Allowing Room in Our Lives for our Needs
I am a woman of routine. I eat the same five or six meals with no desire to venture too far out of what I know and like. I stay in touch with the same friends I’ve had for decades—the ones who have known me through many stages of life. I go to the same church I’ve always been part of. And I walk the same three-and-a-half-mile route several times each week soaking in the beauty of the same tree each time I walk past it. Right behind the tree is the house my parents moved into on my first wedding anniversary. My dad spent 30 years there; my mom spent 20. After they were both gone, my daughter and her family bought the house, and it is where they’re now raising their family.
Statistics show about 40% of people stay in their hometown like I’ve done. I’ve learned there are a lot of people, though, who find it strange that I’ve never lived anywhere else. And after hearing that for most of my adult life, I started to wonder if it really was strange. Why hadn’t I ever ventured out of what I’d always known? Why was routine such an important part of my life? Was it courage I was lacking, or was it simply a lack of adventure?
In 2013 I decided it was time to find out. I began working as a corporate trainer traveling all over the country each week. It was time to see what the world outside my little hometown had to offer. Over three-and-a-half years, I traveled to 36 states sharing information with working professionals about how to lead and communicate more effectively.
I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world. I met people from all walks of life, sampled foods I never even knew existed, and got a taste of what life would be like if I ever lived in a huge city. (Spoiler alert: the sirens, horns, and traffic jams don’t stop in NYC—ever.)
Certainty and stability are our foundation.
In all my travels—whether in sunny California or icy Michigan, low-key South Carolina or hustle and bustle New York—I was reminded of that giant tree that’s been part of my life for over three decades now. The very presence of that tree provides certainty for me. It brings comfort, stability, and security.
Certainty is the first of Tony Robbins’ 6 Human Needs and is, I believe, one factor in why I still live in my hometown. I know what to expect here. I know others who have been here throughout my entire life. I get to see friends of my parents and parents of my kids’ friends. I feel safe and secure. The tree is my stabilizer in my life, and I love the feeling I get simply by being able to soak in its beauty on each walk I take.
Do you ever crave uncertainty?
At the time I made the decision to venture into the world of corporate training, though, it wasn’t certainty I was craving. It was quite the opposite. Uncertainty or variety—Tony Robbins’ need number two—showed up when I grew weary of going to the same workplace day in and day out. I was ready for excitement, challenge, and surprise in my life, and corporate travel filled that need. And the giant tree I’d left back in my hometown? It fills this need for me, too, when crazy branches show up each spring keeping me wondering what shape and growth it will take on from year to year.
Being recognized for the person you are is powerful.
The third of the six human needs is significance. The desire to feel special, recognized, and valued is something that’s been a challenge for me in my life. I would put the needs of others before my own and push down any feeling of insignificance I’d feel.
When I decided to jump into the world of corporate training, people I’d known for years would say, “You’re doing what? That sounds exciting!” That feeling of recognition from external sources felt good until I learned that internal recognition and significance is where it really all starts.
Valuing myself, I discovered, was like putting on a new pair of glasses with lenses that saw the world in a new, invigorating way. And as I began seeing my world in that new light, I also saw the great significance of the tree that had been a fixture in my parents’ yard for so many years.
We need connection to grow.
In my corporate travels I remember meeting a trainer who goes into workplaces promoting the idea that we should bring love to work. I was in awe of her message and realized in listening to her that she was saying what I’d always felt but couldn’t come up with the words to describe. Workplaces have deadlines and meetings and budgets and feedback forms, and in the midst of all that must get accomplished is the simple idea that when we do it all with love in our hearts, we always get better results. Love and work aren’t like oil and water. They don’t separate people but rather bring them together for the overall good. No surprise here—love and connection are need number four.
Oh, and the tree? The love shows up for me each spring when its branches begin sprouting little leaves. It shows up in the fall when the colors of its leaves take my breath away. It shows up when I still “see” my dad sitting at the front window looking at his tree and then in real life see my toddler grandson sitting under the tree blowing me a kiss.
Personal growth is a fundamental need.
Human need number five, growth, is a no-brainer when it comes to the tree. I can’t say for sure how big that tree was on moving day for my parents, but on moving day for my daughter and her family it was enormous. It’s a huge identifying feature for that yard, and growth is also a huge identifying feature for the bold step I took in quitting my regular eight-to-five position for that of a business owner. I didn’t always take my personal and professional growth seriously. I had too many to-do items to complete each day to bother with thinking of my own growth. Now, though, ensuring I’m growing each and every day is as much a part of me as this small town I’ve always called home.
We all need to give and to help.
Finally, human need number six—contribution. The need to give, to help others, and to make a difference was my “why” for leaving my traditional job and venturing outside of my home community for a few days every week. I hadn’t been living my passion for several years of my career and couldn’t figure out how to actually make it happen. Jumping off a cliff into an unknown world of corporate training was how I gave it a shot.
This woman of routine learned she could make a difference by helping others find their own passion, and while I was figuring it all out, the tree at home was a companion for my dad after Mom fell ill. It made a difference in Dad’s life and now makes a difference in mine as its mighty branches carry the memories of years gone by, and its leaves delicately hold the new memories being made.
As it turns out, big cities are not my thing. Weekly travel by plane, rental car, and Uber is something I tried and left behind. I’m beginning to realize I may end up living my entire life in this small town, and the restlessness I once felt about that possibility is completely gone. There’s something about this place that grounds me, and while I’m happy for world travelers who never get comfortable in one place for long, I know for me I’ve found my one true home—in the place it’s always been.