The exercise started. I was getting up to work the room. A thought struck me. “They don’t need me.” I was hit with a sense of deflation. It was a “What’s the point?” moment. I was at Boot Camp. The irony, or hypocrisy, I’m working at a program built to help people find purpose and meaning. And I’m struggling with my purpose and meaning. We’re human. It happens.
I spent a few moments looking at the situation. The conversation with myself went like this: “You’re right. They don’t need you. They can do this without you. It will work whether you’re here or not.” A little more dejection. Then the important question came. “But do they want you?”
So many times in life I want to be needed. If I’m needed, they’ll keep me around. If I’m needed I’ll have a place. If I’m needed I’ll be important and meaningful. If I’m needed I’ll have job security. The desire to be needed is really driven by fear. If I’m needed, I’m safe. I won’t be abandoned or discarded.
Need is operational. It’s built on dependency. Want is relational. It’s built on desire.
I used to work to be needed. I hoarded information. I held on to tasks and processes so that only I could do them. It held me back. It kept me from developing new skills and abilities. It inconvenienced me. I’d receive calls at all hours to support the thing that only I could support. It didn’t help me or anyone else.
At some point I started sharing information. I included others in the work I was doing. I started to teach other people how to do things things that made me needed. I switched from maintaining my value to building value for others. New opportunities opened for me. New opportunities were created for others. I learned that being needed held me back. I found that being wanted moved me forward.
“Needed” makes you an obligation. “Wanted” builds value and admiration. One keeps us stuck. The other propels us. Which would you prefer?