or at the end of a journey. It doesn't even matter if you are successful or not. What matters is that you have clarity about your needs and values. With this understanding in place you can fully access your potential and strength to deal with what is needed to succeed or to deal with failure constructively so that you can take the learning into your next challenges.
Needs and values are related. But what are needs and values? Needs are basic conditions that must be met to be fulfilled and are universal to all human beings. Values are more specific to each person and are about what they value in a certain sphere of life (professional, relational, health, leisure, etc.).
According to Human Needs psychology there are 6 basic human needs.
The need for Certainty (security, comfort, stability) which is balanced and challenged by the need for Variety (novelty, stimulus, adventure). The third is about need for Significance (feeling special and recognized) which is paired up with the need for Love/Connection (going beyond oneself and reaching out to others). Finally the last two goals are about Growth (focus on our personal development) and Contribution (focus on giving to others).
We all need to satisfy these 6 fundamental needs if we are to experience fulfillment but typically we tend to focus and favor two out of the six. Those on which we focus and what we do to meet them shape what we do and what we don’t do. They influence our level of commitment and drive as well as limiting patterns and bad habits. In other words even negative or destructive behaviors have a positive intent as they are about trying to satisfy a certain need. As an example over-eating gives the illusion of satisfying needs of certainty and connection with one self. Aggressive behaviors are about generating the illusion of significance. When a behavior satisfies two or more needs intensely (say 8 or above on a 0 – 10 scale) we start to get addicted to it.
These are well known emotional patterns but most people indulging in destructive behaviors don’t quite realize it. If they truly did they would open up to the possibility of finding empowering alternatives to satisfy those needs. There is a lot more to be said about this but this is not quite the aim of this post. Instead we will move to the next concept.
Example: what do I value in my professional sphere?
In my experience the word ‘value’ is quite loaded and for most people this word brings up concepts such as honor, religion, family or country. In the context of coaching and change values are much more practical and simply define the key criteria that you use (consciously or not) to assess opportunities and situations in different areas in your life. This is why the word criteria may be more helpful but the two can be used as synonyms.
Examples of random values/criteria linked to the professional area are: freedom, creativity, independence, recognition, collaboration, status, trust, routine, stretching targets, etc.
Whereas the needs are universal, the criteria are inherently personal. The best way to discover your values or criteria is to think and remember what you value(d) more in a certain area of your life. For example you may remember with joy a job where you felt you were being given latitude to be autonomous and creative. This tells you that you probably value these things.
The trick, when defining your list of criteria, is not to be confined to your past experience but rather to open up to a full spectrum of possibilities. A brainstorming process where you list ten, twenty or even thirty values may be a good way to break through of limits imposed by what has been, instead of empowered by what could have been.
Once you have a long list of candidate criteria you may want to prioritize them so that you can come up with the top 5 or so. These criteria are a very useful tool for decision making because any option that you have can now be ranked in terms of how well it meets your criteria. If for whatever reason the options available aren’t particularly good then you may want to take a stab at considering and finding other options.
These key criteria will always be linked to your top human needs. This is so because everything we do (or don’t), everything we want is conditioned by the drive to satisfy the needs. Take a look at your criteria to see if and how they support your needs, especially the top two or three of the six.
Now that you have a clearer understanding of your key needs and criteria and how they are connected you are in a much stronger position to take on or move on.
In the next post I shall explain the concept of rules and how they are linked to values/criteria before pulling needs, values/criteria and rules together and how they can be used for deciding what to do about your project and challenges.