Five Core Needs of All of Us

Sometimes you find remarkable insight in places you didn’t expect. With a teenager in the family and two on deck, I’m reading a book called, Screens and Teens by Dr. Kathy Koch. As you can guess, the book is about technology and teenagers. It's full of great ideas, but I didn’t expect it to be so relevant to adult life and work.

In the book, Dr. Koch identifies five core needs—along with five core questions—of every human being. She shares them to say that many teenagers are looking to fill these needs through technology. I wrote the five needs and questions on my dry erase board at work for my personal reflection. But as coworkers come to my office, their eyes invariably drift to the Five and they wonder out loud about them.

These Five are striking a chord. What do you think about them?

Core Need #1: Identity—Who am I?

This need is for identity, wrapped in the question of, “Who am I?” We all want to know who we are so we can live our true selves. A palliative care nurse who walked with folks in their season of dying has shared that one of the main regrets of the dying is not living a life true to themselves. So, let me ask, “Who are you?”

Core Need #2: Competence—What am I good at?

This need is for competence, wrapped in the question of, “What am I good at?” Management expert Peter Drucker wrote that by the time people are 25 years old, they ought to know what they’re good at. In my work around strengths, I find that many people well past 25 don’t have a good idea of what they’re good at. So, let me ask, “What are you good at?”

Core Need #3: Belonging—Who wants me?

This need is for belonging, wrapped in the question of, “Who wants me?” We all know the joy of feeling we belong and the sting of feeling we do not. We’ve all been accepted; we’ve all been rejected at different times in life. When I speak, I sometimes share my high school story of rejection, and it touches folks because they relate. We all want to belong to a person, to a group who will have us. So, let me ask, “Who wants you?”

Core Need #4: Security—Who can I trust?

This need is for security, wrapped in the question of, “Who can I trust?” Trust takes time to build but takes a moment to crush. We want to feel safe and certain in this shaky world. We want to know whom we can count on, whom we can cry on, whom we can call on. We need people to trust in life and at work. So, let me ask you, “Who can you trust?”

Core Need #5: Purpose—What am I here for?

This need is for purpose, wrapped in the question of “What am I here for?” I like putting this question last because it seems to me you can’t answer this question without answering the others first, at least some of them. That is, you will come to understand your purpose when you understand who you are, what you’re good at, and where you belong. So, let me ask you, “What are you here for?”

These are important questions not just for teenagers, but for the rest of us.