OK, change of plans. Because I do listen to your comments, after much complaining from some readers for having done my last entry in "parts", I will desist from turning this topic into a 3-parter (as I had originally planned) and wrap it up in today's post. I guess some of you get very impatient and hungry for insight. And, rather than pacing yourselves by enjoying a three-course meal, it seems like you'd rather have it all out - buffet style.
In the last post we covered the need for Certainty and Uncertainty. So now, we'll dive right into the first of the final four needs: Significance.
We all want to feel like we matter, right? The need to stand out and be noticed is primal in nature and starts at a very early age. If you grew up with siblings (as I did), then you know exactly what I mean. I could write a whole book on sibling rivalry to illustrate how we all need to feel special and unique, in some way.
Striving for significance serves us well because it encourages us to find ways to achieve new things, or stand out, in our quest for appreciation. So, "what's the catch," you ask? There can't possibly be a situation where our search for significance can work against us, right? Unfortunately, there is.
Remember when we were kids? In almost every family there was a child who was the star. You know, the one who did well in school, sports, etc. Was that you? Or were you the other one? The one who got into trouble more often, picking fights, struggling in school, or finding ways to knock the "star" off their pedestal. In either case, both children were striving for significance.
Fast forward to adulthood, and those negative ways of getting attention, which were learned at an early age, are still alive and kicking. A typical example could be a co-worker, or a fellow parent on the PTA, who continually complain about their job, or the school, and never have much to say other than how "crappy" everything is. Yet they stay in the same job or keep their kids in the same school, finding significance by "sacrificing" themselves and doing everyone else a "favor" by pointing out all the flaws. The world would come to an end if they weren't there to "inform" - and that is pretty significant, don't you think?
The fourth need is Love/Connection. This one, I think, is the most obvious. In my opinion, it's one of the most important ingredients to a happy life. It is so basic that an infant can actually die if they aren't touched and held - normally referred to as "forming healthy attachments." It's pretty serious stuff.
So what happens when we don't form healthy attachments early on in life? You got it. We find it very hard to make meaningful connections in our adult lives. Remember when I talked about manipulation in one of my previous posts? Well, a manipulator is an example of someone who probably has attachment problems. Because they don't see themselves as worthy of love (lovable), they fulfill their need for love and connection by dominating others who, in turn, are forced to show appreciation.
OK, so let's stop and digest for a minute. The first four needs - Certainty, Uncertainty, Significance and Love - are essential needs for human survival. They're the needs which feed directly into who we are as people - our personality.
The final two needs, which I'll talk about next, feed our soul (a tad corny, I know, but you'll see what I mean).
The fifth need is Growth. By the mere fact that we are living creatures, we have no other option but to grow. In order to keep all the "positive" things in our lives alive (health, relationships, money, happiness), we must grow. We grow by educating ourselves, by learning new ways to be better at what we do, by improving our understanding of who we are (like reading this blog - wink, wink), by staying healthy, by traveling, etc. The list is endless. And you can breathe easy, there really is no wrong way to grow. As long as you keep growing.
And finally (still with me?), the sixth ingredient in this pot-luck I call life is : Contribution. You were probably hoping for something earth-shattering, I know. But like I said, I try to keep things simple.
It's important that we all see beyond ourselves and give to others. We all pick a cause to be a part of, right? It's our nature to want to give back. To ensure that when we are gone, we leave a legacy we can feel proud of. It could be as simple as being the best possible parent so your children remember you as a hero. Or, perhaps leaving your life savings to a spiritual healer in some back alley in Dubai (though I think your children might be a bit disturbed and eternally pissed off at you for that - but hey, it's your contribution, and they can go find their proof for significance elsewhere, right?).
The key is that no matter what your situation in life, we can all find ways to give back. Fulfillment being the ultimate goal. So I ask you: "How do you feel fulfilled"? If you can't think of one example really quickly, then perhaps it's time to find one. It's never too late.
It's important to remember that, as with everything in life, we often encounter conflict when meeting these basic needs. For example, the need for significance is often contradictory to the need for love. When someone has the need to feel significantly important, it is difficult to love them. That's why in some cases, people who are highly successful and that have a constant need for significance, have trouble with close relationships and often feel they're not truly loved (the key to your typical Hollywood break-up?).
OK, let's recap. We all experience these 6 needs in some form or another at any given time. Though how we meet the needs, both positively or negatively, is different for every person, depending on our life experiences.
So, if you are feeling stuck in your life, or if you are having problems in your relationship, or you are flooded with thoughts that continue to get in the way of your success, perhaps a good place to start is by pinpointing which of these needs may be at the root of your problem. And, of course, by maybe seeking out someone who can help you resolve the conflict.
With that in mind, I bid farewell to 2010. It's been a great year, filled with changes and surprises. And I give thanks for having been able to feel:
Certain - that what I am doing in life right now is exactly what I should be doing
Uncertain - knowing that in time, what I "should be doing" will change again
Significant - through your simple words of encouragement
Loved - by my family, who tells me and reminds me each and every day
Growth - by taking on this new challenge of blog writing (which still scares me a bit)
and know that I've
Contributed - by continuing to find foster care children amazing forever homes
Happy Holidays and may 2011 be very generous with all your needs.