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Advocate for NEEDS (not strategies)

Updated: Feb 7, 2022

52 Little Practices for a year of BIG change

“We never do anything that is not in the service of a need, there is no conflict on our planet at the level of needs. We all have the same needs.” Marshall Rosenberg

Needs are that which nourish life. On the most basic level they include needs which keep the body alive, and needs which give life purpose.

What's the difference between a need and a strategy?

The most well known compilation of needs is probably Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The hierarchy is built on our psychological needs such as food, water, air, shelter and peaks with self-actualization and self-transcendence. Strategies are the actions we take to meet these needs. Food is a need. Eating a salad at your favorite restaurant, barbecuing a steak on the grill and heating up a TV dinner could be strategies. Belonging is a need. Being part of a club, family, or team could be strategies. Self-transcendence is a need. Walking through a redwood forest, volunteering at a soup kitchen, going to church could be strategies.


Success, Peace, Joy, Connection

I’ve learned I experience much more peace, joy, connection and success in my life when I advocate for my needs rather than my strategies.

For example:

I am sharing a meal with others. I’ve had my heart set on having my friends come to my house for the meal. As we are making plans others express their desire to eat out, rather than eat in.

“Eating at my house” is my strategy. But my strategy for what? Before responding to others desire to eat out I check in with my “eat at home” strategy and what needs are underlying it. What is most important to me about having a meal with my friends at my house? What result am I hoping to achieve for myself (and them)? As I check in with myself I see that I am wanting to give my friends care and love and to show them appreciation. I have decided cooking for them in my home would be the best way to do this. It would give me an opportunity to treat them special and take care of them with all the resources my home gives me. As I reflect I open myself to meeting these needs in other ways. When I speak to my friends I will advocate for this need rather than the “eat at home” strategy. I may tell them, “I was really looking forward to doing something special for you guys, to taking care of you for an evening. That said, I’m happy to consider eating out. If we do decide to eat out, could we also talk about creating an opportunity for me to care for you in a way which would be special for you?”

Breaking down the process:

I am on a road trip and want to go cycling. I’ve forgotten my helmet. I think, “UHG. I have to buy a new helmet. I don’t want to spend the money on a helmet when I already have one, but what else can I do?”

I stop, take a breath, and consider what needs I am trying to meet in this situation. One need is to be safe and protect my head while cycling. One need is to get exercise. One need is for my actions to contribute to purpose - to have the effort of bringing my bike on my trip served a purpose. One need is for my spending to matter - to not “waste” money on something I won’t use in the future.

Now that I have broken down my needs there are an abundance of possibilities in front of me to choose from.

  1. Need to be safe and protect my head while cycling-I remember I have a climbing helmet which I could wear while cycling.

  2. Need for exercise-I think of all the other ways I could get exercise.

  3. Need for purpose. I shrug my shoulders about my bike and look at an infinite other areas of my life where my actions contribute to a purpose.

  4. Need for my spending to “matter” - I consider all the ways I spend my money. Would I struggle this much about spending $40 on a meal? Am I just stuck on “I have one at home?” Can I purchase this bike helmet, use it, and then contribute its use toward something meaningful? Like giving it to someone who could use a helmet?

I am now empowered to consider at least 4 possibilities and choose one with joy, not with desperation, guilt or resentment. I choose to go for a bike ride and wear my climbing helmet. This allows me to meet my needs for exercise, purpose. In addition I am excited by the idea of contributing to another. I have avoided spending $40 (a moment before I had considered it spent), I am excited to consider how I might use that $40 to benefit another.

These examples are small, low risk, low tier “struggles”. Once practiced and internalized this same principle/practice can easily be applied to BIG issues including all those issues wrapped into the subjects my mom told me to never bring up at the dinner table - money, region, and politics. I’ll add to that list: Health practices, Sex, Economics, Environment, Racism…you can probably add to the list!



Every day for the next week stop before you do something - anything. Take a soft full breath and ask yourself, “What needs am I hoping to meet with this action?” That’s it.


Ask yourself, what other strategies could I use and do I use to meet these needs?


I’ve included a list of needs to help you consider needs which might be motivating your action.


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