It was yet another average day in my London life.
I’d strolled in, sloth-like, through the revolving doors of the mega-structure that was the building where my employer held residence. I’d just spent 52 minutes being rocked and pulled and cavorted by the London Underground train, pressed up to someone’s flatulent behind or un-deodorised armpit.
It was nothing out of the ordinary, and my ability to cope with reading and listening to some pump-up rock tunes only marginally intersected with the point of enthusiasm for this apparent daily ordeal.
I was a human doing and was frustrated to the core. Sure, my wage was above-average. Sure, it afforded me some stability and the ability to travel extensively or divert funds into the pub and Nando’s meals. Sure, I could afford to get the first drink for a girl on a date (ok, just kidding, I didn’t date).
But a huge piece of me sat there self-loathing, reciting internally the ironic phrase my best mate had provided me in our constant state of self-loathing, “Live the dream, stare at the screen!”
Years and years of frustration
This actually went on, in various shapes and forms and levels between about 2006 and 2012. I was living pay check to pay check, holiday to holiday and pub visit to pub visit.
I had grandiose visions of working in sport and having a job or business that meant I wasn’t forced to be chained to a desk all day or looking for reasons to go to the chemist or the bakery just to get some respite from the grind.
And then the unthinkable happened. A close friend of mine didn’t survive a bus accident in Ecuador in May 2014.
It shook me. Hard. It really forced me to question my existence and my career path.
After a few weeks, I dusted myself off and regained the strength to contemplate the next steps in happiness and fulfilment of my ambitions. I started with a perfect job description. Two weeks later I had a new job that met most of my conditions.
Then, opportunities opened up and after 16 months, I left full-time employment and began working for 2 organisations in the sporting world, one a business network and the other a start-up in athlete transition, and have set up others on the side.
I had (or should that be ‘have’?!) arrived.
Huge Discovery: Core Needs
In my current businesses, I have come across a lot of amazing tools and techniques for success, lifestyle design and happiness.
One of the most interesting and applicable to any person in any sphere is the 6 Core Needs, particularly in the workplace (although you can apply this to home life, sport, activity etc.). Meeting these core needs increases our self-worth and therefore fulfilment in life.
The theory (in my own words to make it more relatable and less textbook!) says that each of us is motivated in a particular situation by a combination of:
Security/Certainty: this is a desire for optimal health, safety, comfort and familiarity; having a steady job, a roof over your head and food on the table. When people migrate, they often seek out foods or people from home, or they talk about their “happy place” being a favourite coffee shop!
Status/Significance: our social or professional position or standing means a lot to us, even if it isn’t about job titles or career paths. We desire (wittingly or unconsciously) recognition and/or feedback. Ever told a joke and no-one laughed? Yeah, or that time you did something great at work that meant a big win for the company or your manager and they just turned and said, “Thanks. What are you working on now?” Even if you don’t crave recognition yourself, chances are someone else in your office/team that respects you and does crave recognition might question whether they would get it in a similar situation. Hence why recognition – or lack thereof – can affect others inadvertently.
Mastery/Challenge: we all desire a level of growth of knowledge, skill or excellence in certain areas. It could be your job or activity as a whole or a particular part of your job or activity. Hell, if that’s beating some unknown champion on a network computer game, that’s your challenge gene sparking to life right there. Or being a good reverse parker. Or just being good at playing bingo and remembering your own birthday. This can be anything that staves off that “I’m not good enough” feeling, particularly when it comes to a new sport, job or activity.
Autonomy/Freedom: while there are natural leaders who we don’t mind following and being led by, we all want some level of control over our own destiny. This is not met when we feel that we “don’t have a voice” or our ideas get shot down without explanation by the “No” manager. Or we feel restricted in how we go about meeting deliverables or results. This also revs up our desire for variety, which is where I fell down repeatedly in life and that is why I now have what is known as a “Portfolio Career”. See, “Jack of All Trades” isn’t necessarily a master of none!
Belonging/Connection: this is manifested by the depth of our relationships, love and connection with others. Not many people want to be disliked, while others want to feel that they are part of a group or a combination of the two. I guess this is where FOMO could come from! Furthermore, your sense of self-worth received from belonging is impacted greatly by where you have security and significance. This is often the portal into self-sabotage through drugs, alcohol and crime in order to receive that belonging feeling.
Purpose/Contribution: probably the most hippie part of this discussion, but also the most important and the foundation for everything. You may have heard this as “What’s your why?” Indeed, it could be calculated by asking yourself, “Why do you want all of the other 5 core needs to be met?” Each of us has a meaning and drive to make a difference in the world, even if that’s to be a bastard or not be a bastard. Even Hitler wanted to leave the world with a contribution and some may argue he certainly did that.
I hope you found these useful and can self-diagnose where in your life you think you might be falling short. You can then come up with an appropriate strategy to get back on track or make a few changes for the better.