There are no lessons more important than those that promote greater depth of experience and inspire us to intentionally develop a purpose. In my last article, I discussed three habits that are essential pieces for an inspired life and greater self-discovery. One crucial habit was left off that list: daily immersion in the right lessons and right attitudes.
Each day we’re exposed to hundreds of competing thoughts and opinions, most of which are designed to reinforce the consumerist values of the masses. We adopt what we are repeatedly exposed to. Sustained passionate living requires that we intentionally feed our mind with the right thoughts, the right people, and the right lessons. The most common avenue to inspired life lessons is to read, although podcasts, audio books, trainers, and many other sources are available. If we will only read, we have cheap access to the wisdom of all of humanity throughout history. What a powerful gift! We have the experiences and actions of our most heroic and inspiring individuals at our fingertips, just an internet search or bookstore visit away. Unfortunately, the lessons we need are often drowned out by the clamoring of the 21st century, and its seductive, toxic outlets for information.
The education path I am advocating will provide a framework for focusing attention on lessons that are formative, positive, and constructive. If we can better understand the needs of the human experience and use this to create purpose, we’ll find the motivation to create an inspired life guided by inspired vision.
Teach Principles Instead of Methods
Too much of education is centered on methods. The emphasis is on “this is how you do this,” versus “this is how it works; what are pros, cons, limitations, and opportunities.” We must quit our obsession with methods, and instead invest our limited time on more essential lessons.
We don’t know what the jobs of the future will look like. What we do know are the values and mindsets that are conducive to growth. Impactful teaching and coaching is full of lessons and principles that shape our perspective and guide our behavior. The world is changing constantly, and this demands principles and depth of understanding, not dogma and some canned path to “success” based on an illusion of what you’re “supposed” to do. Go to college, find a stable job, punch the clock for 45 years, retire, die. Does that pump you up?
I do not believe in adding lessons just to add them. More is not better. But we are missing the true essentials—those lessons that allow us greater understanding of ourselves and how we find meaning and motivation. Understanding human needs will shape all future decisions and relationships. When we begin to understand our own motives and others’, we can master interviews, marketing, or any other human field.
The Foundations of Human Motivation
To give context to our own development and enhance understanding of others, my training will emphasize the 6 Human Needs outlined by Tony Robbins. These are needs, not wants. People will seek to satisfy them any way they can.
Needs of the Personality
- Certainty and Comfort: The need for control, comfort, and an assuredness that you can avoid pain. Many people find this in foods. I tend to find this in daily habits, rituals, and routines.
- Uncertainty and Variety: Your adrenaline junkie side. This is your need for novel experiences, surprise, and exploration.
- Significance: The need to be thought special in some way. Whether we want a certain certification, fame, fortune, or even extreme piety—these are all methods of making ourselves feel significant or special. Criminals are often highly motivated by this need, as are consistent volunteers.
- Love and Connection: We all want to belong and be deeply loved. Man is a social creature, and will go to great lengths to feel accepted.
The paradoxes of life are on grand display in these first four needs. Despite their contradictory appearance, all these needs exist in every human. We all will find them somehow. When we understand this, we can begin to understand why a poor, struggling young man might be attracted to what a gang offers.
The last two needs are the those of the spirit. Many miss these completely, but fulfillment is not possible without them.
Needs of the Spirit
- Growth: This is a constant process we must embrace. Nothing is static. Not growing is dying. This is why many who make it to the top are miserable. They think they’ve made it and stop growing.
- Contribution: The more we grow, the more value we have to offer. All our talents can contribute if we make that our focus, especially as coaches and athletes. I’m reminded of a prevalent theme in Christopher McDougall’s Natural Born Heroes: “be fit to be useful.”
Robbins describes the two master lessons of life: the science of achievement, and the science of fulfillment. Both matter. To achieve a change in physique or athletic development, we must understand the principles of training and nutrition, and have the habits and skills to steadfastly practice them. Still, many find that once they have achieved their goal, they do not find the fulfillment they were sure would ensue.
There is very little training offered in the art and science of fulfillment. A curious oversight, given that we all seek fulfillment and it is so intimately linked to sustained performance improvement.
George Clooney tells the story of how he struggled to land acting roles until he began going into auditions asking himself, “How do I solve their problem?” Greater patience and understanding are yours when you can begin to see what needs might be influencing the actions of others. Hokey as this all seems, take this wisdom and use it. When we understand how we meet each of these needs, we are far better able to understand ourselves and shape our own actions and choices. How could we not consider this framework essential to human development?
The Secret of Success Is Consistency of Purpose
The next step, after identifying the human needs, is to develop our own path to growth and contribution. Motivation is a challenge. It wanes and we lose steam. This is why the right habits are a necessity, and chief among these is to feed our minds the right lessons.
For sustained growth and contribution, we must intentionally develop purpose. Our purpose will evolve as we do. It should be vivid and honest. The power of purpose was highlighted to me a few weeks ago, when a group of students visited my office. I was presented with a handmade award for consistency, and on it was a quote:
“Commitment to an unerring purpose enables one to pour out passion, energy, and enthusiasm in his or her endeavors.”
This perfectly highlights the power of purpose. When we have it, our actions are aligned with such emotional momentum that success is inevitable. Great lessons and self-discovery will promote an ever-evolving purpose, intelligently made with our human needs in mind.
These lessons not only offer success and satisfaction, but are keys to mental health. Our thoughts and actions fuel our emotions, and with the right habits, an understanding of human fulfillment, and a clear purpose, we will be far more emotionally stable.
Training and education often focus on a prescribed workout or an assignment that we are supposed to master to move on to the next. This approach certainly has its place, and is solid progression. However, every trainer knows that it’s not just about the weight on the bar. Movement quality matters most. I believe we must get to the essence of each person in order to create the greatest impact. We start this process with the introduction of habits proven to increase health, happiness, and self-awareness. These include a mindfulness practice, daily reflective writing that trains gratitude, and a physical training practice. These three habits alone have the potential to radically improve one’s life.
To get the most out of these practices requires constant refinement of lessons and a strong sense of purpose. Self-education and understanding of the human needs are essential for giving context to our lives. Couple this with an introduction to the values of inspired people, and you have a powerful foundation to bring a sense of direction and possibility to your endeavors.