Why Understanding Your Intrinsic Needs Is Key To Personal Change

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Human behavior is a very interesting subject, because obviously we all display it. There is a train of thought that states that there is no good or bad behavior, only behavior. While there is something to be said for that point of view it is also true that certain behavior will keep you from achieving your goals.

Quitting smoking is essentially a very basic task. You stop buying packs of cigarettes and thus run out of cigarettes and therefore stop smoking them. The instructions are simple to follow, right? Yet so many people have a hard time giving them up. A similar situation occurs for many when telling themselves they will be going to the gym three times a week. Often the first few times are okay, but then the fatigue sets in and we stop. But why? The pay-off is so blatantly obvious: we get more healthy, get more energy and get to spend more time with our loved ones. Ah, but if only it were that simple.

When looking at human behavior there are sets of behavioral responses we display in certain situations. The type of behavior is triggered by external or internal input. External input is something we can’t control since things simply happen (we may however, be able to influence them up to a certain degree). What we can control however, is our response to inputs around us. Realizing this is a very important step because it will help separate things you can change and things you can’t.

Imagine losing your job. Your first response may be anger, sadness or even relief. These are all initial responses that are logical consequences, because a job plays a large role in many people’s lives. But it is also important to accept the situation you are in now and acknowledge the responsibility is on you to find a new source of income. This is the time where you empower yourself by responding in a way that lands you a new source of income.

Many experts, books and training material often talk about empowerment, but I feel it is important to state what I mean by this: the ability to consciously choose to respond in a way that helps you achieve your goal.

The key to empowering yourself lies in understanding why you respond in a certain way in specific situations. Look at it this way: if I understand the why I can focus on the how. If you are trying to lose weight, but never seem to be able to keep it up and always end up with even more weight than before, looking at the amount of calories is not the main solution. And although the excess of calories may the current problem, they are not the reason for being overweight. The reason for being overweight is your pattern of similar response (behavior) to inputs and only you can change your response. Understanding why you display your behavior will help you understand how you can change your destructive behavior.

When you tell yourself “I can’t do this” you are saying “I choose not to succeed”. When you tell yourself “This always happens to me” you are saying “I always make the same choices”.

Try to picture the woman who goes from one abusive relationship to another. She may think that it always happens to her, but when psychologically analyzing her situation, her past, her motives and her patterns it may become clear that she chooses to be with men that confirm her conviction that all men are bastards. Unconsciously she keeps making the same choices that end up in the same situation. To make it clear: She is not responsible for men abusing her. She is, however, responsible for consistently putting herself in a situation to be with an abusive man.

This example highlights an important aspect: intrinsic needs. We all have unconscious needs that need to be fulfilled and these needs are not always positive. From an early age we are instilled with messages and lessons from our parents, grandparents, teachers and other important people in our lives and not all these messages are positive. Whether it was the implicit message “be perfect”, “don’t succeed” or other injunctions we have all unconsciously decided to respond to them in one way or another and from there have laid out patterned responses to certain situations.

Understanding the patterns, dynamics and responses starts with being aware of them. Awareness enables you to recognize patterns and helps you connect the dots of why you responded the way you did. If you feel you are getting stuck in recognizing the patterns or are unable to figure out why you behave the way you do it is advised to seek counselling. Having a psychologist or therapist guiding and helping you adds an objective dimension to get the required insight.

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