Deal With It

For those of you not familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs it goes a little something like this.

On the bottom of the pyramid are Physiological Needs. These are the basics humans need to exist. Things like air, food, water, shelter, warmth – it’s very difficult to focus on anything else should these needs not be met.

A step above that is Safety. People have the need to feel cared for and have some level of predictability. After you have food, shelter and warmth covered, you want to – as much as possible – know that those things will also be there tomorrow.

Once you’ve got that covered, you can move onto Love And Belonging. We need interpersonal relationships, connectedness and feel like we are part of a group. As much as we might enjoy solitude, we are social beings by nature and have a strong need to connect with others.

One step further up the pyramid we have Esteem. This includes both self-respect as well as our position in society. We want others to like and value us and consider us valuable parts of the community.

At the very top we have Self Actualization. This is certainly the most misinterpreted and individualized brick in the pyramid but I take it to represent a person’s need to realize their potential, seek personal growth and peak experiences. For some people this could mean becoming an ideal parent. For others, running a marathon or earning a PhD.

OK, now that you’ve attended my freshman Psych 101 lecture (and if you’ve made it this far I give you all an “A” – feel free to call your Mom and tell her) let’s move on.

While I certainly don’t have the lower rungs of the pyramid covered all the time (anyone living in a large, expensive metropolitan area like NYC has probably gone through bouts of wondering if their heat will actually work or if their bosses respects them) I’ve recently put more of a focus on the tippy-top of the pyramid in a way I don’t think I ever have before. Seeking personal growth and trying to realize my potential.

To people who have known me for a while this comes across as a slightly jarring mid-life crisis (I am turning 50 this year!) but I think I’m onto something here. I’ve spent a lot of my mental energy focusing on the needs, wants, desires and perception of others and struggling with that. It’s actually refreshing to focus a bit more on myself and deal with things that are actually in my control. The not-so-ironic-twist is that it has made me a better person to be around and more present in my relationships (or at least I hope it has, this is all kind of new).

Anyway, now that that therapy session is over I wanted to share with you one of the more powerful strategies that has been an outcropping of this enlightenment. It’s something I have clunkily termed “deal with it”.

Most people – and I was probably on the extreme end of this – spend a lot of time in the contemplation phase when it comes to decisions and actions. Now, I’ll start with a disclaimer that this is not always a bad thing. There’s a reason that the cliche “let me sleep on it” has been around forever. Rushing into decisions doesn’t typically lead to great outcomes.

However, never deciding or taking an unnecessarily long time to take action can be equally problematic. It just leads to the same issues, problems and needs constantly circulating in the background. Scheduling that dentist appointment, having that conversation with your teenager, asking for that raise when you need it are very easy things to just put off indefinitely (or until a tooth ache forces you into action).

But here’s my second not-so-ironic twist, while doing this stuff all sounds like work, it actually gives you freedom. Freedom from constantly worrying about how that conversation is going to go, or what the dentist might find or having the money you need to repair the car.

When you know you need to do something, deal with it. It’s the only way forward.

This is the point in the newsletter (I was told that “blog” is no longer a current thing to say) where I pivot to fitness and this is an easy one for me.

The “deal with it” strategy when it comes to your fitness goals goes counter to typical – and typically correct – advice of employing sustainable habits and routines that drive accountability and results.

Sometimes you need to flip that script.

If there is a goal that has eluded you – squatting 300 pounds, having a six pack, competing in a bodybuilding show, running a half-marathon – there is a lot of value in putting as much energy and effort and focus into accomplishing that goal as possible. Even if it’s fleeting and unsustainable in the long term.

Because not only will taking it on teach you about yourself and what it really takes to accomplish those things, it will free you up to not constantly be thinking, worrying about and half-assing those things.

You won’t have to wonder what it takes. You’ll know.

You’ll have the key to your own ignition.