Continuing on from my last post on the charge. A charged life is activated the ten human drives. Human drives aren’t essential to survival, and you can experience temporary happiness without them, but they’re something we all desire – and activating them is the only way to live a truly charged life and achieve sustainable happiness.
The first five drives are called baseline drives, and they underpin feelings of inner wellness, such as self-confidence and a sense of belonging. These drives are control, competence, congruence, caring and connection.
Let’s start at the beginning, with control.
Most events in life are simply beyond your control. You can’t control the flow of traffic or what strangers will say to you or how hard the rain will fall. However, you can control how you react to these things, and this can make a huge difference.
If you live a caged life and something displeasing befalls you, you’ll probably interpret that event as further proof of your own limitations. If you live a charged life, however, you’ll regard all negative events as nothing more than information, not something that can ruin your day or dash your self-confidence.
The author’s father exemplifies control perfectly. When diagnosed with leukemia, he maintained his positive attitude. He won over the hospital staff with his friendliness and his jokes, and he frequently told his family how proud of them he was. He stayed in control and didn’t let cancer ruin the last weeks of his life.
Once you’ve gained personal control, you can begin establishing professional control at work. It starts with ownership – the sense that you own certain projects, and that your contribution is palpable and appreciated.
Ownership can turn a job that you dread into the job of your dreams. Unfortunately, most companies don’t encourage ownership. They depend on big teams, and the tiny contributions of individual team members tend to go unappreciated.
If you don’t currently feel responsible for a project at work, and there’s no project you could join, consider spearheading one yourself. You’ll be happier for it.
If you’re striving to be a better partner or a better parent, you’ll need to activate the third baseline drive, congruence, which is what brings your actions in line with your self-image and the person you’re aspiring to be.
There are three levels of congruence. Between the way you act and the way you see yourself, there can either be positive congruence, negative congruence or no congruence whatsoever.
If there’s no congruence, then your actions don’t reflect your self-image. Deep down, you believe you could be a better person, and you’re constantly disappointing yourself with your actions.
If there’s negative congruence, then you have a low opinion of yourself, and you act accordingly. For instance, if you don’t think you’re capable of, say, learning Swedish, then you’ll never even attempt to learn it, which will only bear out the dim view you have of your abilities. There’s congruence between self-image and your lack of actions, but you remain dissatisfied because you never actually pursue your dreams.
If there’s positive congruence, however, then you know both who you are and who you want to be – and you align your actions with this knowledge. You’re comfortable with the choices you make, and you feel deeply content and at peace.
So how do you achieve positive congruence? Well, you’ve got to set standards for yourself and truly stick to them. This might sound hard; however, if your personal standards are both realistic and free of external influence, then you’ll find it easy to commit to them because they come from you and you alone.
Listen to your inner voice, and write six words on a piece of paper: three about who you want to be and three about how you want to treat others. Keep this note in your purse or pin it beside your desk – anywhere that you’ll see it often so that it’ll stay on top of your mind. Stick to your standards, and you’ll begin to feel more content in all situations.
Care is the fourth baseline drive, and it functions as both an emotional compass and anchor, guiding how we act around others as well as connecting us to them. But before we can truly start giving care to others, let alone receiving it from them, we must learn how to care for ourselves, and the first step on the road to self-care is listening to your emotions.
Turning a deaf ear to your feelings can upend your life in surprising ways. For instance, the author once coached a former football star who was having trouble managing the car dealership he owned. Throughout his life, the athlete had experienced letdown after emotional letdown, so he tended to keep people at arm’s length. But his customers found this off-putting, and car sales suffered.
So the author encouraged him to start listening to his emotions by taking a moment, three times per day, to check in with his feelings. This not only helped him reestablish emotional equilibrium; it also gave business a boost.
Naturally, your bodily health is just as important as your emotional health. So be sure that you get seven hours of sleep per night, that you exercise three days per week and that vegetables make up one-third of your daily food intake. Caring for your body won’t only improve your overall health; it’ll sharpen your mind and boost your sense of well-being too.
Now that you’ve established good self-care habits, it’s time to embrace the care of others.
If you tend to hold people at a distance, then this may be frightening. But remember – the risk of getting hurt is an inextricable part of gaining the care of others, and it’s certainly a risk worth taking.
One way to start opening up to others is to write down some of your life challenges, be they emotional, professional or financial. Then, share this list with people in your life. Explain what your goals are, and listen to the advice these people have to offer. This will instantly create a caring dynamic.
Humans are social animals. We need people with whom we can share our thoughts and feelings, from our sadness about a recent fight with our parents to our excitement about an upcoming first date. But we can’t confide our innermost feelings to just anyone; it has to be someone to whom we feel deeply connected.
If you want to activate the fifth baseline drive and forge connections, then you need to be crystal clear about what you expect a relationship to look like. In your opinion, what exactly is a close relationship? Come up with clear definitions for all your relationships – from your friends and coworkers to your parents and your partner.
Then, share each definition with the relevant person or people, and request that they share their expectations too. For instance, the author once asked his mom what she expects from a deep mother-son connection. She requested that he call her every Sunday, to say hello and express his love – and this ritual, which he’s been doing for the last 15 years, has brought him much closer to his mother.
Good relationships are predicated on good people, so in order to forge those deep connections, you’ve got to find the right folks. While you can’t choose your family, you can certainly pick your pals. But before you start searching for a new bestie, you should categorize your current friends.
Make a list of all the friends you’ve had. Mention the reason for the friendship and what made each friendship good. Now put each friend into one of three categories: old friends, the ones who no longer play an active role in your life; maintenance friends, the ones you only enjoy seeing occasionally; and growth friends, the ones who make you feel great, make you laugh and always have your back.
You should see your growth friends at least once a month, and you should try to find about ten of them; they’re the ones who’ll bring your life happiness and charge.