As you might already know, we’re taking The Compassion Course, a communication methodology rooted in something called “needs-based relating,” which, simply put, is this:
Everything we do, we do to meet a need, consciously or subconsciously, successfully or not.
The long list of needs is sorted into these categories: Autonomy, Connection, Meaning, Peace, Physical Well-Being, and Play.
It’s not that this way of thinking is necessarily true — it’s just one way of seeing the world.
For us, we’re less concerned about what’s “right” or “fact” than we’re interested in answering, How can I think in a way that helps me create the world I want to live in?
What interests us most right now is learning how to communicate in a way that leads to more understanding and connection, and less shame and blame.
Four weeks into the course, we’ve explored Needs, Feelings, Judgments, and Strategies to meet Needs.
And that’s what we’d like to think about right now — strategies to satisfy needs.
Actually, what we’re really interested in thinking about right now is what happens when things fall apart, when your strategies for meeting needs fail.
That is, what happens when you’ve envisioned a future, tended to the fire of its creation with long hours of hard work, and then everything goes sideways.
Or, what do you do when you’ve done everything you can to prepare for every eventuality, when you’ve done your due diligence to make sure this scary, awful thing doesn’t happen, and then that scary, awful thing walks right into your life.
In CrossFit, we train for the unexpected. We prepare for “surprises.” When things get weird, we say it builds resiliency.
But what about when uncertainty creeps into every bit of our lives.
Simon Sinek defines a “finite game” as one with a clear beginning and end, fixed rules everyone agrees on, a clear objective, and identifiable players. “Football, for example, is a finite game. The players all wear uniforms and are easily identifiable. There is a set of rules, and referees are there to enforce those rules. All the players have agreed to play by those rules and they accept penalties when they break the rules. Everyone agrees that whichever team has scored more points by the end of the set time period will be declared the winner, the game will end and everyone will go home. In finite games, there is always a beginning, a middle and an end.
Infinite games, in contrast, are played by known and unknown players. There are no exact or agreed-upon rules. Though there may be conventions or laws that govern how the players conduct themselves, within those broad boundaries, the players can operate however they want. And if they choose to break with convention, they can. The manner in which each player chooses to play is entirely up to them. And they can change how they play the game at any time, for any reason. Infinite games have infinite time horizons. And because there is no finish line, no practical end to the game, there is no such thing as “winning” an infinite game. In an infinite game, the primary objective is to keep playing, to perpetuate the game… there are no finish lines and no winners. There’s no such thing as coming first in marriage or friendship. No one is ever crowned the winner of careers.”
The tricky part is cultivating that awareness, identifying what game we’re playing (finite or infinite) when we’re standing in the heat of the moment, and then developing more appropriate strategies before we shout “onward!”
Speaking of strategies…
According to this needs-based way of thinking and relating, all human acts can be seen as attempts to meet needs.
These are the specific needs you’re asked to refer back to:
to know and be known
to see and be seen
Physical Well Being
*Notice how long the “Connection” list is in comparison to others. Interesting…
Strategies to Meet Needs
Sometimes it seems like there’s conflict between our needs, like say, the need for progress with a project but also the need for rest and relaxation. These needs seem to oppose each other — progress and productivity vs. rest and relaxation.
But the conflict isn’t between the needs. It’s between the strategies we come up with for fulfilling those needs.
Thom Bond, the course creator, writes, “When I focus on needs, instead of the strategies I might engage in to fulfill them, I can see things that I simply couldn’t see before. You could say that when we are in “strategy mode”, we only have two choices, do the strategy or not. When we are in “need mode”, we have ten thousand strategies available to us to meet any need (metaphorically speaking, of course).”
With this way of seeing the world, a lack of strategies is a lack of imagination.
Okay, but how do you tell the difference between a need and a strategy?
If you look at the Needs list above, you won’t find “job” listed there. But you will find needs that are met by having a job.
Coaching or running a gym is a strategy to meet needs. It’s not THE strategy, it’s A strategy.
Just like joining a CrossFit facility or a gym is A strategy to meet needs.
There is no ONE way to meet needs.
This is hard to keep in mind when things fall apart.
Like when we lose our job. When half our community loses their jobs. When we shift from coaching in-person to coaching mostly online. When we don’t know if our business will be open in 3 months. When we’re not sure how to show up and serve our communities anymore.
Life can get very sad very quickly when we’re stuck on making one strategy work.
Part of this week’s course homework is to do this practice:
“Needs Liberation — Think of someone that you think is preventing you from getting a need met. Write down the need from the Needs List. Then, think of 3 ways you could get this need met without that person. It helps to use your imagination a bit here too.”
Blaming and shaming is part of our overarching culture. In a lot of ways, it’s what we were trained to do, to become. We’re taught to judge ourselves and others as doing and being “good” or “bad/evil,” and to create a world of heroes and villains.
We’re learning to unlearn those habits.
It’s interesting to contemplate all the people or things we see as “in the way” of our needs getting met.
To explore your needs and strategies, and the so-called obstacles in your way, try sitting down with the needs list and ask yourself what needs you’re fulfilling with a career in fitness. Be as specific as you can and stick to the words on this list.
You might also ask new clients what needs they’re trying to meet by joining your gym or hiring you as a coach. Helping people learn about and connect with these needs makes it possible for you to show up and serve your community more effectively — by providing solutions to problems people may not know how to put words to themselves. For us, coaching and mentoring is not just about fitness or movement. The relationship is about lifestyle, unlearning unhelpful beliefs or mindsets, and letting go of validation to make more room for what’s meaningful. Basically, it’s about living a truer, richer life.
This spreadsheet might help you keep track of needs and levels of met-ness.
When Things Fall Apart
If one strategy falls apart, it’s time to create a new one.
We are only limited by our imagination.
Resources are limited, true. Time, energy, money, and so on. But this has always been a fact of life.
Again, we are only limited by our imagination.
We’re struggling with this work right now. Analyzing our needs, then coming up with multiple strategies on how to meet those needs without requiring someone else to show up and contribute to our needs is not easy stuff.
It feels like important work, though.
Especially with so much uncertainty in the world right now.
When plans and futures are falling apart or fading away, slipping through the fingers like smoke.
We cannot give everyone peace, safety and security. We wish we could.
At the very least, maybe this needs-strategies way of seeing things will help you see your situation differently so that you dream up more creative solutions to your biggest problems.
As Viktor Frankl, said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
It’s too late to join the course, but The Compassion Course Book: Lessons from the Compassion Course is available on Amazon and (probably) your favorite indie book store.