3 Core Wants: Approval, Control, and Security



“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” — Philip Pullman

Conscious leaders regularly ask themselves, “What is the core want driving this desire?”

A want is something you desire or wish for.

Our core wants are approval, control, and security.

When you know what’s driving a surface level desire, you can be more effective at helping people get what they really want, including yourself.

Knowing what you really want gives you more freedom and flexibility.  When you are no longer stuck or distracted by the means, you increase your options to achieve the end in mind.

In The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, authors Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, and Kaley Warner Klemp remind us that Conscious leaders regularly ask themselves, “What is the core want driving this (surface) desire?” so they can respond more effectively.


Our want for security comes from a deep desire to survive.  It’s baked in to our bodies.

Via The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership:

“The wanting of security is the most basic of the core desires.  At its root, wanting security is wanting to survive. 

Another word for security is safety. 

Most of us believe we are a separate self that has a beginning and an end (birth and death), and therefore we do everything we can to make sure this separate self survives. 

We want to survive physically, to live and not to die.  From this deepest want for physical survival comes the desire for security

We want financial security, occupational security, material security, relational security.  This wanting of security, survival, and safety is core to every human being.”


Approval is the desire to belong.  We’re social creatures. 

Again, it’s part of our survival instinct.

Via The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership:

“The second core want is approval.  Approval is the desire to be loved, liked, wanted, valued, appreciated, respected, to belong, and to be part of something. 

The desire for approval comes from the desire to survive.  Quite simply, at its most evolutionary core, if others approve of me they won’t kill me. 

Since survival is my deepest desire then my strategy for survival is to gain approval.”


Control is a way to gain security.  When approval doesn’t work, control steps in.

Via The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership:

“The third core want is control.  If I can’t gain security through approval then I’ll get it through control. 

If I can’t earn your approval, then I’ll try to control you and life

Wanting control is trying to make sure that everything in life goes the way I want.  I try to control myself, people, circumstances, God, and everything else. 

I invest significant energy in my control plan.”

Examples of Approval, Control, and Security

Dethmer, Chapman, and  Klemp share some simple examples to help us relate to how the core wants show up in our every day wishes and desires.

I want this fund launched this year.

  • I need a three-year track record, which determines my success in this industry (Security.)
  • I want to know that when I ask departments to do something, they do it–I want to control the behaviors of the team members in my organization (Control)
  • I want Wall Street to respect me (Approval)

I want my kid to succeed in school.

  • I’m concerned for my child’s security, and therefore mine if she can’t take care of herself (Security).
  • What will other people think of me (Approval).
  • I want to limit my child’s suffering, and my suffering if she doesn’t succeed (Control)

I want to be fit.

  • I don’t want to die early (Security).
  • I want to look good (Approval).
  • I want to control what I eat and how much my body moves (Control).

Do you know what’s driving your thoughts, your feelings, and behaviors?

Maybe there’s a simpler or more effective way to address what’s going on underneath.

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