I started a business more than a decade ago based on ‘giving people good-times.’ Since then I have researched and read many books about happiness, well-being and what it is to be human. In essence I have been seeking the answer to the question ‘What is it that drives us?’ And I first wrote about this on LinkedIn
I have learned the definitions of pleasure, contentment and joy and in so doing I have discovered that the word pleasure and desire are often hijacked by a seedier conversation.
In this pursuit I was delighted to come across ‘What Makes Us Tick: The 10 Desires That Drive Us’ by Australia’s leading social researcher, Hugh Mackay.
We ask so many questions of ourselves: Why do we work? Why do some people work jobs they don’t like? Why do others work when they don’t need the money (lucky them!)? Why are people scared to retire, afraid of not working?
According to Hugh, we shouldn’t be so puzzled about human behavior. In fact, we’re suffering under the delusion that humans are rational beings… and we then get frustrated when our behavior is irrational. Instead, Hugh says, our brain is ‘like a gland – awash with hormones’, and we should be surprised at the times when people do display the ability to be rational, rather than the other way round!
Hugh explains that we don’t do anything in our lives for just one reason. Everything we do is a dynamic, messy, contradictorily interplay of 10 desires that drive us.?? While all 10 desires drive every facet of our lives, Hugh touches on seven desires which are particularly played out in the workplace.
The desire to be taken seriously. We need to know we exist, that we’re valued, that we’re being listened to. This desire is why good listeners are so valued in the workplace. And why when you feel so bad when you realise someone is looking over your shoulder when you’re talking to them, rather than listening to what you have to say.
The desire for ‘my place’. We all need places that feel like ours, places that symbolise who we are. This is why, for some people, hot desks and open plan offices create a certain amount of disconnect and dissatisfaction at work.
The desire for something to believe in. We all desire a framework of values in our lives, values we can live by. If the organisation we work for has integrity, it can form an important part of our value set.
The desire to connect. Not only do we feel connected to people around us at work through everyday interactions, we also use work to connect deeper to ourselves. For some people their work is an expression of their self.
The desire to feel useful. The one thing we least want to hear ourselves described as is ‘useless’. Wanting to be useful is fundamental to being part of society. This is the reason that people pull together in times of disaster to help complete strangers… to feel they are doing something useful.
The desire to belong. According to Hugh, we are both ‘herd animals’, and ‘tribal creatures’. We like to feel part of a group, as well as part of something bigger. The best workplace contains rich gratification through both a small herd (work group) and the sense of being a part of the company, the tribe.
The desire for control. Hugh believes this desire is the one most likely to get us into trouble. Humans are by nature uncontrollable. The only person we can control is ourselves.
So the boss who tries to control his team, or a parent who tries to control their children, are fighting a losing battle. So a first-time parent returning to work often feels relief at coming back to an environment where they have influence again… ‘control’ over their own workflow and tasks.
Hugh explains that it’s unlikely we all have these desires all satisfied on a daily basis, but if you feel you have something useful to do, you’re connected, and you have a close work group then you’re doing well.
A final thought from Hugh, that resonates with my own passion for acknowledging people, is that if a workplace can fulfill some or most of these desires for their employees, the ripples will be felt beyond just the personal lives and relationships of the employees, into a more cohesive and peaceful society. Certainly something worth striving for!