We Want What Feels Good To Us

InsideOut Empowerment Principle #4: What you want is based on what feels good to you (increasing pleasure or avoiding pain). Remember, what you want feels good to you. It may not feel good to everyone, especially those close to you. If people know what you want, they may judge you if they don’t think it’s a “good” thing to want. For example, my son quit college 18 credits shy of graduating. I certainly didn’t think that was a good thing. He didn’t want to go further in debt by going another semester. This was his choice, his decision, his life. There were many people in his life, who claim to love him, that told him what a mistake he made. It’s seven years later and he earns a six-figure income in a sales position in a rural area where the cost of living is less than most places in the US. Should he have graduated? Who can say conclusively? Perhaps the stress of owing more money for student loans would have caused him to do something desperate. We’ll never know. All I know is that it was his decision to make and my job was to support him in his right to make it.

We were all born with five basic human needs, but the strength of each of those needs is unique to us. We each have a fairly unique need strengths profile. What feels good to us is satisfying our needs. What is painful involves one or more needs being frustrated by either not having enough or sometimes having too much.

What are the needs? There are five: survival, connection, significance, freedom and enjoyment. How you prioritize the things in your life generally are determined by your specific need strengths. I have a very high need for freedom. It should come as no surprise then that I am a business owner, live by myself, and love to travel. Things that create frustration for me are being told what to do, rules that make no sense, and being financially strapped unable to do the things I most want to do.

A person high in survival likes rules and structure, doesn’t like change, is a saver not a spender, doesn’t tolerate risk well and generally pays cash for big purchases. A person high in survival also likes to be self-sufficient.

Someone with a high connection need likes to be connected to people, places, pets, community, spiritual groups and recreational clubs. What this person chooses to connect with is based on individual preference but it’s the connection that’s of paramount importance. Someone high in connection doesn’t like conflict and tends to be the peacemaker in most situations.

People with a high need for significance want to make an impact, be heard and gain respect. It’s important to leave a legacy and to gain recognition for their accomplishments.

Individuals with a high need for enjoyment will often prioritize fun activities over most everything else. In fact, even in serious situations, they will make jokes and attempt to find a way to have fun. Enjoyment may be experienced by some as the loud, kinetic kind of fun that comes from being the joker, playing sports and going to parties. There are others with a high enjoyment need that prioritize a quieter type of enjoyment such as a walk in the woods, fishing or reading a book.

The epitome of feeling good comes from having all five of your needs in perfect balance. If you have a high need for connection, then you have just the right amount of connection in your life. If you have a low need for significance and have too much, as in the case of being pulled from behind the curtain to take a bow, you won’t be happy. The idea is to have just the right amount that you want for each of the needs. When you have an imbalance—either too much or too little—you will experience that as painful. The amount of pain will be determined by just how out of balance you are and how important the thing is you want that you currently don’t have.

Do you often find yourself getting upset with things other people choose to do? Do you look around and pass judgment on others for choosing things of which you disapprove? Does this drive a wedge between you and people you care about? Would you like to re-establish a more positive relationship? Then let go of the judgment of others, whether you are judging them or they are judging you. Tell yourself everyone is entitled to their own opinions but it is you who must live with the consequences of your decisions. If it involves your judgment of someone else, remind yourself it is their life, not yours. What may be “right” for you, might not be the answer for someone else. Support people in doing what they need to do for themselves.

In doing so, there may come a time when you need to separate from certain people in your life. If, for example, you have a relative who is addicted to gambling and from your assessment, it is destroying his life, you certainly have the right to express your opinion and ask that he get help. But if he chooses to ignore you, then the only options left to you are to change your response to the situation, accept your relative as he is, or leave the relationship. Sometimes you can do a combination of accepting the person has a right to gamble if he wants to and if that’s his decision, then you must remove yourself from his life, not as some sort of punishment for him but as a survival method for yourself. You don’t want to be an observer of someone you love destroying himself.

If it’s another person who is judging you, then remind yourself this person has the right to his or her opinion and it’s your life. You get to do whatever you believe is best for your life. It this is a significant person in your life, then you may first want to ask the question, “Is there a way I can do what I want and still maintain a positive relationship with this person?” If you can’t find a way, then you need to determine which is most important to you.

There will be times in your life when you want multiple things, some of which you want in the moment and the other you want but have to wait for it. A decision in the moment for a piece of chocolate cake when you want to lose weight will have you making a decision between what you want right now versus what you really want. There really is no wrong decision as you will get something you want in either case, however, if there is something really important to you that you want in the future that choosing what you want right now will jeopardize, you may want to get some help to understand and stop the self-sabotage in which you are engaging.

What’s important is to be able to distinguish and choose between what feels good right now and what will likely feel even better later. Are you struggling with a dilemma between what feels good right now and what would feel even better later? Tell me about it.

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