Welcome to this week’s edition of The Source!!! This week we touch on one of the fundamental steps toward living a stress-free life.
The first step to destressifying is the mastery of our needs – identifying, prioritizing, and meeting our vast needs with greater regularity. Virtually all of the stress we experience each day is a direct result of our needs not being met in one capacity or another.
Most frequently, the reason our needs aren’t met is because we haven’t identified them or recognized them. In the non-stop, go-go of life, we rarely take the time for a thorough self-analysis. It’s too overwhelming and too complex. But destressifying by mastering our needs is really easy and our exploration of it will shine a spotlight into the darkness.
Since one of the most popular definitions of stress is how you respond when your needs are not met, let’s make that our starting point to destressifying. If we can figure out more effective ways to meet our needs, we will have less stress.
There are two ways to most effectively overcome stress related to unmet needs. We can:
- Shift our stress response – essentially, change what we do and say when our needs are not met, and
- Increase the odds that our needs will be met – by gaining clarity on our expectations, better understanding the situation, taking clear steps to meet our needs, and communicating them to others more consciously.
And whether we master one or both of these approaches, just putting some attention on these solutions will quickly make a difference in how we feel in each moment and ultimately how we feel about our life in general.
The deeper work of destressifying – starting with the mastery of our needs – shifts us internally so we have fewer unmet needs.
Fewer unmet needs = less stress, which applies directly to our interpretation of life and our perception of stress.
So let’s start at the very beginning by exploring the concept of our basic needs.
What Are My Needs?
Each of the 8 billion people on the planet have 8 billion unique interpretations of life, 8 billion unique combinations of needs & desires, and 8 billion unique expressions of reality through our thoughts, words, and actions. Isn’t it amazing how unique you are?
Yet, with all that uniqueness and individuality, all 8 billion of us seem to share the same basic categories of needs.
In the 1940’s, the American psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote “A Theory of Human Motivation,” in which he outlined five universal categories of human needs. He has some serious street cred!
Maslow taught at Brooklyn College and the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute, and was Chairman of the Department of Psychology at Brandeis University. From 1967 to 1968 he was President of the American Psychological Association.
It’s been said that most of our motivation comes from fear or greed – the old “carrot-or-stick” punishment and reward paradigm. Maslow believed that individuals possess a basic set of motivation systems unrelated to rewards. These basic needs are said to motivate people toward fulfillment when they are unmet.
Also, the need to fulfill such needs will become stronger the longer the duration they are denied. For example, the longer a person goes without water, the thirstier they get… without sleep, the more tired they get… without food, the hungrier they become.
Prioritizing Your Needs
Maslow prioritized the various categories of universal needs based on the importance each of us organically places on fulfilling them. And, he demonstrated that they have a hierarchy of their own and that our lower order needs must be fulfilled before higher order needs can be realized.
Yet, once a specific level of needs has been reasonably satisfied, we are able to go about fulfilling the next level of needs, ultimately reaching the highest level of fulfillment, which he referred to as self-actualization.
That’s right. With all of our individual distinctiveness we each share the exact same hierarchy of needs. You, me, your parents, those in your life, and everyone with whom you interact – the barista in your local coffee shop, your dentist, your co-workers, your kids, your boss, your local police officers, the gate agent at the airport, your neighbors, your friends, even your shrink! – all have the same needs and are motivated to process & fulfill them in the same order.
Envision a pyramid with five levels. At the base of our needs “pyramid” are our survival needs – what we need to stay alive. These are our basic physiological & biological needs of breathing, drinking, eating, sleeping, peeing, pooping, and having sex. Once we meet those basic biological needs, we can aspire to meeting the next set of needs in the pyramid – our safety needs.
We need to be able to have a roof over our head to protect us from the elements; we need to know we can go to work without being shot at; we need to feel that our possessions are safe; and that we are protected by some social codes or laws.
The next level is our social needs, which include belongingness, love, our relationships, and all that comes with that, essentially the needs of our heart – attention, affection, appreciation, and acceptance. Once this core group of needs are met, we can move on to a more evolutionary grouping of needs known as our esteem needs, which include personal self-esteem, status, titles, prestige, positions, achievement, managerial responsibility – even mastery of our chosen field.
Maslow argued that once these four sets of needs are met – survival, safety, social, and esteem – an individual is primed for the fifth and final stage in the hierarchy – self-actualization – the state where our needs are met and we help others to meet their needs.
You can dive more deeply into Maslow’s needs and further explore which of your needs need attention in Chapter 5 of my book destressifying. The self-examination process is fascinating!!!
I hope you take time this week to practice the exercise I introduce in this week’s the video. Share your experiences in the comments below!!! In the meantime, I’ll see you in the gap!!!