People are complex and emotional.  Frequently we don’t know why we do things.  Somewhere, deep inside us, a decision is made to do . . . . . . or to more frequently to NOT do . . . . something.  As a rule, people are terrible at understanding their own “why” but understanding the “why” we did in our past will help us make better decisions in the future.

One model attempts to help people understand their own motivations . . . their own “why” . . . by stating that people have four somewhat competing needs:  Consistency, Variety, Significance and Love.

Consistency is a feeling of security.  It is what we have when we know there will be a paycheck every other week and when we have someone who will be home for us every night. Consistency is the predictable.  We know what will happen tomorrow because it happened yesterday and today.  Consistency is the comfortable, even if it doesn’t feel good.

Variety is a need that everyone has that competes with Consistency.  Variety is excitement.  Variety is the unknown.  Variety is the feeling we get when we try something new or take a risk.  We don’t know what will happen.

Significance is a feeling of important.  We have a need to be important to ourselves and to others.  Significance doesn’t have to be positive.  The jerk who yells at the hectic waiter is trying to be significant.  Significance can also come from very positive feelings, being successful in your career, taking care of a child, etc.

Balancing with Significance, although not directly competing is a need for Love and belonging.  This can be love from a partner, a child, friends, the community or a spiritual being.

Everyone has all four of these needs.  Everyone has to balance these needs but balances them differently.  The sky diver has more of a need for Variety than most.  The person who works a hundred hours a week at a job is likely seeking more Significance than average.

We all also balance these needs in different aspects of our lives.  One person may take significant risks (seeking Variety) at work but acts very conservative (seeking Consistency) in his/her personal life.

We don’t necessarily know when we are acting (or failing to act) which need we are either trying to reach or protect at the time we are acting.  This model does work well in looking backward on our actions to understand why we did what we did.  We can then use that information to change how we act in the future.