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.

Abraham Maslow defined the basic human needs in five areas. There are two other ways of breaking them down that I like.

In The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management, Hyrum W. Smith uses the basic needs as expressed by Dr. Murray Banks, a psychiatrist from the 1950s. Dr. Banks breaks human needs into four categories:

  1. The need to Live
  2. The need to Love and Be Loved
  3. The need to Feel Important
  4. The need to Experience Variety

Dr. Stephen R. Covey would also break them down into four categories:

  1. to Live
  2. to Love
  3. to Learn
  4. to Leave a Legacy

The lists are basically the same, and I’ll swtich back and forth between them depending on what exactly I’m trying to express. Sometimes, it’s easier to think of a need in terms of Leaving a Legacy, or seeking Variety.

Maslow Reed Banks Covey
Physiological Survival Survive Live
Safety & Security Safety
Love and Be Loved Society Love and Be Loved Love
Self-Esteem Swagger Feel Important Leave a Legacy
Self-Actualization Sharpen the Saw Variety Learn

When all our needs are being met, it’s like we’re rolling along on four well-balanced wheels. When a need isn’t being met, it’s like a wheel has gone flat. (Something similar happens when the roles in our life are out of balance.) Life is no longer a smooth ride. It gets a bit bumpy.

When a need isn’t being met, all of our energy and attention is immediately focused on addressing the deficient need. Consider:

  • Our health. When we get sick, we drop all our plans and focus on one thing: getting better. It doesn’t matter whether it’s cancer or the common cold.
  • Financial security. Last year, an average of almost 55,000 people were laid off or fired in the United States every day. (Don’t worry—over 157,000 were hired every day.) Where do you think their attention went? Putting food on the table, putting gas in the car, and keeping a roof over their head (Survival). That trip to Maui (Variety) can wait until until paychecks start coming in again.
  • The death of a loved one. When we lose someone close to us, it not only disrupts our need to love and be loved, but it an also affect our sense of safety and security, too. We’re faced with our own mortality. We retrench, spending more time with family, and thinking about the impact we can have in the world (Leave a Legacy).

The next time you feel yourself struggling to keep going with a flat tire, stop and take care of yourself. Identify the need that isn’t being met and create a plan to meet it. Give yourself the same focus and attention that you give your car.

Question: Taking time to fix a personal flat tire is important, but how can we keep the tire from going flat in the first place? Share your thoughts in the comments, or on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

About

Colter writes software and blogs about personal growth and productivity. He lives in Silicon Valley (California) with his wife and children, recently took up golf, and watches mostly British TV shows.

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