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Why do we do what we do?

Have you ever wondered why we do what we do - how we actually function as human beings?  Why some individuals spend time helping others and some just want to cause pain – why some people work over and above what is expected of them and others are ardent clock watchers.

According to Anthony Robbins, the renowned American life coach, there is an invisible force that drives us – emotion – and this in conjunction with our needs and beliefs, becomes the most important thing in the world; it’s the force that drives our desire for fulfillment.

Although we are all unique as human beings, he suggests that there are six fundamental needs that everyone has in common:

1.         Certainty: we all want comfort which usually comes from certainty and assurance that we can avoid pain

2.         Uncertainty/Variety: paradoxically we also crave variety to provide spice and adventure in our lives

3.         Significance: deep down we all want to be important and for our lives to have meaning and significance

4.         Connection/Love: we all want to feel cared for and experience strong feelings of closeness or union with someone of something

5.         Growth: we all want to become better, improve our skills, expand our capacity, capability or understanding

6.         Contribution: we all want to contribute something of value; a sense of service and focus on helping, giving and supporting others

Robbins believes that everyone is or can be motivated by their desire to fulfill these needs.

The first four he describes as “personality” or “physical” needs, which we all find ways to meet.  For example some people pursue the need to avoid pain and gain comfort by striving to control all aspects of their lives, whilst others obtain certainty by giving up control and adopting a philosophy of faith.  Variety makes us feel alive and significance can result in competition between colleagues or the destroying and tearing down of those around them.  These physical needs are in tension with each other – the more certainty we have the less variety we have and vice versa.  Robbins believes that lasting fulfillment is only achieved by focusing on the remaining two “spiritual” needs: the need to continuously grow and the need to contribute beyond ourselves in a meaningful way. 

Is this a modern take on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs? – definitely!  Similar in its approach – maybe?  Maslow’s original hierarchy was a simple 5 stage model “organised into a hierarchy of relative prepotency” which in 1943 meant that once a human being has fulfilled the primary needs, a “higher” need has to be satisfied and once this is satisfied a further “higher” need emerges and so on until a state of “self-actualisation” and fulfillment is reached.

The drawback with Maslow’s model though, lies in the fact that unless you satisfy the needs in the lower levels, it is impossible to progress to the next.  We all suffer life experiences such as getting a divorce, losing a job or being ill and this may result in a person fluctuating between levels of hierarchy.  Trusting in Maslow’s approach means that you are much less likely to realise self-actualisation and fulfillment, thus providing a positive case for acceptance of Robbins’ methodology.

So, how can we put Robbins’ observations into practice and what help are his theories to us in our everyday working lives?  Well, for a start few people know what they want most in life and even fewer focus on getting it.  The majority of time we focus on the means to getting what we want, rather than the core needs themselves.  Robbins intimates that our behaviour is ideally driven to meet the needs that are most important to us and this behaviour can be negative or positive.  Our goal should be to focus on positive ways to meet our needs and the amount of investment we make in these core needs, will shape our choices and actions.

Study the list to better understand your own personal motivations and examine which ones seem the most significant to you. If you can identify your dominant needs, you can create a strategy to ensure those needs will be met, either in your current environment or a future situation.  The challenge we face daily is how to identify which needs are dominant and what environments, situations and people we function best in and around to meet those needs.

Consider carefully what you do to fulfill the needs of others as well. Understanding people more, can put a stop to some of the challenges we face in society today and will likely make a difference in what and how you do what you do.

We all have the ability to make a positive impact on the world, and it's up to us, as individuals, to overcome our fears and foibles to reach that potential.

 "It is in the moments of our decisions, that our destiny is shaped"   Anthony Robbins




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