Are You Driving on a Flat Tire?

When a need isn’t being met, all our energy goes to meeting it.

When was the last time you had a flat tire? Or you went out in the morning, and the car wouldn’t start? That became your top priority, right? Your day gets replanned. Maybe you take the bus or get a ride to work. You call AAA. You’ll probably be late for work, since you probably don’t give yourself enough margin to change a tire on your way to work.

We are driven by basic human needs. When those needs are met, we zip around merrily, everything running smoothly, and we probably don’t give much thought to it. When one of those needs isn’t met, it can throw off our day just as severely as a flat tire.

Photo courtesy of ©Flickr/ultrakickgirl. Some rights reserved.

The Basic Human Needs that Drive Us

If you want to understand behavior, understand the needs that drive it.

I have long been fascinated by human growth and development, especially in children. The way that we absorb, categorize, and classify the world around us. We take our basic human needs and come up with rules for how we’re going to respond in certain situations, and develop them into complex behaviors and interactions.

It’s not only interesting, but also insightful. If you can understand where a behavior comes from, it’s easier to change the behavior.

In 1943, Abraham Maslow published “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review. In it, he presents the idea that there are five levels of our basic human needs that (roughly) form a hierarchy, and that the key to understanding human behavior is to understand the needs that drive it.

Alcatraz’s Regulation #5. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs #1.

Is Your Task List Weighing You Down?

Your plan for the day should bring clarity, not more confusion.

One of the drawbacks to paper planning is that unfinished tasks don’t roll over from day to day. If you don’t finish something today and you need to do it tomorrow, you have to copy the task to tomorrow’s task list.

One of the drawbacks to digital planning is that unfinished tasks will automatically roll over from day to day. Tasks can automatically appear on your list (OmniFocus can hide tasks until their defer date), but once they’re on your task list, they don’t come off until you complete it or delete it.

If you’re not careful, your task list gradually swell and start to weigh you down. You remember the scene in The Incredibles where Mr. Incredible is getting hit by the intruder neutralization orbs? That.

Photo courtesy of ©Disney/Pixar

Keep Moving the Chains

Not every play needs to result in a touchdown, or even a first down.

In American football, it’s fairly common to start a drive at your own 20-yard line. Fortunately, you don’t need to go all 80 yards at once. All you need to do is make it to the first down marker, and you keep the drive alive. The officials on the sidelines will move the chains up, and you have a fresh set of downs.

It’s a good thing, too. Only once or twice on any given Sunday will a team go the entire eighty-plus yards in a single play. That’s why they make the highlights on Sportscenter—it’s an exceptional play, where preparation and opportunity came together. But it is the exception. The bread and butter of scoring is much more conservative: a few yards here, a few yards there, get another first down. Keep moving the chains.

You face the same thing with reaching your goals. It may seem like there’s a lot of grass between you and the end zone, but you don’t have to cover it all in one go. There’s nothing wrong with taking weeks or months or even years to reach your goals. You’ll get there if you just keep moving the chains.

Photo courtesy of ©shutterstock/David Lee