Take care of yourself and your needs in some way each day — Even if you don’t know what the 12 Universal Needs are, you will know some things that nourish you and make you feel good. It could be something to nourish your mind, your heart, your body — anything that feels good and boosts you in some way. It might be pausing to take a few deep breaths, or to relax your body for just a second. It might be stepping outside to get a bit of fresh air, or pausing to take a few sips of water. It doesn’t matter what it is to begin with, just something, anything that feels good and gives you a boost.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Claire Brummell from The Universal Needs.
Claire Brummell is an expert in human behavior and the Creator and Founder of The Universal Needs, a unique model and methodology that helps people to understand the 12 Universal Needs we all have, the reasons they are not currently being well met and how to consistently meet them in quick, easy and simple ways that are sustainable not only for themselves but for their loved ones and their wider communities. Through working with individuals, she helps people to understand how consistently meeting your own Universal Needs is vital to supporting and improving all the most important areas of your life including resilience, relationships, mental health, self-worth, business, parenting, boundaries, emotional wellbeing and more. Her work training and consulting with organizations helps to create workplaces that operate in ways that ensure that everyone’s Universal Needs are consistently met from leadership down to the line level to create more effective work environments, enhance employee engagement and resilience and to get better business results.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Of course! How long have you got?! It’s quite a long story! I started off my career working in IT, and being the ‘girl in IT’ found I had to work twice as hard to be thought half as good. While I was good at my job, I realized that it really wasn’t fulfilling me, so I decided to make a career change and moved into marketing for the entertainment industry. I had a fun few years working in video games, and then in TV and film, but working in corporate media wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. While I had a job and a lifestyle that most people would have given anything for, being flown all over the world to glitzy, celebrity filled events like the Kid’s Choice Awards in L.A. or the MTV European Music Awards in Munich, something was missing. I felt empty inside, and like a part of me was dying in a life and a career that wasn’t meant for me. So, in 2008 I decided to quit the path I was on and go it alone. I retrained as a Master NLP Practitioner and Master Life Coach, and started my own mentoring, training and consulting business. That was 10 years ago, and I’ve never looked back. I’ve worked under different brands over the years, spending several years working as a relationship specialist, but by far the most fulfilling work is the work I’m doing now with The Universal Needs. There is something so rewarding about helping someone who is struggling to understand how to take their power back by meeting their own needs and beginning to create more resourcefulness, emotional wellbeing and fulfilment for themselves. I genuinely believe I’m one of the luckiest people in the world to do what I do.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
The most interesting story from my career was probably the moment I decided to quit my life and start over from scratch! I remember being so miserable working in corporate media and being so desperate to get out, but every job advertisement just seemed to be the same old thing. I knew I was meant to be doing something different, but I also knew I wasn’t going to be able to figure it out in the career and life that I was currently in. So, in 2008, in the middle of the recession, while everyone else around me was being made redundant and losing their jobs, I decided to quit. Not just my job, that would have been too easy! No, I decided to quit my entire life. I handed in my resignation with no clue what I was going to do next, I gave up my beautiful flat in West London, I moved in with family and started again from square one. I remember thinking that I should be terrified, but all I felt was relief. While it didn’t make any logical sense, especially in the global climate at the time, I knew deep inside that it was the right thing for me to do. And I was 100% right. My biggest take away from that moment was to always trust my intuition, even when it is telling me to do something that doesn’t seem to make any sense, it’s always guiding me in the right direction. I can’t imagine where I would be now if I hadn’t learned to listen to it.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think that what makes our company stand out is that we have a deep commitment to doing business in a socially conscious way, which means that we strive to do what is right, even when it’s not necessarily easy. So, for example, we thought we were ready to launch our signature program about 3–4 years ago, when we realized that there was a key piece missing in the content, that not only changed how it would affect the individual, but also how it would affect the wider community. We realized that we couldn’t put the program out without rectifying that piece and ensuring that the content was as accessible, relevant and inclusive as possible, so we took 18 months to pull the program apart and put it back together again in a way which meant that even more people would be able to see themselves in the work and the work in themselves. Not only is the content better now for it, but the feedback that we have had from clients from different marginalized communities, specifically about the changes we made at that time, has been humbling to receive.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There have been so many people along the way who have helped me to get where I am, but probably the person I am most grateful for is my business partner Serena. She has been invaluable in the business since she first joined, and I could not be more grateful for her support, dedication and for consistently showing up, not just for me, but for our community, our clients, our business and herself too. She also lives and breathes the work that we teach, and helps to remind me of it when times are tough. I remember when I first invited her to be a part of the business, we were best friends and while my intuition was telling me we would be a great fit to work together and that she would be an asset to the company, there was another part of my brain screaming at me ‘No, don’t do it! Business and friendship never mix!’ The truth is that I’ve never known a friendship which has turned into a business relationship which hasn’t negatively impacted the friendship in some way. A lot of friends-turned-business-partners end up with their friendship falling apart, and that’s the last thing I wanted to happen with us. But I shared how I was feeling with her, and she shared the same with me, and the incredible thing is that through our mutual understanding of our own Universal Needs, the needs of our friendship and the needs of our business, not only has our working relationship not negatively impacted our friendship, it has actually made it deeper and stronger. In the moments that for other people would put stress and strain on the relationship, we talk and figure it out together, which consistently brings us closer together. She has shown me what is really possible in friendship, and in business partnership, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
To me resilience is best described in the context of our Universal Needs. We all have 12 Universal Needs, those needs fall into four groups, and those four groups correspond to the four different sections of a tree. The roots of the tree are our Survival Needs, the needs that we WILL get met (whether in healthy or unhealthy ways, fulfilling or draining ways, empowering or disempowering ways) because they are connected to our very survival. The trunk of the tree contains our Intrinsic Needs, these are the needs that relate to our internal wellbeing, our emotional equilibrium, our sense of worth and value, our connection to our internal personal power etc. The branches of the tree are our Expansive Needs, so once our foundation (roots) and core (trunk) are taken care of, from there we want to grow and expand and interact more with the world around us. And finally, the leaves and fruit of the tree are our Enriching Needs, these are the needs that give us a deeper experience of ourselves and a deeper experience of life.
So, when something negative or challenging happens in our life, it will negatively impact one or more of our Universal Needs. That impact might be minor, it might be major, it might be severe, or it might be chronic (i.e., continual over a significant period of time). Resilience is our capacity and the speed at which we are able to return to a state where our Universal Needs are being met again when they have been negatively impacted by a situation in life.
So, in my experience, the characteristics and traits of resilient people are the ability to know WHAT needs have been impacted when a situation happens to affect them, to know HOW to meet them quickly and easily in ways that will satisfy and fulfill them well, and to have the capacity, the desire and the impetus to do so in the moments where those challenges and negative situations occur. In those times, resilient people focus less on the situation and what is happening to them, and more on what they WANT to create and the ways in which they can do that for themselves.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Courage and resilience are different, but often related and required to work together. Resilience is our ability to recover and restore our negatively impacted needs in challenging and difficult times, courage is the willingness and desire to do so, even when things around us are difficult. The word courage has its origins in the Latin word ‘Cor’, which means heart. So, in my experience, courage is about having the strength of heart to desire better or more for ourselves, and to be willing to try to create that, even when the odds seem stacked against us, or times feel challenging.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
When I think of resilience, I think of a dear friend who lost his wife suddenly many years ago. They were still very young and expected to have decades of life together ahead of them when she suddenly died of a brain aneurism. She was his entire world and it would have been so easy for him to have just given up and to let a part of him die with her. But he didn’t. He continued to live, to laugh, to love and spend time with the people he cared about. I remember talking to him some time after she died and him telling me that someone had told him in those first few days of mourning, ‘When a tragedy like this happens, at first, people will make all kinds of offers and invitations to you. They will offer you food, to come round to visit, to go out for a walk…all kinds of things. If you say no, the invitations will stop coming. So, keep saying yes. No matter how you feel, when the offer comes, keep saying yes.’ And that’s what he did. He said yes to every offer that came his way, and so they kept coming. And while I can only imagine how unbearably difficult those days, weeks, months and years were for him after her passing, he went on to live a very fulfilling life with many friends, adventures and cherished memories. He eventually went on cruising vacations, on theme park vacations with dear friends (even though he was motion sick and didn’t like going on roller coasters!), out to dinners, to art classes, the list goes on. He died himself of cancer about 15 years later, but in that time he had led a full and fulfilling life with the people he cared about. To do that in the face of what he went through took immense courage, and showed remarkable resilience.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
When I first started my business back in 2011, I was dating someone who wasn’t very good for me. He was insecure and frequently tried to put me down in order to feel good about himself. When I first launched, he spent the first few months I was in business telling me that I didn’t know what I was doing and I wouldn’t be able to be successful without him, because he had more experience than I did. When we finally separated a few months later, it took me a while to build my confidence again after being repeatedly told that I would never be able to run my business alone or be successful on my own. But with hard work and perseverance, not only did I do just that, but I discovered that my way of doing business was the way that worked for me and my clients in a way that his never had. He used to edit my articles and blog posts, but as it turned out, people really liked my style of writing, much better than his! It was a real lesson for me in trusting myself and my inner voice, even when others around you are telling you that you shouldn’t.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
A few years ago, I had a very difficult few months. I had just arrived for the first time in Key West Florida, when three weeks later we got the warning that Hurricane Irma was coming straight for us. At that time, Irma was a category 5 hurricane, which is the highest and most major category you can have. Being from the UK, I didn’t know anything about hurricanes or how to navigate them, so I relied on my new friends in the area to help me through. I hurricane-proofed the property I was in, bought evacuation supplies, put the cat into the pick-up truck and headed out on the road with no clue where I would land. I remember thinking that I’d always seen hurricanes on the news but the whole thing always felt distant and surreal. Nothing can prepare you for how it feels to have a hurricane about the size of France coming straight for you, and that inevitable thought, ‘Will I live through this?’ I managed to get shelter with the friend of a friend about a thousand miles away, and was evacuated for two weeks, trying to find out how much damage had been caused. When I was eventually allowed to return, the devastation to the Florida Keys was heartbreaking to see. Whole communities had been torn apart, homes ripped from their foundations and trees scattered like dandelion seeds. After taking a few days to rectify the mess that Irma had left the house I was staying at, by chain-sawing down the tree that had fallen on the house, clearing up the wreckage in the yard and the pool, getting the roof covered with tarpaulin to protect where Irma had ripped half of it off and removing all the broken glass, my focus turned to the worst hit areas and I began volunteering. A few weeks into volunteering I felt like I was finding my feet again, but little did I know that the worst was yet to come.
One morning while I was lying on the beach meditating using noise cancelling headphones, one of the tractors that is used to smooth down the sand each day reversed over the top of me. At first, I didn’t realize what was happening, I just felt something cold and hard slam into the left side of my body. I opened my eyes to see a metal giant looming over the top of me, I had a tire a couple of inches from my head and another a couple of inches from my feet and the rear axle of the giant raker was bashing my left arm and leg. I managed to claw my way out from underneath the enormous vehicle and screamed at the poor driver ‘You ran over me!’ and that’s when I realized just how close I’d come to no longer being here anymore. The driver in his shock ran to the back of the truck and saw that it was half over my yoga mat, and that’s when he told me ‘I only stopped because I had to move a trash can that was in my way, if it hadn’t of been for that I would have kept moving backwards.’ That’s when I realized that a few inches in any direction and I wouldn’t have been here anymore.
It was such a pivotal moment in my life, because after weeks of navigating trauma and chaos with the hurricane it could have just taken me out at the knees and caused me to give up. But it didn’t. If anything, it just spurred me on in life. It made me realize how short life can be and how it can all be gone in an instant. It made me that much more determined to ensure that The Universal Needs work got out to anyone and everyone who needs it, and it made me personally more determined to live my life as fully as I can while I’m here. One of my favorite quotes was born out of that moment in time; ‘Breathe in every drop of any moment that makes you feel completely alive.’
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
Without question my resilience has increased exponentially since I developed The Universal Needs work, and was therefore able to identify which of my needs were being impacted in any given moment, and how to re-support them in ways that were quick, easy and don’t take a lot of time and energy. Since beginning my daily needs practice, my needs are being consistently taken care of, so that even if they are impacted, the impact isn’t as severe as it used to be, so I have less distance to recover in those difficult moments, which has made a huge difference in my life.
I think that when I was growing up, for the most part I learned all the ways to not be resilient which was probably just as important to know in learning how TO be resilient as an adult. I was bullied at every school I attended, and because I didn’t know how to take care of my own needs, how to cultivate self-worth for myself, how to value myself or how to love myself, my entire emotional wellbeing was dependent on how other people treated me. That was a hard lesson to learn, because when all you want is for people to accept and value you, to help you to feel good about yourself, being consistently bullied is quite a blow.
But when I was a teenager I lost my favorite teacher to suicide, and that felt like a turning point for me. The school handled the situation terribly, and rather than helping or supporting us in our grief, their approach only made it worse. We were forced to attend the class he should have been teaching the day we found out about his death, and no outlet was provided for us to honor his life or express our grief. We weren’t even allowed to attend the funeral. So, at that point I realized that I needed to figure out how to deal with his death for myself. I found ways to process my grief and sadness, for myself, by myself, without the need for anyone else to be present. I still shared with my friends about how I was feeling, and we talked and processed together, but I realized that the things I needed I could actually give to myself, and that felt empowering for the first time in my life. I found small ways to honor him and his memory (like using the technique he’d shown us to help with note taking and learning in other classes), and slowly, gradually I began to heal. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had begun to listen for what needs were being impacted by what I’d experienced, and what I needed to nurture them again.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
You’re absolutely right, resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened, and the more we practice meeting our needs, the more resilient we become. So the 5 steps I would suggest that someone could take to be more resilient are:
- Take care of yourself and your needs in some way each day — Even if you don’t know what the 12 Universal Needs are, you will know some things that nourish you and make you feel good. It could be something to nourish your mind, your heart, your body — anything that feels good and boosts you in some way. It might be pausing to take a few deep breaths, or to relax your body for just a second. It might be stepping outside to get a bit of fresh air, or pausing to take a few sips of water. It doesn’t matter what it is to begin with, just something, anything that feels good and gives you a boost.
- Keep it quick, easy and simple — So often when we think of doing things for ourselves, of self-care (which is literally nothing more than taking the time to meet one or more of our Universal Needs) we think about big things that take a significant amount of time or energy. We think we have to sleep at least 8 hours a night, or drink at least a liter of water, or meditate for at least 20 minutes or practice yoga for at least an hour. The more time and energy it takes to do something for ourselves, the less inclined we will be to actually do it, and the biggest complaint I always hear from people is ‘I don’t have time to meet my needs!’ So I always invite people to start small and simple, with just 2 minutes a day. Because everyone can find 2 minutes, whether that’s by setting your alarm 2 minutes earlier, finding 2 minutes at lunch, or when you get finished with work. And doing something imperfectly to meet your Universal Needs is better than doing nothing perfectly.
- Choose things that are 100% within your sphere of influence — One of the biggest mistakes that people make when it comes to meeting their Universal Needs is they are too quick to outsource. They look to the people and situations around them to try to meet them, and in doing so they actually disempower themselves and pressurize their relationships. If the other person isn’t inclined to meet the need at that time, in the way you need, for the amount you need then resentment builds. So to release the pressure on your close relationships and feel more empowered to affect your internal level of resource, emotional wellbeing and fulfilment for yourself, look for things that you can do for yourself without any dependency on another person for it. You will feel better for it, and your close relationships will thank you too. Of course, we are social creatures and have a need to connect and be in community with others, so we like it when other people meet our needs, but we want these things to be the cherry on the frosting on our cake of life; Something that gives it a little extra, but not something we’re dependent on in order to enjoy it.
- When difficult times happen, take a moment to pause and ask yourself what you need — When things get challenging in life, we can be so caught up in how the situation is affecting us, that we don’t stop to ask ourselves what would actually help. In order to build our resilience, we need to take a moment to focus on what we want, which is to get our needs met again in order for us to return to a state of mental, emotional, and physical equilibrium. So, if we want to cultivate more resilience, in those moments we need to take a pause to stop and breathe and ask ourselves, ‘what do I need right now?’ Because once we ask ourselves that question, we start to come up with answers for things we need to re-nourish ourselves and return to the state of wellbeing that we desire. When the answers to those questions come, we want to then look for the things we can do for ourselves to meet those needs by asking ourselves the question, ‘So how could I give that to myself?’. For example, if the answer comes, ‘I need to rest’, look for the ways that you can make a little time to rest, if the answer comes, ‘I need a hug’, give yourself a hug and allow yourself to feel held. If the answer comes, ‘I need to express what I’m feeling right now,’ then pick up a journal and start writing about it.
- Don’t resist the challenging emotions that come up in difficult times — One of the biggest blocks to resilience in difficult times is our cultural tendency to avoid, ignore, distract from or repress our more challenging emotions when times get tough. One of our Universal Needs is the need for Emotional Experience and Expression, which focuses on our need to experience and express the full spectrum of emotions when they are present. But our tendency as a society to avoid the more challenging or difficult emotions means that this need gets consistently compromised, especially when times are tough, and we tend to need it most. So rather than avoiding or resisting anger, sadness, frustration, disappointment, grief, or any other difficult emotion, look for the ways that you can connect to it, feel it and express it in a healthy way, where it doesn’t negatively impact you or those around you. When we learn how to do this, we stop these emotions from blocking our resilience and our ability to recover quickly when things get difficult. So, for example, when I’m feeling angry, I go to a space where I can be alone for a few minutes and I blast the Fall Out Boy song ‘Thks Fr Th Mmrs.’ I take those few minutes to really feel my anger through that song, and express it by singing (or rather shouting!) the lyrics if I can, punching my fists in the air, stomping my feet and shaking the anger out of my body. It allows me to safely feel my anger, process it and express it out of myself so I’m no longer carrying it, without it needing to negatively impact others in the process, and so preventing it from blocking my resilience.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m pleased to say that I think the movement has already begun with The Universal Needs, because I know from the experience I’ve had with clients all over the world that the more people learn what their needs are, why they are not being consistently met and how to meet them for themselves in the ways that work for them, the better this world will be.
More importantly, if more people understand the difference between selfish, selfless and Selfirst when it comes to taking care of themselves and their needs, that would be a gamechanger! Most of us are familiar with the concept of selfishness, where we take care of ourselves and our needs, at best with a disregard to the impact it has on others, and at worst being willing to sacrifice others’ wellbeing in the process. A lot of us are also familiar with the concept of selflessness, where we take care of others and their needs, at best with a disregard to the impact it has on our own, and at worst being willing to sacrifice our wellbeing in the process.
But what most of us don’t realize is that both of these approaches in life are a response to our own unmet needs. When we look at selfish, this is obvious, our unmet needs are driving the focus on ourselves with a disregard for others. But selfless is a little trickier, because on the surface our actions seem to be about others. But when we understand that our unmet needs will always subconsciously drive our every choice and behavior, we can then realize that even though at a surface level we seem to be focusing on others, in situations where we are being selfless there will always be a hidden (often unconscious) selfish reason for the behavior, in order to meet one or more of our unmet needs.
So, for example, many years ago I ran myself into the ground volunteering for a charity event. I was burning the candle at both ends, and the middle too, and on the surface it appeared like I was doing this for selfless reasons. I was putting myself at a detriment, to prioritize the needs of the charity and the people it helped. But subconsciously I was trying to get DIFFERENT needs met. I wanted the acknowledgement of other people, for people to thank me and tell me what a great job I was doing and what an amazing person I was for working so hard for this organization. On the surface, it looked like I was sacrificing my needs for the needs of others, but in reality, I was sacrificing some of my needs to try to get OTHER needs of mine met.
By far the better approach in life is being Selfirst, which is to prioritize the meeting of our own needs (because as adults meeting our needs is our responsibility) at the minimum in ways that do not negatively affect other people and their needs, and sometimes in ways that actually benefit other people and their needs. This way we are not only taking care of ourselves and our needs, but we are doing it in a way that is sustainable and supportive to ourselves, our loved ones and our wider communities. If we could see the Selfirst movement start to spread around the world, I can only imagine the incredible difference it would make to peoples’ lives.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with Brené Brown because her work was not only important and transformational for me on my own journey, but actually helped inform two crucial needs in The Universal Needs tree as I was developing the model and methodology. I would love to thank her for her work, and for the ways in which it shaped and informed my own.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can find me in a number of places! They can visit my website: https://theuniversalneeds.com/, Find me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheUniversalNeeds, Twitter: https://twitter.com/universalneeds, Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theuniversalneeds/, Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoyLFobMUaJiJuNzy_nsT7Q, and even now listen to our podcast here: https://anchor.fm/the-universal-needs
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thank you for having me, I really enjoyed it!