Six Reasons We Do What We do

One of the first things I learned was about what motivated me. It's called the Six Core Needs, developed by Anthony Robbins, and learning about this changed everything for me in a heartbeat.

The Owner's Manual

I became a coach because I wanted to understand what made people tick - and I guess, what made me tick, if I was really honest.

I was going through a period of making some pretty poor decisions, felt down, frustrated, confused... Nothing good.

I felt like I never got given the Owner's manual of the Mind and I really wanted one! So I became a coach to get the Owner's Manual.

One of the first things I learned was about what motivated me. It's called the Six Core Needs, developed by Anthony Robbins, and learning about this changed everything for me in a heartbeat.

We have six core needs which we must meet. We will only do behaviours that meet these needs. More precisely, we only do behaviours which meet the first four needs and the last two needs are the bonus points that explain why so many people are miserable - it explains why I was miserable for years.

Six Reasons We Do What We Do

#1 Certainty

Six Reasons We Do What We Do

We want to feel safe, in control, certain of ourselves or of our environment. 

The more certainty we seek the less risks we take, so the less growth we experience, so the more miserable and uncertain and fearful we become.

The more certainty we experience within, and the less certainty we need in our environment, the more growth we'll be willing to experience, the more we'll seek to learn and discover, so the greater our sense of self worth.

We all need certainty in our lives - how we get that certainty - through controlling others or through believing in ourselves - determines the quality of our lives.

The more we think our environment has to change for us to feel certain, the less quality of life we have. The more we take responsibility for our own sense of certainty, the greater our feelings of self worth and thus how we feel about our lives.

Our ability to handle uncertainty around us is directly equal to how much success we experience in our careers. The more uncertainty we can deal with, and still move forwards, the better leader we become.

#2 Variety

Six Reasons We Do What We Do

The flip side of this is our need for variety or adventure. So whilst we need some level of certainty to function, we also need some level of variety to spice things up.

If things are too predictable for too long we get bored, so we'll spice things up to feel variety. How we do this tells us a lot about the quality of our lives.

If things are cruising along, for example, in a relationship, and we're 'settled', do we stir things up by picking a fight? Or do we stir things up by doing something spontaneous and romantic?

Both create variety, but the first response is going to create a lower quality of life and the second choice can improve our quality of life. One response is functional and resourceful. One response is unresourceful.

Some people don't want too much variety, and if they get it they retreat and close down and become ineffective. Some people respond to too much variety by becoming a 'control freak' to get things back under control. Some people run away. Some people relish the uncertainty and become even more resourceful.

The more variety (uncertainty) and unpredictability you can enjoy, the more success you'll have.

Some people don't want a lot of uncertainty, and are content with cruising along in a middle level role, repeating many tasks over and over, for years.

These people need less variety and are perfect for that role. Some people would go nuts in a role like that and need more adventure and variety.

#3 Significance

Six Reasons We Do What We Do

This one is interesting. The need for significance can be met through our egos, which is tiresome and grating on others.

The need for significance can be met through service to others and giving. It can be met through doing something that you are proud of, through blaming someone, through yelling...

There are lots of ways to meet this need, some harmful and some helpful. If you blame others for your mess, you're meeting your need for significance. If you take responsibility for the mess, you're meeting your need for significance.

Both accomplish meeting the need, it's just one way is unresourceful and one way is resourceful. One way will mess you up more. One way will propel you forward. Either way, the need is being met.

You can meet your need for significance through being a leader, inventing stuff, solving problems, serving others, facing challenges... And you can meet it through blaming others, saying it 'can't be done', yelling at someone and sulking.

#4 Connection/love

Six Reasons We Do What We Do

We all need to feel connected in some way.

We may get this need met through a relationship, through meditation, exercise, hiking, praying, writing, talking...

And we could get it through smoking, drinking, arguing... We will get this need met, and as with the other needs, it will either be in a way that is resourceful or unresourceful.

These final two needs are optional, unfortunately. And here's the thing - these last two needs determine your level of happiness.

#5 Growth

Six Reasons We Do What We Do

Growth through, what you go through.

If we grow, we feel good about ourselves, our self worth goes up, our confidence builds, we feel more certainty, we're experiencing more variety, we're feeling good (significant)...

If we're not growing, we feel we're shrinking, and we could feel we're 'in a rut'.

If someone isn't feeling that great about themselves, it could be because they've been avoiding doing the things that could lead to them learning and growing...

#6 Contribution

Six Reasons We Do What We Do

Being rich is not about how much we have, but how much we give and contribute to a greater cause.

This final need is another pathway to happiness (I guess this is why I love coaching). We get to give to others beyond ourselves, which seems to cause our own problems to fade!

Contribution combined with growing personally and professionally are sure fire ways to feel great about you.

And this is where it gets even more interesting...

If any behaviour meets three of your needs, you become addicted to that behaviour. You will keep doing it, even if it hurts you, because it's meeting your needs.

If you complain about other people (significance), avoid taking responsibility (certainty), get overly emotional about problems (connection) - you're going to meet three needs.

You will become addicted to that pattern of behaviour unless you become aware of how it's meeting your needs and then find an alternative behaviour that will meet those three needs in a more resourceful and functional way.

We get addicted to behaviour because it meets needs. We give up behaviours if it no longer meets our needs. If someone loves gossip (variety, connection, significance) and the person you care about doesn't, you won't do it, because they won't meet your needs for variety, significance and connection with their discouraging response.

If you love leading others (certainty of self, variety, significance, connection) and taking responsibility for results (certainty of self, variety, significance) you'll keep leading.

If you love your family (all needs) you'll keep giving to your family. And here's where it gets interesting - our responsibility is to meet our needs in as sustainable and resourceful way as possible.

For example, if someone loves complaining (certainty, variety, significance, connection) (no growth or contribution) - can they do this? Yes. Is it sustainable?

As in, if they kept doing it would things improve? No. Is it resourceful? No. So stop doing it. Simple, huh? When you coach your clients, use the model of this we give you in your manual to help your client come to realise how their desire to meet their needs must be met, but how they meet those needs is going to create the quality of their lives.

Dream Team is the award-winning marketing and innovations hub for The Coaching Institute and the coaching industry. Whether it's testing new ideas or challenging the old, updating best practices or disrupting conventions, Dream is here for you with the latest and best in the coaching industry along with tools, tips, strategies and case studies of real-world results that are breaking industry records.

TCI logo
Dream TeamThe Coaching Institute