One of the most powerful pieces of work I have done, and that I coach in others is to understand ourselves and those around us better whether they are friends, colleagues, or family members.

A great tool to use for this is the six human needs, a concept pioneered by Tony Robbins.

The premise is simple, which makes it great to use and accessible. Essentially, there are six core human needs that we satisfy on a continual basis. In this video, I explain more about how our behaviours result in outcomes, the human needs and what they mean to us.

The only thing that will differ from person to person is the order of importance we hold these needs in; some people will value uncertainty more than certainty, some people are driven by significance, some by connection and contribution etc.

Once we take the time to reflect on ourselves, to understand the things we do and what they mean for us, we can see why certain situations become harder for us to deal with. If, for example, you or someone close to you is driven by a higher need for connection and/or certainty, they are likely to be struggling more during this period of time than someone who champions variety or has the need for connection lower down on their list.

Once we have an idea of the order in which we hold these needs, we can then look at the things we do to satisfy them. A great way of looking at this is to see them as either healthy or unhealthy ways.  

For example, we could find significance by doing charity work, achieving a promotion, or by robbing a bank. All three would certainly give us significance (one will even put us on News at Ten!) but not all of them are good for society and they cannot all be seen as healthy ways of meeting our need.

Similarly, certainty tends to be found by way of routine. It is clear that to achieve certainty, we either establish a routine, or a routine establishes us. Sometimes those routines are healthy and sometimes they are not, but because we champion the need for certainty we can find them harder to break in search of better ways to achieve it, especially if the thing we are doing becomes an addiction affecting more than just our mental state.

Take some time to think about you. Think about the things you do and what human need you are hitting by doing them. The order in which you hold them close will then become more apparent.  

Write it down on a piece of paper, and it helps if you lay it out like this (I have put some examples on there to get you thinking):

1 Certainty

  • Routines are important to me
  • I smoke
  • I exercise at the same time each day
  • I eat the same meals daily
  • I don’t like trying new things

2 Connection/Love

  • I take part in team activities (sports or socialising)
  • I gossip a lot in the office
  • I constantly use social media
  • I love spending time with my friends and family

3 Contribution

  • I give to charity
  • I love developing and coaching those around me
  • I take pride when one of my team does something amazing that I have helped with

4 Significance

  • I love being praised
  • Ideas always have to be mine
  • I need people to know when I have done great work
  • Getting a lot of likes on social media makes me feel happy

5 Variety/Uncertainty

  • I hate routine or structure
  • I love not knowing what is going to happen
  • I never need a plan of action

6 Growth

  • I always look for ways to better myself and improve
  • I am always hungry for promotion at work

We might then look at our list and realise there are things on there that might be seen as unhealthy ways of meeting our needs (I have deliberately put some on the example page), but it is important to be completely honest. There may be better ways of achieving the same need.

Then think about those in your team, family, or your friendship groups. Whilst it might be your best guess given what you know of them, it will help you to understand why they do the things they do…and more crucially…what will happen if they are then no longer able to meet those needs in the same way due to circumstance or the behaviour of others.

Once we understand the rationale behind our actions, we are then in a better place to help ourselves and each other to ensure that we meet the needs that are important to us, and to look for ways of achieving those needs in as healthy a way as possible for us and society.

Setting new patterns isn’t easy, but it can be done. Great leaders change lives.