5 min read

The Six Psychological Needs

Six Psychological Needs of FitnessNow I’m not necessarily that into Tony Robbins — though I’ve read both of his books— but he does have some great psychological concepts that I’m afraid I have to borrow and call my own from time to time.

This post about psychological needs, is one of those times.

Tony has the privilege of working with some top notch professionals from various fields related to coaching, and I believe he borrowed this one from psychotherapist, Cloe Madanes. Just another sign that great coaches take great concepts from others, absorb it into their repertoire, adapt it for their own use and throw it into practice.

Tony may be one of the most successful coaches alive in 2010, so why try to reinvent the wheel?

This is a good example of what I’m keen on doing regularly, which is to say, I utilize other successful coaches experiences to help shape my own.

Every now and then I learn a gem from another coach and this is one of them, these are the six psychological needs according to Robbins and his psychologist coaching partner Madanes.

I mention them because each of us tend to prioritize one or another, when in many respects we should reflect upon all of them and see how they fit together.

A person with too much certainty in life, is bound to crave some uncertainty and vice versa. Although you’re likely to favour one or two more than others, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider each one, particularly as they relate to your fitness pursuit.

This is my spin on them as they relate to fitness, but I encourage you to look into self-reflection and apply those questions to these psychological needs too.

1) Certainty

This is what everyone wants when they start a fitness program. They are looking for certainty that they will succeed if they do X. People are reluctant to try anything that does not give them a certain level of certainty.

As we all know though, life is fairly uncertain and we need to pull ourselves out of certainty patterns in order to facilitate change. This means taking yourself outside of your comfort zone and thinking outside the box.

You know what worked for you previously, but that does not mean for certain it will work for you this time. As a result, I spend most of the first couple of months with clients getting them out of their own certainty comfort zones and into newer more flexible approaches.

Quite often what got you here, won’t get you there, you need to get out of your comfort zone, so embrace it.

When people have success with something, they are certain it will work again, but very often it doesn’t. If what you’re doing, isn’t working, switch. I think that’s a good time to start paying attention to a coach or a mentor, perhaps someone like me.

2) Uncertainty/Variety

This is what everyone wants, immediately after being on a program for two weeks. Ya, you think you’ve mastered the squat, but I have a confession to make, I’ve been doing it for 10+ years and I still haven’t mastered it. I still have to go back to the basics all the time, in order to rebuild the pattern and make any kind of progress.

People crave variety almost instantly into facilitating change, but too much variety can sabotage your efforts, especially if you haven’t learned the basics and built a foundation to your training.

Trust your coach, if they are good, they will give you plenty of variety when you’re good, but you need 3-4 week chunks of the same stuff for optimal progress, especially if you’re just starting out.


3) Significance

3-6 months from now, after diligence with your program, you’re going to be thinking about this. What was the significance of all that work I just put in?

You may ask yourself the question, “was it all for just a few lbs of fat loss?”

This is another time for self-reflection, you need to think about more than just bodyweight, think about strength, energy, mood, appearance, performance, body composition and the slew of other awesome stuff. There is no doubt in my mind that a good program helped you achieve, or feel, a lot of new sensations, that may not have registered at first.

This is the point where a lot of people regress and reconsider the change. Think about the significant impact your decision for change has made on your life, your family and your friends. Think physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social, environmental, and occupational once again.

How does this change help you live a better self-vision of significance? How does fitness help you live a life of purpose?

4) Love/Connection

Do you love or feel any connection to what you’re doing at this point?

Do you feel depressed when you take away the activity you used to get fit?

Do you have a connection with others who enjoy the same things, whether it’s going to the gym, hiking or some other sport?

Hopefully you have gone through this process together with someone, even if they didn’t participate with you, they were there every step of the way. Physical change in my experience has led to a deeper more meaningful relationships.

The best relationships I have to this day were forged with some kind of association to an activity at first — in my case, mostly people I played sports with. If I didn’t build a connection, I’m not sure I would have been involved with those activities for as long as I was.

Beyond that, believe it or not, I’ve had clients tell me how grateful they are for saving their relationship with their significant other. Improved self-esteem, better stress coping methods, reduced anxiety, more restful sleep, better activity connection/association and improved sex-drive — consequently sex-life! — are just a few of the relationship enhancers I’ve encountered through exercise.

5) Growth

If you’re not growing, you’re dying, as an old saying goes. This is usually a difficult one for people to grasp, but is also critical for long-term success.

Goals are often good for short-term success, not long-term successes.

How do you take your short-term success, limit any regression and continue to grow?

One word: Mastery.

This is the concept of mastering what you want to accomplish and in some cases you may want to try something new once you’ve mastered something too, or at least a slight change in focus.

Pretty confident with rock-climbing? Well now may be the perfect time to start teaching your expertise to others.

Are you pretty close to mastering every single barbell lift? Ever tried a single arm pull-up or single arm-push-up?

Maybe it’s time to move onto something slightly different, you can always come back to your first love, probably with renewed interest.

You have to constantly be seeking to get better physically, and that’s the same push you should have in the other 6 realms of well-being too.

6) Contribution

This is kind of where I feel as though I am at. I started writing this blog for the sole purpose of contribution.

I want to publish a book because I want to reach a larger audience than I am capable of reaching via training sessions alone.

I started working on my tech-start-up business because I wanted to contribute to what I saw lacking in that field as it pertains to health and fitness.

Once I accomplish those things, I may move onto other forms of contribution, your level need not be that big. Contribution could simply be showing some people at the gym how to do a particular lift better, handing out a tip, helping a friend get fit or donating time/money to a charity that resonates with your personality and activity of choice.

Are you a cyclist? Well maybe contribution to the Ride for a Cure is for you.

Maybe your contribution is raising money for charity, volunteering at the YMCA or supporting those people less physically fortunate than you.

I hope that more than anything this article gives you some perspective into the psychological journey you are going to take when you undergo a physical transformation. All six things operate inter-dependently of one another, but they are also almost like stages of development too.

Something to reflect on…