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  • Dr. Lalit Chawla

E#56: The Wheel of Needs2: The Need for Recognition & Love/Connection in Our Lives


This is a episode explains how the need for recognition/significance & love/guidance guides our lives.





(This is the core of the transcript from the podcast. The Intro has been removed and some areas improved for reading ease.)



Welcome back, I hope you are having a super day. This is the second part of the series on The 6 Human Needs or as I refer to it as “The Wheels of Need”. As a quick recap, this is the most important framework I’ve shared with others, whether it is at a conference or medical students and residents because it explains why people behave the way they do. It also helps people gain a level of understanding about others that they’ve never able to fully appreciate before. It also is a tremendous tool to know how to help people too.


Last week I talked about the need for certainty and uncertainty and how they play a role in our lives. If you didn’t listen to it, please do as it really is helpful. I promise you, this framework is the most important teaching I know that literally transforms people personally because it explains people’s actions and thoughts so well. It also helps motivate change.

But in a nutshell, in terms of the first two needs, certainty and uncertainty/variety, we need to have a level of security in our health, relationships and financial life and that varies from person to person. The need for variety is also important in that we need to challenge our mental, emotional and physical well being too and that varies from person to person. Now that is highly simplified. Let’s talk about the next two needs.


3. The Need for Recognition (Significance):

This need can be misinterpreted with a tendency to sound negative and undesirable, but everyone desires to feel important, wanted, and unique. The need to be recognized and accepted in some way is an important inclusive requirement in every individual. This need for significance can be met in positive ways, negative ways or neutral ways. Someone may meet this constructively by helping others, such as contributing to someone’s success or well being, or by providing financial security for their own family, by working in a research lab to find a cure for a disease or trying to add to a body of knowledge.


On the other end of the spectrum, another person may feel a sense of importance by destroying and controlling a person or situation so that they get the recognition they want. An example of this is the bully at school or work, the over-controlling boss or spouse or the abusive partner at home.


People can also meet this need by playing the role of a victim or labelling themselves as a “failure” or “loser”. Other people run to them to always enable or save them.


People can also meet this need by playing the role of a victim or labelling themselves as a “failure” or “loser”.

Some people may meet this need for recognition by flashing around their titles and all that they own or have accomplished. They feel a sense of importance this way. While others can meet this need by the way they dress, look, act etc. There are thousands of ways to meet this need.


In some cases, suicide can be an example of extreme significance in that the individual contemplating this can paradoxically feel more important when they are no longer here in the world. A classic example of this is a suicide bomber who may die for a cause or belief or a severely depressed person wanting to be loved or remembered after they are gone.

Not a logical vehicle at all, but it is a vehicle that some people have chosen to meet this need. This need to feel important is very apparent in children and is evident when you see that children will go to great lengths to be acknowledged by their parents even if it means acting up and getting in trouble with the law. One of the worst experiences a child can have is to go unnoticed in their life.


Significance isn’t always so easily spotted especially within ourselves. For example, when I started practicing as a physician, I didn’t always teach medical students. I was so concerned in the day to day practice of taking care of patients that I didn’t consider teaching medical students or interns in my first few years of practice. A big part of this was because I honestly didn’t feel I knew enough information to teach since I was a new physician. However, one day I had to step in and help out a seasoned colleague by teaching a young medical student. I was adding value to his medical training but it didn’t phase me until the student genuinely thanked me. He voiced how I had contributed to his learning. I remember feeling a sense of importance in mentoring this young medical student. I essentially felt recognized for my contribution to his well being and skill development. It made me feel important; it made me feel significant. Subsequently from that day onward, I’ve played a very active role in medical education as it, at a minimum, fills this need for significance for me.


This need to feel important is very apparent in children and is evident when you see that children will go to great lengths to be acknowledged by their parents even if it means acting up and getting in trouble with the law. One of the worst experiences a child can have is to go unnoticed in their life.

This need for being important is underscored in the field of medicine. Doctors are inherently given a lot of authority and leadership even without asking for it. When we step into a clinic or hospital environment people want and need our expertise. They also come to us to help them meet their needs whether it’s for medication, a diagnosis, a treatment or a simple note for their employer for some time off work. Initially, this level of importance can fuel a doctor’s ego if it is not kept in check. It can create poor motivation to be at work and not leave work to explore other areas of their life if their identity as a doctor is the primary way to meet that need. Significance can develop in the disguise of responsibility instead of responsible service and leadership.


Extending this discussion in the broader healthcare picture, significance can come in silent turf wars or unruly criticism within interdisciplinary healthcare providers. I’ve witnessed it among physicians overtly or in silent hallway comments with others about others. Saying “so and so did this….can you believe that?’


All of these uncollaborative behaviours often come from a place of scarcity and feelings of insecurity to protect an individual’s or team’s position without serving the greater good or creating a united effort. In extreme cases, this creates a breakdown in the original purpose of partnerships in healthcare delivery and outcomes. In minor cases, it fosters resentment and hostility which erodes higher purposeful intentions that exist in every individual. People who know how to meet their own significance and add a level of spirited information are the genuine true leaders that everyone gravitates to, regardless of title, position or educational experience. You don’t need a title to do meaningful work or create valuable connections.


...this level of importance can fuel a doctor’s ego if it is not kept in check. It can create poor motivation...

Significance isn’t good or bad, but it is an important need that everyone requires as part of their life. People who value themselves too highly or seek a high degree of significance may do that at the expense of others and not seek to have the common good in mind.


Narcissists can be seen as individuals who are the extreme model of what I’m talking about.

The need for significance is quite predominant in teens and young adults, but can continue and extends into adulthood cloaked in various ways. When young adults are progressing in this stage, they have a high need for significance as they are trying to connect with their peers and gain a level of acceptance. They are finding and shaping their identity as to how they will meet their life goals in the short and long term. As they move into early adulthood, they are also discovering what they are good at and what they will do in terms of their career, relationships and financial obligations. They are essentially finding their identity.


Individuals who are solely significance driven and use relationships or interactions to achieve their need of significance have real challenges meeting their need for love and connection. They can be highly fear driven and are afraid to be vulnerable. They have trouble giving genuine love and receiving love, which is the last of the four fundamental survival needs.

Examples of words that reflect this need are importance, pride, perfection, disciplined, achievement, pride, competition and rejection, comparison.

The need for significance is quite predominant in teens and young adults, but can continue and extends into adulthood cloaked in various ways.

4. The Need for LOVE/CONNECTION:

This need is perhaps the most important need of all discussed so far. A plethora of non-fiction and fiction works have been written about this one single need. The simple truth is that everyone needs to feel loved, connected, or wanted even if they won’t admit it or display it outwardly. Without this need to connect with other people, an individual will never thrive or feel like they belong in this world. It’s been scientifically documented that newborns who do not receive human touch will develop poorly mentally, emotionally, and physically. Without any touch or affection, they will die.


We as humans are united by this fundamental need of human connection. Groups congregate for a common belief, making that belief stronger or more prominent, and that belief can be constructive or destructive depending on your perspective.


People will use different approaches to meet this need whether it’s by spending time with others, having meaningful conversations or even experiencing time alone by getting reconnected with themselves. People who are introverted need more time to reconnect and recharge themselves as that is the way they meet this need too.


The major challenge people have is the manner they receive love and give love. Not meeting this need is a common complaint from women and a source of unrest for many men. This need to express or receive love by men has been a large barrier in the limited ways they’ve been taught through history, cultural norms and expectations. Fortunately, with growing conscious awareness, there has been an emerging acceptance and knowledge of “how-to” give and receive love regardless of age or gender to meet the needs of the people they care about. Today a father who can’t express compassionate actions toward their children would hardly be considered a good father today, whereas several decades ago being reserved and stern father was absolutely acceptable in many circles and the “best way to raise well behaved kids.” If you haven’t listened to the episode I did on love languages, I highly recommend this. It will dramatically change the way you connect with the people you care about. That episode number is number 12.

this need is a common complaint from women and a source of unrest for many men.

Again the vehicles of meeting this need vary from one person to another. One person can meet this by serving others, while another can draw attention to themselves by labelling themselves as a failure, helpless or by doing self-destructive acts so that they get love and attention. All behaviours, good or bad, is a call out to meet a need and it can be done consciously or unconsciously.


The way to get connection and love can come in various ways but it’s an important need that everyone meets at some level. Many people are in relationships with their spouse, parent, children, friends and they may want to have a deeper connection but are afraid of communicating this because of beliefs or experiences they’ve had in their past.

Consequently, they settle for a safer mode to meet this need by simply connecting even if it is at the detriment of both parties. They may be afraid to be hurt or left for example.

How did this need play out in my life? One example I’ll share with you is that there was a time in my career when I was feeling my day to day duties very were becoming routine and predictable. I was seeing people day in and day out and was starting to feel somewhat disconnected as a doctor. When I reflected on my day I felt I never had fun or meaningful interaction with people; even though there were many important daily interactions. Anyone who’s met me would know this would be uncharacteristic of me as I enjoy interacting with people. One reason I chose this field was that I love working with people, however, I had become blinded to this fact. I started focusing so much on the clinical aspect of medicine in terms of diagnosis and treatment that I was not seeing beyond the whole person the illness and symptoms. I had stopped letting my natural personality flow in daily interactions. I had started involuntarily thinking that as a doctor I had to be “professional” all the time. I was unconsciously modelling a colleague I had been spending a lot of time with. Practicing medicine started to become a solely serious vocation.


While it is true that the work we do in medicine is important and requires attention, it doesn’t mean you can’t interact with your patient in a humane, fun-loving, light-hearted manner when the situation allows it. My wife reminded me that people want to see a genuine person with a medical background who they can relate to and confide in. They don’t want to see a ‘live’ person with a brain of a medical computer; they can get that online by Dr. Google. Once I freed myself into my more natural personality, I started reconnecting with people, and this brought the joy and energy that helped my experience and as well as theirs. I believe people felt even more comfortable sharing their reasons for seeing me and they were more comfortable sharing their issues.


Many people are in relationships with their spouse, parent, children, friends and they may want to have a deeper connection but are afraid of communicating this because of beliefs or experiences they’ve had in their past.

We can all tap into our uniqueness and model it. This creates greater connections with others and gives them permission and freedom to reciprocate that as well. The most common complaint that patients have about healthcare professionals is that they don’t feel they connect with them at a humane level. Without an appropriate connection, it’s hard for people to feel they have been listened to or cared for.

Judgments are often made by others simply because of the way a person communicates or is asking for this need for love and connection to be met.


Examples of words that reflect this need are compassion, empathy, nurturing, protecting, caring.


The Needs of Fulfillment/Thrive:

The four needs: certainty, variety, significance and love/connection are called the survival needs or needs of the personality. These needs are met by everyone to various degrees. These four needs shape most of the wheel, but it doesn’t get the wheel moving. Individuals who never move beyond these four needs will never move beyond survival. We all know or have heard of individuals who have met all the four needs at a high level but get involved in self-destructive behaviours such as drugs, alcohol or other negative addictions. We’ve read about celebrities who have committed suicide- intentional or otherwise because they essentially are not fulfilled. The reason people get into these states is that they are lacking the next two needs of thriving. The need for growth and contribution. These next two needs give a person’s life meaning and extend it to another level of fulfillment, joy and realization. We’ve all experienced these emotions at some level even if it was brief. It felt right, and we knew we connected and felt an inner harmony when we were meeting these needs. The next two needs are called the needs for fulfillment or what I like to call the needs to thrive. Being fulfilled occurs when your life has meaning and the way to get that is via the next two needs of growth and contribution.


And I will cover those needs in greater detail in the next episode. Finally, though, I encourage you as you move around this week and interact with others or think about people you know, ask yourself, how are these two needs showing up in my life and other people around me? Is someone you know very stressed right now because their level of certainty has decreased significantly and they don’t like variety or uncertainty? The best way to remember and retain knowledge is to use it.


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