August 10, 2017

What do People Want?

I have had the privilege of working all over the world, with people across completely different cultural and religious contexts. One thing I have learned from these experiences is that human beings are very predictable and I don’t mean this in any negative sense. People are predictable because we all want the same things.  But, what do people want?

What do People Want?

I have tested this all around the world. When you ask people what they want out of life: you can ask it in various ways: Why do you go to work? What do you aspire to? What keeps you up at night? All of these questions will get you to what motivates the person, what the person wants. It doesn’t matter which question you ask exactly, or how you ask the question, you will always get a bag of words that has four themes in them.


Firstly, there will be a theme around security. You pick this theme when people say things like; “it’s important to feed my family, to have a roof over my head, pay the bond.” The need for security is the need to feel safe, to feel that nothing bad is going to happen to you or those close to you.


Secondly, there will be a theme around fulfillment. You pick up this theme when people say things like; “it’s important to have a sense of learning and challenge, I want to find joy in my work, I need hobbies that I enjoy”. The need for fulfillment is the need to have a meaningful, engaging and enjoyable job, relationship, possession or other activity with which to occupy oneself.


Thirdly, there will be a theme around significance or power. This theme is flagged by statements like; “it is important for me to be recognized by others, it is important for me to be in control, it is important for me to be my own master.” The desire for power is a desire to be someone important and be in control of one’s life.


And lastly,  there will be a theme around harmony. The desire for harmony is expressed when people say; “I want to help people improve their lives, I enjoy a sense of team work, I like being able to co-operate with others, I want to feel that I am making a contribution to others”.  For some people, Harmony is really important. Unlike power -which has a competitive edge, harmony is co-operative. The desire for harmony is the desire that drives the conscientious community man who cares deeply about the welfare and cohesion of his community.

If you ask people what do they want out of life, actually they will say these four things. Security, fulfillment, power, and harmony.  You find these four things no matter where you go in the world.

What is interesting however is that people have control over where they seek to find these things. I can choose how I define my security and what I premise it on. I can choose how I define my own power and what I premise my being powerful on, and likewise with the other two.

Human beings are predictable, we all want security, fulfillment, power, and harmony. We do not, however, all look for these things in the same places. Some want the world to give these to them, others seek them within themselves. It is important that you are careful with where you look for these things. If you look for them outside of yourself, you will be scratching your arse for an itch on your head. If you want to achieve them, you need to understand what it means for you to be the source. The world can’t give you these things, you have to produce them for yourself. You manufacture what it is like to be you.