I talk a lot about the importance of meeting our needs, about how unmet needs lead to a lack of productivity, feelings of overwhelm and burnout. We all think we know what we need – food, water, shelter right? Yet those are just our most basic of needs. Our “physiological needs” on Maslow’s hierarchy. We all have more complex needs than that, and they are vitally important in our quest to get the most we can out of life.

The trouble is, before we can consistently meet those needs, we often need to forgive ourselves for having them. We look at things like Maslow’s hierarchy and we think “oh yes, that makes sense”, but we find it hard to apply it to ourselves. Sorry, no time for “self actualisation”, I’ve got 2 kids and a business to run. It becomes almost a badge of honour that we don’t meet our needs. This has got to stop.

If we are surrounded by people who act as though it’s admirable that they barely have time in their day to have a wee and hydrate themselves, we start to believe that this is the benchmark. “How many of your needs did you ignore today? Oh you haven’t slept well and you missed lunch? Wow, you must be really amazing!” Our perception of success has somehow got all out of whack, and we imagine that “powering on through” is the route to greatness. Why is this?

The answer actually lies in Maslow’s hierarchy itself. It is important to all of us that we feel safe, and for many people having the self worth to recognise that our needs are actually vitally important just does not feel safe. Meeting our needs – the basic and the complex – feels selfish and self centred and that does not feel safe, we will get into trouble for that. Somewhere along the path of our lives we have been taught that it is wrong to value ourselves enough to prioritise our own needs, desires and requirements.

Then there is also that need to belong. If everyone around us is acting as though being too busy to take a break is somehow impressive, we will want to act that way too. We want to belong in the group, we don’t want to be different, that would make us an outsider.

My advice? Find a different group.

Your needs are of vital importance, for these two reasons: you have enormous value and you deserve to have all of the things that you need; and consistently meeting those needs will make it possible for you to perform at your best, in all areas of life.

So let’s get real and talk about my needs, so you can see exactly what I’m talking about. I nailed down my list a couple of years ago and whenever I’m feeling a bit “off” I go down the list and circle the needs that I haven’t met that day or that week. Meeting those needs almost always solves the problem. This is my list. Yours will be unique to you:

In no particular order, I need: water, music & dancing, fresh air & sunshine, orgasms, a stretched & exercised body, to get out in my car, health food, to feel safe, coffee, to care for my children the best that I can, to feel productive, hot showers, rest, human connection, a beautiful home environment and freedom.

I realised that caring for my children the best that I can is a need. I feel uncomfortable if I feel I haven’t done my best job there. It is not a value or a desire or a wish. It is a need. I have to be the best parent I can be, it’s part of my bedrock.

Being a good parent does not mean, however, that I put my needs aside. Far from it. When you parent alone you do not have the luxury of being able to run yourself into the ground knowing someone else will pick up when you collapse. You have to be able to perform well the whole time the children are with you (their Dad and I split the week 50:50). Like an athlete planning a race, you can’t give it your all at the start and then have nothing left to give. You have to pace yourself, and carefully look after your needs.

It is the same with running a business. Pushing yourself to burnout might be very “impressive” in some circles, but it’s not a long-term plan. If you are serious about building a business you are in it for the long-haul, and you won’t be able to keep up business growth and performance if you run yourself into the ground. You cannot afford to ignore your own needs. Meeting them is what keeps you performing at your best.

So here is my real talk about our needs: find yourself a social and/or business group where meeting your needs is valued rather than it being a badge of honour to always be exhausted and depleted. Recognise your value and how you bring far more to the world if you are performing at your best. Recognise how privileged we are to have the opportunity to meet our needs when many in the world cannot. Do not dismiss that opportunity.

Meet. Your. Needs. Then come back to me and tell me how your life has changed.

If you would like to work with me 1-2-1 to build on your self worth and your ability to be the best boss you can be to yourself, check out my Clear Ahead coaching package here. And don’t forget that my podcast is launching on 25 May! Tune in to give yourself the gift of a clear day.

Helen Calvert
Coach and Director of Clear Day
April 2021