If you’re asking yourself the question “What do I need?”, you might be on the brink of an existential dilemma.
Perhaps you’re feeling frustrated about where your life has been taking you lately. Do you need to take a step back?
Maybe you’re reaching the age where all the dreams you had as a young adult seem to be slipping further out of your grasp as life beats down on you every passing year. Are you ready to unearth potential feelings of disappointment and regret?
Asking Yourself What You Need
Often, we get so wrapped up in the “wants” and “shoulds” and “coulds” that we forget to ask ourselves what we need. “What do I need?” is a spiritual question.
What you need as a human being is to be fulfilled so wholly and completely that there is nothing else to achieve.
Your work is done. You have made the most out of your one life that you’ve been given (if that’s what you believe), and you’re perfectly balanced and peacefully content.
No other creature on the earth has a need like this.
Does anyone ever become this fulfilled in life? Very few, I imagine. But isn’t it the ultimate goal?
Discovering what you need often means stepping outside of the box of your life. Are you ready?
What Are Affirmations, and How Do They Work?
What do I need to survive?
“You aren’t alive if you aren’t in need.”― Henry Cloud
There are certainly things that we need in our lives. Take a look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It starts with your physiological needs such as breathing, food, and sleep. Once those needs are met, you get to move to security and health, then love and belonging. The 4th section belongs to self-esteem and achievement, followed by self-actualization.
If you live in a world with running water, plenty of food, and decent employment, you’re already better off than 50% of the world.
Still, many of us who so easily glide through the bottom three get stuck at the top two.
The Conveyor Belt and a Busy Life
I believe that this is because so much of our lives is preprogrammed for us as Americans. I like to call it the “conveyor belt”. Go to school, get into a good college, get a good job, get married, have kids, work for “the man” until you can retire, retire, die.
The conveyor belt might allow you to unlock achievements, success, and self-esteem, but we’re left with this feeling that something is missing!
Beware the barrenness of a busy life. –Socrates
Even back in the day Socrates could have been living our modern life. We work hard and hustle… we want more and more, higher salaries, more stuff, thinking they’ll make us happy. But often it leads to emptiness in so many other ways.
So when we truly examine “what do I need”, the answer very seldom lies in the higher salaries, more stuff, and “busyness”.
We need to think beyond our basic needs to our spiritual needs.
It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. –Confucius
You will never do anything in this world without courage. –Aristotle
No matter how slow you go, progress is what makes the journey worth it. Ignore the critics. Get up and do it.
Do whatever it is you need to do.
Sure, maybe the thing that you need lies in one of the first 4 categories. And that’s totally okay!
I know I’m still working on various aspects of them.
But where our true joy lives is in that self-actualization part at the top.
Navigating life to self-actualization takes work, dedication, and a whole HELL of a lot of self-reflection.
If you’re ready for that step, follow these 5 easy steps and help you discover what you need right now.
5 Easy Steps to Answer “What Do I Need”
1. What Do I Need to Feel Joy?
Sit down in a quiet space and take out a piece of paper and a pen.
You may be tempted to do this list on the computer. Don’t. Everything, from studying to writing goals, is proven infinitely more effective when you write with your own hand.
Without thinking too much about it, write down a list about what fills you with joy.
Not happiness – joy.
There is a distinct difference between happiness and joy that many people don’t understand. (Happiness is superficial and often transient, whereas joy is a deeper, more content feeling.)
Your list might look different, but here are some things that come to mind when I think of joy in my own life:
- seeing joy and wonder in my children’s eyes
- spending quiet time with my husband
- traveling and seeing new places in the world
- experiencing nature, hiking, and breathing fresh air
- tasting exquisitely prepared food and drinks
- walking, running, moving my body
- playing music and singing
These are the things that I need more of in my life right now. What sorts of things do you need in your life?
You might love meeting new people! Or maybe home decor lights your soul on fire!
2. What Do I Need to Avoid Feeling Dread?
Before you do anything with the list you made above, I want you to make a second list. This part may not fill you with warm fuzzies like the one above, but trust me, it’s essential.
Writing down the things that fill you with dread shows you exactly what you need less of in your life. Once again, I’m not talking about minor inconveniences like a long line at the drive through at Starbucks. I’m talking, real, pit-of-your soul misery.
When confronted with the things that fill me with misery and push me toward depression, I think of last year with:
- hour-long commutes to work
- senseless paperwork
- dropping my kids off at daycare and hearing their cries
- being in a toxic work environment, being harrassed by my principal, having zero support
- traffic jams and people with road rage
- clutter and too many things in my physical environment
Maybe for you, the things that bring misery into your life are your narcissistic mother-in-law, or the dread of scraping by to pay your bills.
READ MORE: Navigating the Ebbs and Flows of Life
3. What Boundaries Do I Need to Set?
What kinds of boundaries can you set for yourself in your life right now to ensure more of the things that make your soul content and less of what brings you pain and more of what brings you joy?
Maybe it means working with your partner to make sure you have an hour to yourself each day to exercise, practice music, or do art.
Maybe it means putting up boundaries with your narcissistic mother-in-law.
Last year, I was consumed with so much dread for my job that I decided to become a work-at-home mom. That was a huge change and boundary that I made for myself, but even small ones can be effective.
With boundaries come balance, so you find that you need to take away from one area to satisfy another. While you navigate these possibilities, make sure you always keep in mind your two lists above.
4. Meditate to Quiet Your Mind
When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds. –Patanjali
Patanjali is talking about the phenomenon of “flow”. When we’re doing something we love, all our other cares melt away, time is no longer time, and we feel pure bliss.
Meditation and flow share the same sorts of brainwaves and have been proven to bring us bliss.
I once heard it said that prayers were sending information to the Universe (or God, Earth Mother, the Source… whatever you call it) and that meditation was about receiving information from the universe.
Meditation is all about quieting your mind to truly hear what the world is trying to tell you.
Even if you’re not into all that woo-woo stuff like I am, meditation has been proven highly beneficial.
So right now, I want you to close your eyes.
Take a deep breath.
Feel the tension in your shoulders, neck, jaw, forehead, and hands melt away.
Focus your attention on your breath.
When a thought enters your mind, notice it and let it go.
Right now, you don’t need to answer any questions, solve any problems, or worry about anything.
Let it all go.
How long can you focus on your breath? 2 minutes? 5 minutes?
Each time you do it, practice it for longer.
When you’re training yourself to step back from your thoughts, you can see things more objectively and begin to move into a higher vibration.
The Importance of Inner Peace
5. Release All Your Fears to Step Into Your True Self
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. -Teddy Roosevelt
This is famous quote from our 26th President, which Brene Brown often uses in her talks about vulnerability and shame, and finding greatness in our lives. Finding achievement and greatness takes great courage.
We must leave fear behind if we are to truly do what we need to do in life.
Even if you can’t let the fear go, you need to act in spite of fear.
Feel the fear and do it anyway.
I certainly know that quitting my job to spend more time with my boys while they are young was a huge risk. But in order to do what I needed, I had to work to make that a reality.
When we are fulfilling our souls to the greatest possible amount, we can’t hide behind expectations, social norms, or fears. We need to step out, take a risk, and do what we think we cannot do.
It may be difficult, but sometimes when trying to fulfill your deepest needs, you have to have courage.
Fear: Why It’s the One Thing Holding You Back
A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. –Lao Tzu
If you don’t know what you want, you’ll never find it. If you don’t know what you deserve, you’ll always settle for less. You will wander aimlessly, uncomfortably numb in your comfort zone, wondering how life has ended up here. Life starts now, live, love, laugh and let your light shine! ― Rob Liano
When asking yourself “What do I need”, I hope you dig deep, I hope you find courage, and I hope you discover your true needs!