4 Steps to Identifying Your Needs

4 Steps to Identifying Your Needs by Kelley Grimes at Cultivating Peace and Joy

If you don’t know what you want, you’ll never find it.

If you don’t know what you deserve, you’ll always settle for less.

You will wander aimlessly, uncomfortably numb in your comfort zone, wondering how life has ended up here.

~Rob Liano


Many of us spend so much of our time caring for other people’s needs that we lose touch with what we need. Then when we do have an opportunity to take time to nurture ourselves, we don’t know where to begin. Interestingly, many of us are brilliant at recognizing other people’s needs, but are challenged when it comes to identifying our own. Unfortunately, without being able to identify what we need, it is almost impossible to get our needs or wants met.


When we go for a period of time without getting our needs met we become overwhelmed, exhausted, resentful, frustrated, and even depressed.


Learning to identify our own needs then becomes critical for our own health and wellness as well as for the health and wellness of our relationships. Each time we identify and honor our needs we are nurturing ourselves, which is essential to the process of cultivating peace, joy and meaning in our lives.


Here are four steps to identifying what you need:

  1. Start with an intention to be compassionate and non-judgmental toward yourself.
  2. Pause and take a deep breath.
  3. Check in with your body and notice with curiosity how you are feeling.
  4. Ask yourself what do I need right now?


Remember that self-reflection is key to nurturing self-awareness in this nurturing practice. The more aware you are of your needs, the more choices you have available. When you commit to pausing throughout the day to check in with yourself, your feelings, and your needs, you begin to transform your habit of self-neglect and create the foundation of your self-nurturing practice. And all this begins with identifying our needs and pausing to listen to yourself.


When we know what we need, we become clearer about what we want, what we will tolerate, what boundaries we need to set and what direction we want our lives to go. When we connect with ourselves we have the ability to live our most authentic lives, instead of wondering how life has ended up here.


May you cultivate the ability to identify and honor what you need, as you nurture peace in the world from the inside out!

Kelley Grimes

Sending you so much peace, love and gratitude,

Kelley Grimes, M.S.W.
Counselor, Author & Speaker

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Join the discussion 24 Comments

  • Laura says:

    So true. Great post Kelly. Love … “When we go for a period of time without getting our needs met we become overwhelmed, exhausted, resentful, frustrated, and even depressed.”

    Thank you.

    • Thank you so much Laura for your comment! I have personally experienced this challenge and have heard from many clients and friends over the years that when they give more than they have to give their bodies and emotions let them know – if we will only listen!

  • Kathleen says:

    This is essential for living a joyful life! Tuning in to my own needs can be a challenge as I focus so much on the needs to others. I love the practice of checking in with yourself each day. It’s a new habit to build! Thank you, Kelley!

    • It is difficult to pause and check in with ourselves when we are focused on caring for others in our lives Kathleen but it is a practice we can all cultivate. So glad you intend to build it in your life!

  • Appreciating the wisdom of, “Each time we identify and honor our needs we are nurturing ourselves, which is essential to the process of cultivating peace, joy and meaning in our lives.” This is perfectly timed to remember as I lead a group of four women whom I’ve never met to co-create an effective 75-minute panel presentation in Oregon this Spring. Our topic is Writing Medicine at North America’s largest literary event, the American Assoc. of Writers & Writing Programs.
    Now I’ll be ask them how they’d identify their needss for this experience.

    • I am so excited about your panel presentation Lore – Writing Medicine – and know that writing and journaling is another strategy to listen to what we need. I can’t wait to hear all about it! Thank you so much for your comment!

  • Andrea says:

    This reminds me of that wonderful expression about not being able to pour from an empty vessel. Most women I know have experience burning the candle at both ends; I suppose the greatest value of that time is to find out it doesn’t work! Thanks for a good post.

    • I love the metaphors of the empty cup and the candle burning at both ends – both unsustainable and exhausting! When we recognize it is no longer working for us is when we can transform our habit of self-neglect into a beautiful practice of self-nurturing. Thank you so much Andrea!

  • I wish I had read this way back in mid-2017, Kelley, when my health broke down because I was putting others first in my priority list. I did a course correction last year and while I didn’t make it all about me, I made sure that I loved myself as much as I loved others.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me.

  • Ana says:

    For me it goes through phases. I can feel absolutely crystal clear about what I want and then I start working towards that goal and then the want and desire and purpose becomes less and less clear. I am in a very unclear time right now. I constantly check in with my body, emotions, higher self throughout the day and in formal meditation, but nothing is really coming through right now. So I am going to try my best to just be loving and wait.

    • I think it is beautiful that you are listening to yourself Ana. Perhaps you are in a time of incubation or the chrysalis phase of your transformation. Trusting ourselves when things are as clear is deeply nurturing and allowing our process to unfold in its sweet time. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and I am sending you much compassion and love on the journey.

  • As part of my morning rituals, I ask myself “what can I do today to make myself happy?” Sometimes the answers surprise me as something will come up that I didn’t even realize I needed.

  • CK Kochis says:

    Well written, Kelley. It’s so important for us to identify and acknowledge our needs; especially us care-givers. Thanks for the reminding us with your valuable pearls of wisdom.

  • Pamela says:

    Hi Kelley, Some great reminders here. In particular I enjoyed the strategy of “identifying your needs and pausing to listen to yourself” during the day. Also the useful questions regarding “what do I need?” Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

  • These 4 steps are so important Kelley. The first is VIP, “Start with an intention to be compassionate and non-judgmental toward yourself.” People tend to judge themselves from an early age. With time we become more compassionate with ourselves and others. We de-program our self-judgement with age and wisdom. I like the idea of asking ourselves, “What do I need” and truly contemplate and take action on the answers. Boundaries are a key component to being honest with others and living our best life. When we try to please everyone, (I know because I used to be this person) we end up disappointing ourselves most of all.

  • Such an important post! The willingness to stop what I am doing and to go inside to ask what i am needing in any moment is essential for me. It really is a moment-to-moment awareness.

  • Heather says:

    Spot on! So much wisdom & truth in this post. It’s honestly how I’ve felt lately.

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