Feb. 21, 2019

Basic Desires and coaching

Notes from the Agile Finland Coaching Circle of January 2019

Agile Finland, our local association in Finland on all things agile, organizes regular Coaching Circle events that gather people together interested in agile and coaching. Sessions open with an introduction to a specific topic/methodology and then are followed with a practical exercise on that topic/methodology. We learn new things and practice coaching in a safe to fail environment. The group discusses real problems so that the exercises are as close to reality as possible. Things discussed in the exercises are handled confidentially. Another huge benefit of these gatherings is Networking with like minded people.

AF coaching circle 21.01.2019


In the January event, which took place on Monday 21.01.2019, I co-hosted the gathering in Helsinki where we addressed the topic of basic desires. Surprisingly this topic attracted many people and the attendance was quite good. Ari Tanninen from Zulia facilitated the session in his own enjoyable way with a good mix of new information, humor and personal insights.

The concept of basic desires is based on the book “Who am I?” by Steven Reiss. Steven Reiss has been researching the motivation of people and written a number of books on the topic. Reiss, together with Susan Haverkamp, made an extensive study by asking several thousands of people about what drives and motivates them.They concluded that there are 16 basic desires that people need to have fulfilled. While people are not all the same they still have these basic desires. Different people just have different levels of intensity for each desire. For example one might desire food more, another might desire beauty more, but all desire eating and enjoying beauty.

The basic desires are:

  • Power - the desire to influence others
  • Independence - the desire for self-reliance
  • Curiosity - the desire for knowledge
  • Acceptance - the desire for inclusion
  • Order - the desire for organisation
  • Saving - the desire to collect things
  • Honor - the desire to be loyal to one’s parents & heritage
  • Idealism - the desire for social justice
  • Social Contact - the desire for companionship
  • Family - the desire to raise one’s own children
  • Status - the desire for social standing
  • Vengeance & winning - the desire to get even
  • Romance & Aesthetics - the desire for sex & beauty
  • Eating - the desire to consume food
  • Physical activity - the desire for exercise of muscles
  • Tranquility - the desire for emotional calm


Fulfilling the basic desires at the correct intensity level makes the life meaningful. Different intensity levels make some desires more important (high level) than others (low level).

The following framework from Reiss shows how to improve the quality of life:

  1. Identify the basic desires important to you
  2. Evaluate how well each is fulfilled in your life
  3. If it is unsatisfied is it too much or not enough?
  4. Make a plan on how to adjust the levels

After this basic background introduction by Ari we went into practice. Each participant made their own basic desire profile. Ari showed a list of statements for each basic desire in two groups, one for high intensity need and one for low intensity. The participant could then classify the basic desire as important, average or less important for himself, depending on which group there was a best fit on the statements and himself.

We then reflected on our lives at the moment and judged which basic desires were more or less important, if we should increase or reduce the intensity, and then think of actions to adjust accordingly.

According to Reiss desires are unchangeable but one can adjust the intensity. This affects how we see the world and how well we understand other people. When people have no common desires it is hard to get to a common ground and develop deeper relationships.

As time ran out we ended with a discussion of how to utilise this model. This tool could improve personal relationships, situations at work, etc. For example in a team the basic desires could help open up the personalities of people and get to know each other better. A plan can be done so that the team overall gets the desires fulfillment increased. A coach can facilitate this exercise for the team.

While Ari runs a full workshop on this approach, an agile coach could utilise it at work to identify motivations and help teams or individuals improve. Why don’t you ask a coach from agile42 to help your team?

We ended with some mingling and cleaning up the location. Thanks to Gofore for sponsoring the location and the snacks, to Salum Abdul-Rahman for helping organise the event, and to Ari for facilitating.

If you are interested you should join one of our future events that are organised each month. For notifications when they’ll be join up at https://www.meetup.com/Agile-Finland-Helsinki-Coaching-Circle/.

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Pascal Papathemelis

Pascal has worked as an agile project manager/scrum master/facilitator of various developments in size and type for almost two decades. His focus is on people and practical approaches in order to deliver value. Currently Pascal is working at agile42 as an agile coach on a journey to help organisations and individuals grow, improve and become more efficient in a sustainable way.
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Image of pascal

Pascal Papathemelis

Pascal has worked as an agile project manager/scrum master/facilitator of various developments in size and type for almost two decades. His focus is on people and practical approaches in order to deliver value. Currently Pascal is working at agile42 as an agile coach on a journey to help organisations and individuals grow, improve and become more efficient in a sustainable way.

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