Our Needs and Our Behaviours - By Nicholas Wai

Photo Source: http://www.resumark.com/blog/juliana/tips-for-staying-alert-at-work/Something interesting happened to me in the last few weeks that prompted me to reflect on its meaning. I am quite famous (or infamous) for going into ‘hibernation’ mode whenever I attend a class or workshop. Even in concerts and operas I still manage to find some time to catch a few winks no matter how loud or dramatic the music is. I always believed that it was because I was not having enough quality sleep, but I became aware that perhaps there was more to it than that.

A few weeks ago, I broke my hibernation pattern…I failed to dose off during a weekend workshop on adult development and sense-making facilitated by a hero of mine Joey Chan. The workshop explored works by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, David Rooke and William Torbert, as well as Ken Wilber, who all wrote about quite complex concepts that I found extremely fascinating and couldn’t get enough of. Frankly I was quite surprised by how alert and awake I was able to remain, and wondered if it was because of the effectiveness of the particular facilitator, the attractiveness of the particular subject matters, or some other factors. And then it happened again, at the following weekend workshop that focused on system thinking and adaptive leadership, which was facilitated again by Joey - I stayed awake for the whole two days!

I was still pondering about this awareness this morning at a breakfast event organised by the local French Chamber of Commerce. A fellow coach Ikhlas Bidau, in her presentation about managing difficult conversations, explained that our behaviours were informed by our beliefs, which in turn were prompted by our various needs. This showed me that if I dig deep enough, every behaviour I chose was rational and in response to a deep seated need and belief. And when there are competing needs, the corresponding behaviour would be determined by my own hierarchy of needs.

In my case, by choosing to stay awake and alert, I must believe that the subject matters were important for my development as a human being. This belief was in turn informed by my needs to understand and find meaning of the world I live in and how everything is connected. While the first workshop talked about how human developed thinking complexity, and hence the ability to understand the world from multiple perspectives, the second workshop covered system thinking which better explained the cause and effect of a fast changing world than other models that explained events in a more linear fashion. With this understanding, where I put this need of finding meaning in a higher importance to my competing needs of preserving my energy, I now not only have a better understanding of my hierarchy of needs and where my passion lies, I have also discovered a way to create better motivation if I want to make a behaviour change – by tying the new behaviour to my more important needs.

This realisation further prompted me to look into the motivational theories I came across during my coaching degree study, and in particular PLOC – the perceived locus of causality. I shall talk more about this in my next blog entry.

Before then I would like to invite you to ponder the following questions:

  • So what are the needs that are driving your behaviours?
  • And how would you use this insight in making behaviour changes?