Fulfilling our needs
I’ve never been a fan of Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs because I never saw people moving from Physiological needs to Self-Actualization in any type of linear progression. We jump around. Sometimes love is more important than eating. Sometimes people forgo love completely for esteem through achievement.
Instead, I prefer Tony Robbins definition of the six basic human needs.
Certainty – This is our need to be free from constant worry. In order to achieve this we develop a certain amount of consistency like getting a job or buying a house. We don’t want to worry everyday about how we’re going to eat or where we can sleep safely.
Uncertainty – This is our need for variety. If we knew everything that was ever going to happen in our lives then our lives would be boring.
Critical Significance – This is our need to feel special. Some people make a lot of money to feel significant. Other people get a lot of tattoos. It’s different for everyone.
Love and Connection – This is our need for belonging. We don’t want to feel like we’re all alone inside our heads and our lives.
Growth – This is our need to avoid stagnation. Our lives never reach equilibrium. We are either growing or dying. If we stay at the same point in our lives for long enough, our level of happiness declines.
Contribution – This is our need to feel our lives are more than just ourselves. We don’t want to die feeling like our lives made no difference to anyone.
Achievement vs Fulfillment
Achievement comes from being successful in one or more of these areas. Fulfillment comes from not feeling lack in every area.
Achievement gives us short term happiness. We get a really good job and make a lot of money or we build the largest ball of twine and we meet our need of critical significance. It gives us self-confidence in that area. However, if the other areas are lacking we feel unhappy.
No matter how much success we have, if love is lacking and we feel disconnected from others, we’re unhappy. If we have a great family and friends and we feel totally connected, but we feel that we haven’t done much else to reach our dreams then our Growth need hasn’t been met and we feel like were in a rut.
Lasting happiness doesn’t mean great achievement in all these areas. To feel fulfilled, we only have to meet our basic needs in each area so we don’t feel like we are missing something from our lives.
Meeting Multiple Needs
Everything we do meets multiple needs. We don’t do one thing just to meet one need. I write this blog to meet my need for Critical Significance and Contribution. When my wife and I adopted, that decision lead to meeting our needs for Love and Connection, Contribution, Growth and Uncertainty.
I’ve found that certain Need combinations are healthier than others. The big combination I avoid is trying to mix Love and Connection with Critical Significance. This is the combination that gives you helicopter parents with a control issues. I think it also leads to deciding to have kids to save failing marriages and staying with people that treat you poorly.
When we combine needs we can focus on a fewer actions to meet those needs. Focusing on fewer things let’s us be better at those things. That’s how you a person gets both achievement and fulfillment.
Good vs Bad Need Combinations for INFPs
Good: Love and Connection with Growth – This keeps us focused on letting people into our lives that make us a better person.
Bad: Love and Connection with Critical Significance – This leads to neediness and unbalanced relationships because all relationship have a degree of Uncertainty and we get desperate if we see that relationship ending.
Good: Critical Significance and Contribution – This combination lets us do great things to help other people. It makes us have lives that isn’t just about us.
Bad: Critical Significance and Uncertainty – We get bored as INFPs. This leads us to taking stupid risks in order to feel more alive. This could be moving across the country or leave jobs and people. This is why we fall into intense relationships and start getting restless when we are finally confronted with the day-to-day realities of a relationship.
Good: Growth with anything except Certainty – Growth means having goals and getting to somewhere we aren’t yet. It means taking calculated risk. You can’t grow by doing more of staying where you are.
Bad: Critical Significance and Certainty – This is our desire to be right overcoming our desire to be effective. Thinking and being different than everyone else makes us feel special. However, we hold onto beliefs to feel special even though we realize that those beliefs haven’t made us happy.
Our Order of Needs
The order of importance of our needs is different from person to person. The order of importance is based on values. Some value Love and Connection over Critical Significance. Some value Contribution over Certainty.
Each unmet Need is a hurt. We hurt in that area. However, like our physical bodies we usually focus on our greatest hurt. If we’re in a car crash and we break our femur, we’re not going to feel the contusions our face. It’s the same with Needs. If Love and Connection is our highest Need, we’re not going to feel unmet Certainty Needs. After a breakup with someone we love, we don’t care about our job or if we eat.
Single people spend a lot of time being single. Broke people spend a lot of time being broke. Unhappy people spend a lot of time being unhappy. We focus on and talk about the things that are causing hurt in our lives. Unfortunately what we focus on becomes more real.
You know why people get into accidents by hitting the only tree in the middle of nowhere. They lose control of the wheel for a second and the first thing they do is focus on the thing they don’t want. Don’t hit that tree. Don’t hit that tree. And they end up hitting that tree because by focusing on the tree, their hands are unconsciously turning the wheel towards the tree.
It’s the same with all areas of our life. The more we focus on our lack, the more we turn the wheel of our lives towards that lack. Haven’t you ever heard people say, I found the husband/wife shortly after I decided to stop looking? It’s not that they stopped looking. It’s because they focused on something else other than being lonely.
Growth is the easiest Need to meet
Even though we may value other needs more intensely, Growth is the easiest to meet because it doesn’t require anyone else.
Certainty requires that someone else give us a job or that the grocery store doesn’t close early or the tax law doesn’t change or a variety of things beyond our control. Uncertainty requires outside situations because we only do things that surprise us when we are forced to. Critical Significance requires other people to recognize we did something significant. Love and Connection requires someone else for us to love. Contribution requires someone to reap the fruits of our efforts.
Growth is the only need that doesn’t require someone else. Growth is decision and action. We grow every time we make a decision and commit to it by taking action towards that decision. We grow by taking small actions each day to become our Ideal Self. If our Ideal Self is someone who is self-confident. We set a small goal each day and accomplish that small to build our confidence. If our Ideal Self is loving, we learn to consistently do thing to show that love for the people we care about. Growing is doing.
It’s from focusing on Growth that gives INFPs the self-confidence to attract those things and people into our lives that let us meet our other needs.
May 3, 2010
To be honest i had never heard of Tony Robbins, but im glad i know now. Ive got to say, i really agree with his six basic needs. I almost want to say you couldn’t have wrote this at a better time than now, this really helps in putting perspective into things at this time and from now on. Thanks for writing this.
May 4th, 2010 at 2:00 am
I’m less enamored with Tony Robbins now than I was when I read Unlimited Power at 20. However, I can say without hesitation that reading his first two books changed the course of my life. Tony isn’t the best fit for INFPs. He’s very loud, gregarious and in your face when it comes to motivational coaching, but that’s what I needed when I was 20.
May 4, 2010
what a powerful post! so many things clicked for me as i was reading it. i especially liked the needs you outlined and which needs combinations are difficult.
i’ve been making the mistake of combining love & connection with critical significance and the way you laid it out made it crystal clear to me. really…a huge weight has been lifted off me! thank you!!!
definitely looking forward to reading more of your stuff:-)
May 4th, 2010 at 2:20 am
Last month, I completely changed my eating habits. In the course of reworking that habit I started reading about food combinations and how some foods eaten together make it harder for the stomach to digest. That got me to thinking the needs that Robbins outlined and how in my life I’ve experienced combinations that don’t mix well.
For me, the biggest reason why Love & Connection and Critical Significance has never worked out is because of my expectation that this other person would continue making me feel significant. That expectation came in the form of neediness. This neediness was all unspoken, but 55% communication is body language and 38% is tonal. I was conveying my need without actually saying the words. That expectation caused my friends to feel pressure. That pressure eventually made them leave. Because who needs that kind of pressure in a friendship? They were trying to meet their own needs for Critical Significance and didn’t need the pressure of meeting mine.
Jennifer M. Reply:
May 9th, 2010 at 8:01 pm
Ahhh!! That makes sense. I think I need to link Love & Connection w/ Critical Significance too. No wonder a lot of my friendships fizzle out – I’m probably coming across as needy, even when I didn’t realize it. Instead, I should focus on growth. I will try that.
(Btw, I’m desertrose0601 on the infp forums and heard you mention your blog on there – it’s great what I’ve read so far!)
May 9, 2010
I agree with your assessment of the Hierarchy of Needs. It was a little difficult for me to understand for two reasons. First is the one you mention, in that an individual can jump back and forth between lower and higher needs. The second reason is that “self-actualization” can mean different things to different people. I see the state of self-actualization as being akin to contentment, whereas some people see self-actualization as something only a few exceptional people attain, like a state of enlightenment. I have never read any of Tony Robbins’ work, but I like his definition of human needs better and I like how you described the positive vs. negative pairings. Nice food for thought.
Aug 24, 2010
hmm…this really kept me pondering for a while and i’m rather confused where to categorize when you play nonsense games to kill time or entertainment for that matter…is it under Uncertainty? and if it is…how so?…i know i’m a bit slow so pardon me…
August 24th, 2010 at 10:37 am
Play can be all categories because everything we really want to do has an element of fun to it. High adrenaline play like skydiving or rock climbing falls under Uncertainty. Team sports is play under Relationships. My weakness is computer RPGs which I have time to play for a couple of days every 6 months or so. That falls under Certainty. It’s like an old friend that makes me feel comfortable.
Your quality of play is like your quality of food. In college it’s mac and cheese and ramen noodles. It’s food, but the nutritional value isn’t very high. I don’t play video games that much because I choose to go our with friends (Love/Relationships) or I go biking to improve health (Growth) or I travel (Uncertainty). I still love video games but like nutritional value, the quality of life value of video games is very high in my book. I still like mac and cheese but I prefer cooking balsamic tilapia.
Feb 3, 2011
Thank you for writing this post. It has been a great help!
Apr 19, 2011
I have just discovered this blog and relate so strongly as an INFP to the “possibilities” ! Having done a degree in writing and sociology I imagined myself as a great writer after my tutors were supportive. But every time I sat down to write I began obsessing about my dysfunctional family which included a personality disorder. I wanted to help them (as an INFP helper) but they didn’t want to be so I was frustrated . I wrote lots about them and a large memoir but the grief just kept getting in my way. So I have now turned back to art (and me) where I had some promise at school and because it is a practical exercise I am taken out of my head where I am too fond of residing ! The themes I am exploring on canvas are more positive experiences and well….with paint there are just so many um…possibilities !!!! My art career was thwarted early with critical family responses but now I am ready to launch for me and trust I have 10,000 hours motivation.
Feb 15, 2012
Ack! So insanely helpful. Love the TED video and the Ideal Self link as well. Clearly brilliant.
Oct 23, 2012
Ur blog sooooo accurately describes my everyday life man….the confusions,the over thinking,the changing wants and desires.respect to u sir for developing such an accurate blog that is bang on about the behavioural characteristics of the infp community as a whole.
Jan 14, 2013
This blog is the most fantastic thing I have found on the web in years! I’m in the very stressful stages of a huge life change, living in a new country and without much social contact and my INFP isolation and self criticism is in overdrive…this blog has given me so much needed clarity and comfort. Thank you, thank you…what a generous gift, and I have been feasting on all your posts. I’ve been thinking so much about “needs” as opposed to neediness these days, and realizing my primary need for Growth with Love and Connection has really dissolved much of my anxiety. Consciousness is key. I spent a very rainy sunday yesterday in Tuscany, outlining my goals, needs and reasons, and I’m now facing a sunny Monday feeling infinitely more centred and connected…with you and all the others who have so kindly written their experiences and thoughts.
Jul 12, 2013
Thank you thank you thank you. I wanted to say that a friend send me a link to your blog about personality description and I’ve stayed up all night reading your posts. Your description of what it’s like to be an INFP was something that absolutely resonated me and I wanted to say that you have made a difference. To me.
July 12th, 2013 at 6:14 pm
Just read most fabulous book by Barbara Sher called ‘Refuse to Choose: What to do When You want to do Everything” . Lights were flashing ! Sher explains how the world has become “specialised” and expects you to fit into a pigeon hole. In truth we are like the Renaissance people of old, lots of varied interests, and fascinations – Honey bees who move on once they have extracted the nectar.
Read it and live !
Mar 8, 2016
Thank you so much for this :’)
Apr 1, 2016
I appreciate that you tailor your blog to INFPs and growth. It’s very empowering and effective for a fellow INFP to read. Your INFP-specific articles on OCD, procrastination, needs, and advantages of authenticity, helped, unexpectedly, in a short span of time, many aspects of my past came into clearer focus. I’m especially pumped about hacking procrastination to trigger non-urgent, important tasks and making those tasks more rewarding by explicitly linking them to values.
Since I was a child, I always wanted to know *why* I was doing something, which lead to frustration with my parents at times (for example, with homework). Now I understand that it’s not just a desire but a *need* to have my reasons. Thanks! I now give myself permission once again to attain my own reasons for my goals, now, as an adult, even if it takes time. Hooray! It’s not just more comfortable; it’s necessary for sustainability. I see that now. Imagine how much time that will end up saving me in the long run, not fighting against my mental wiring. So, for example, I’m now linking my goal of making a music album for my need for growth. That makes the tedious parts of it not seem so tedious — maybe more rewarding than eating chocolate! Next time I’m procrastinating cleaning, I’ll use it as a trigger to pour through my recordings and draft a track listing, for example.
Also, I was happy to learn from your article on OCD behaviours in INFPs that my husband does the things for me that help us! Lucky me. Guess I can do some of those things for myself too. 🙂
Oct 20, 2017
I want to say thank you for all your sharings because they inspire and educate me significantly. When I first found out that I am an INFP, I finally understood why I was different. I dropped my previous profession at the age of 25 and embarked on this forever never ending searching journey. Honestly speaking, it was really devastating to know that there is a chance that I could never excel in anything in my entire life, and all the ideal fantasy that have been long instilled in my mind could never realize.
However, your sharing has helped me feel more hopeful knowing that there are ways that we as INFPs can work on and better our lives. I read this post along with your another post “Making our dreams a better investment”, and found it extremely helpful. I identified my highest values as love and connection, and growth, whereas my greatest unmet need at this moment is certainty, due to the fact that I have been being unemployed for a year plus and still unsure which career path I should take on. However, by reading your post, I am becoming more positive knowing that as long as I focus my energy on self-growth, and feel gratitude towards the love and connection that I have, instead of focusing on the lack, that I will start to attract those things and people into my lives that will meet all our needs.
I am so grateful to have found your blog, otherwise I would still be depressed over the fact that I am an INFP. I noticed that you have been away for a while, no matter what you are currently up to in your life now, I hope that this message reach you so you know that you are truly a gift to readers like me, and all is well to you and your family.