Do you like to get what you want? Of course you do. It’s human nature. The key to getting it, though, is knowing what you want — and sometimes that’s the hardest part.
To get what they want out of a situation some people will manipulate, bully, unscrupulously persuade, hypnotise or use embedded commands. When you’re at the other end of this, at some level you know. You may sense the incongruity between body language and words. Maybe you read the micro-expressions that flash across their face for a millisecond. Or you get a gut feeling something’s not right.
If you don’t want to be that bully, how do you achieve your own goals without impeding others?
A key premise here is, as Deeprak Chopra wrote, “If you help others get what they want, they will help you get what you want.” That presumes, though, that you’re aware of your needs as well as those of others. So, what do you want?
Although we use the phrase glibly, to genuinely know what you want requires a certain amount of clarity and self-knowledge. What do you really want? What are your needs? What do you need to make your life better?
When the Americans successfully landed a man on the moon, the spacecraft was constantly correcting its course. Do you? Do you stop and check that where you’re headed is still where you want to go?
To be clear about what you want it’s important to objectively assess where you’re functioning right now. To help you do that we’ll look at two models of the human condition. The first of these is Brandeis University psychologist Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow identified that we are motivated by unsatisfied needs and that lower needs need to be satisfied before higher needs are met.
When your basic needs of food, warmth and sleep aren’t met you may feel sick, irritated, in pain and uncomfortable. These feelings usually motivate us to remedy the situation and then we can focus on other things.
So who in your life is cranky? Maybe they’re exhausted, starving or in pain. How can anyone focus on love, nurturing and contribution when their very basic needs are not being met?
It’s hard to be nice, kind and thoughtful towards others when you’re in pain. Address any basic physical hungers or pains and you will be better able to identify your higher goals.
Once your basic needs are met, safety is next in importance. When you feel ‘unsafe’, stressed and your life feels out of control, your thoughts become worries and this becomes your focus. More altruistic thoughts and ideas fly out the window.
If you live with the pending threat of violence every time you return home, how can you provide service to another? How can you be an awesome team player or enthusiastic supporter? It will take an enormous amount of energy, personal strength and determination.
Love and belonging are next on the ladder. Given food but deprived of contact with others, baby chimpanzees die. Premature babies who are touched and gently stroked inside their Medicribs grow stronger quicker. Elderly people in nursing homes with labradors to stroke and love seem happier.
How about you? How many hugs a day do you like? We all need love. We need to be needed. To be accepted. To be appreciated. That’s why a weekly massage of nurturing physical contact is so good.
How many groups to you belong to? Associations, clubs, work groups, family, hobby interest groups, neighbourhood groups, gangs — the need to belong is a basic human drive. There are very few hermits in the world.
Next up the rung are psychological needs: self-esteem and the esteem of others. Our self-esteem comes from doing a good job and knowing it: mastering a task, a skill and feeling competent. Can you give yourself a pat on the back for things you do well? When we can do this for ourselves instead of relying on others to give us their approval we empower ourselves to make a bigger difference.
The esteem of others is more than the appreciation of the “belongingness level”. At this level of need, wanting admiration has to do with the need for significance, influence and power. Once you have the lower needs met you may decide to buy the sports car, bigger house or boat.
The highest level of needs is self-actualisation: the desire to be the best you can be, to make a difference, to fulfil your potential. People who have all needs met can maximise their potential and help others. This is why getting your own needs met first is not selfish — it’s healthy. Once you have your needs met you can better help others and be more accepting of both you and them.
So identify where your needs lie in this hierarchy and that’s a solid step toward clearly identifying and then achieving your goals.