Are we equal? You and I?
Can you answer that now?
Is it an unequivocal yes, as in ‘all men (mankind) are created equal’ or do you need to know some things about me before you can decide?
What is it that would help you decide whether we’re equal?
How many good deeds I do? How many hours I work? How much I earn? How many hours I volunteer? How much I give? How many people report to me? The £”s I’m responsible for? The extent of my education? Something else? The style of my clothes?
If we’re equal in theory, but in practise, we’re not, if there’s a hierarchy of sorts, then what does that mean for our needs?
Are our needs equal? Are yours more important than mine?
Whose needs are more important than yours?
As things stand right now, is it those same things, earnings, hours worked, etc that determine where you put yourself in the pecking order.
Who comes first? Boss, colleague, husband, wife, partner, client deadline, project, e-mails?
Would it be unusual for you to put yourself first?
“Fit your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs”.
That’s what they say on the aeroplane safety announcement isn’t it?
What’s your reaction to that? A direct instruction to look after your own needs first.
The first time I really heard it rather than let it wash over me I was travelling with my son when he was a baby.
I was horrified. Oh my god…what….. you mean ….you’re suggesting that I ignore my baby!
And yet if I didn’t take care of this small matter, of oxygen, for myself, first, I’d not be in a great position to help him.
I suppose I thought I could hold my breath and do without breathing in oxygen for a bit till I got his mask on.
Which would probably have been possible but any wriggling and difficulty and I’d have been in trouble.
Maybe it would be better, really, to take care of my own needs first. You know, lest I die.
That was one surprisingly strong reaction to the suggestion that I take care of myself first.
I’d found out one person whose needs, more often than not, I’d put before my own. He’s 18 now and that’s pretty much how it’s panned out. In hindsight, I’m not so sure that it was always wise.
I’ve not often asked him to consider what I need and so it’s a surprise when I do and not something I’ve asked him to practise much.
“Me first and always”.
Marshall Rosenberg, founder of nonviolent communication, sometimes uses this line in his courses. It’s meant to be provocative.
What first came to your mind when you read it?
Do you like the person?
Do you have a label for them?
Goodness me no, don’t like them at all, they’re selfish and we DO NOT LIKE selfish!
And if they’re selfish, we reason, we can’t be sure they’ll care about me and won’t consider me and I’ll always be needing to ask to be taken into account and that would be quite wearing. Very wearing.
The thing is….. it didn’t say ‘me first and only me‘.
If it had said, only me, then it would be ignoring others needs and yes that wouldn’t be much fun to be around.
But nowhere did it say that this person would fit their own oxygen mask first then sit there watching helpless children die.
But goodness me, that strong and immediate reaction …..that message is in firmly embedded, the message believed and absorbed :
Looking after your needs first = bad selfish thing + people won’t like you + don’t do it.
The new message, very slowly learned and very, very slowly tested out till it could be trusted.
Looking after your needs WHILST ALSO taking others needs into consideration = good thing + doing it is fine.
Once trusted it moved a bit further from
‘doing it is fine’
‘doing it is essential to your health and wellbeing’.
And in this year of pleasure, the fact that it’s needed for your health and wellbeing is now my minimum. What I’m looking for is that it’s a pleasure.
Where do you sit right now?
Selfish to look after your needs?
Fine to look after your needs?
Essential for wellbeing?
What do you need*?
Let’s say, at least in theory, you’re willing to go with the idea that our needs are equal to everyone else’s.
And that looking for ways to get them met was enjoyable. Then knowing what they are would be a great place to start.
What do you need*?
One. For survival. As a minimum. You’ll deteriorate and need recovery time if you drop below this.
Two. For your health and wellbeing?
Three. For life to be a pleasure?
Water and food
To work, to contribute
Beauty (I go downhill quickly without this)
Clean fresh air
Honesty and trust
These are some of mine, they might not be yours. Add and subtract, according to taste,the things that are important to you (that you need).
Another thing. This is in no way meant to be a list of what it’s reasonable to need, because whose version of reasonable do we go with?
No-one but you can be the expert on what you need in order to do what you do.
So if you’re in a wheelchair you’ll need different support from someone who’s not.
If you’re feeling overloaded right now, you’ll need different support from someone who’s not. You might need encouragement more, when you’re feeling overloaded or help with prioritising.
A mentor, or colleague for an hour a week could be perfect.
And, this isn’t the time to be editing your needs because you don’t know how or couldn’t imagine this happening. Your needs are your needs and they’re valid. Full stop.
Ways to get them met come later.
I have a client who thought she had to stay till 9 to clear e-mails as there might be critical things in there and she needed to feel sure she’d got everything covered and to keep on top of things.
There was no more budget for her to have admin support and she couldn’t see another way. When we looked, there wasn’t any more budget but there was a way of re-arranging things so she could have someone scan her e-mail and flag up critical things so she has 5 to read instead of 300 and gets home between 6.30 and 7.
We just had to start with the clarity that we would get her need for rest met and look at all the ways that could happen.
Of the things you know you need:
Do you have an idea of what the minimum is before you start to deteriorate and need recovery time?
– 7 hours sleep
– 30 minutes uninterrupted, mentally free of responsibilities
– movement nil
– 3 glasses of water or equivalent in tea, I can go a week without vegetables then my body starts to feel less than perky
– a smile returned or in gratitude
– to apply my mind to something and use it to help someone or be in preparation for helping someone
– my clothes in good repair, not bobbly
– to work in quiet, free of machinery noise or children screaming or crows
– to work in natural light, a room with windows
– to get outside and breath fresh air once a day, one – – – slow circuit of the garden
– to believe those around me trust me with the truth
– to write a journal each day to untangle things
– to resolve or attempt to resolve differences (this takes time and energy)
– to have clarity of responsibility
What’s good/ your ideal for good health, wellbeing and good functioning?
all the above plus
– 8 hours
– 2 hour walk once a week
– fresh fruit and veg every day
– clothes that I think are elegant
– 2 litres of water
– to learn new and stimulating things, reading, classes
What’s a real pleasure?
all the above plus
– to have stimulating conversation
– great design to look at, sensual shapes, earthy tones and textures blended, in textiles or watercolour or oil painting
– to laugh
– to dance
– to play music while I work
– to play around with wool and paint
– to have me and my surroundings smell gorgeous
Under what circumstances do you allow yourself to dip below your minimum? A project coming to a peak? 1st 3 months in a new job?
How often does that happen and for how long? Once in 5 years lasting 3 months? Every 6 months lasting for 4 months?
How often do you reach your ideal and for how long?
How often does life become a pleasure and for how long?
I know someone who, when there’s a deadline looming, will work till 9pm, have a break till 11pm, work again till 4am, sleep till 7am then get back to it in order to get a project finished. Then, they imagine they can resume more normal hours. But then there’s another project and it’s urgent too.
I know people who get by on very little sleep because of stimulants keeping them going, sugar, caffeine, telling themselves it’s only for a few years.
I know people who take their blackberry on holiday because the team might need them and that they’ll only check it 3 times a day. But this was the complete holiday they promised themselves to recover after the year below minimum and there’s no real break as they’re still effectively on duty.
I know people who cancel their holiday if it coincides with a big new project.
Needs met : the easy way
It can seem like a loooong way from here to there if you’re not getting your minimum.
I know…when there’s such a way to go, and starting feels…ugh….just too much.
But….could you pick one need?
(I promise this is the easy way. Little effort required. More like lazing around and daydreaming).
Imagine how you’d really like things to be.
Making no big deal about it, not trying hard in eyes screwed up way to think, think or make something happen just letting your mind wander over how you would like this to be.
Then let it go.
Is this is the part where you would normally expect to start work figuring out what to do? Change of plan. This is the easy way.
Now you let it drop and do other things.
Then over the course of a day, a few days, a week, you let ideas occur to you and follow them up if and when they do appear. Especially if it’s an easy and enjoyable route. And see how it goes.
The only thing you’re not allowed to do is add
‘come up with a way by myself’
to your list of things you have to do.
If these needs have gone unmet for some time is it a big deal to wait a week or so?
I remember, again, when my son was a baby (I do seem to be back in the past today), and I was listening to all this advice about how you must eat healthy balanced meals when breastfeeding. I pictured home cooked, nutritionally balanced meals with a smiling family sitting down at the table to eat.
At that point I was in awe of anyone who could make it out of their dressing gown by bedtime and had a son who wasn’t very keen on sleeping or doing much that involved not sitting on my left hip.
I did want to eat healthily, and I had no clue how that was ever going to happen this side of him starting school and I had barely an ounce of energy to bring to the matter.
I asked a health visitor how everyone else was doing it.
She gave me a video. I didn’t have high hopes but watched it. There was a woman with a baby on her hip (hah, talkin my language), I watched her open the breadbin with one hand, slap a slice of brown bread down on the worktop, slather some soft butter on it, slap a slice of ham and a lettuce leaf on it, fold it up into a sandwich and eat it, all while bouncing her baby on her hip.
Balanced diet in 30 seconds, the new baby way.
All the way from ‘you haven’t got a prayer’ to ‘ah…I can do that’ in an instant.
It’s just the first few steps in experimenting with getting your needs met the easy way.
Believe a needs fest is a good thing (because it’s not selfish and it’s not only you, it’s others needs too, just you first)
Decide your needs
Pick one need
Imagine how you’d like it to be
Drop it and do other things
Let ideas come to you
Keep a note of what happened
Come and share in the comments here at the blog
There’s nothing to lose.
Do keep a careful note of the ideas you have and what happens. They can be subtle and easily overlooked.
I’d love to hear, come and leave a comment about your discoveries.
June = equality of needs in action.
Celebratory Party in July?
*Prompt list of needs from Marshall Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication.
Violence being when you ignore anyone’s needs, your own or others.