Caroline Bolderston: Why we stay and why we leave

Most of us know that the grass is usually greener not on the other side, but where you water it. But it can be pretty tricky to decide to stay in a job, or a relationship, if you're not happy. Caroline Bolderston explains the six core needs and three universal fears that must be met and quelled for you to live a congruent lifestyle.

I have long been fascinated by human behaviour, what makes us tick and why we make the decisions we make.

Through my passion for this topic, becoming more aware of myself and observing others both as a sales agent and as a coach, I know three things to be true. 

We are all searching to have our six core needs met, and we are all impacted by three universal fears (no matter how successful we are). We can only truly be happy when we are living congruently and in alignment with our values. 

Most of us have made decisions in our life about staying or leaving – both in personal relationships and in our careers.

Understanding these three models or patterns can benefit us when we are feeling lost, unfulfilled, unmotivated and unhappy in general.

Understanding these patterns can help you to improve your current situation or give you the clarity you need to decide how to move forward in your life.

If you are a leader of people, then this will be useful to understand your team better and can provide direction on what conversations could be had to change the status quo, improve team dynamics and current performance.

Let’s take a broad view of these models and patterns:

  1. Six core needs (developed by Tony Robbins)
  • Certainty (safety, security, consistency) 
  • Uncertainty (variety, challenge, adventure, stimulation)
  • Significance (we matter, we are important, we are of value )
  • Connection (a feeling of closeness to others and belonging)
  • Contribution (a sense of serving, giving and supporting of others)
  • Growth (an expansion of knowledge, capability, understanding)  

Every one of us, whether on an unconscious or conscious level, are constantly looking to have these six needs met. The fact is that if all six needs are met, you will never want to leave.

Conversely, if less than four are met, we start questioning is this right? Are we happy? Is there more with someone or somewhere else?

The most powerful thing about understanding these needs is that you have a chance to identify which needs are not being met in your current work environment or any of your personal relationships.

Once you can identify where the needs are not being met, you have the clarity to have an honest and meaningful conversation with the appropriate person to create an opportunity for change.

Awareness is the first part of the change process, and this alone can be enlightening and freeing. 

2. Three universal fears (theorised by Gregg Braden)

  • Am I good enough?
  • Am I loved?
  • Do I belong? 

The three universal fears are what drive our self-doubt and self-belief.

Every day we are faced with interactions and situations that can have us questioning all three of these. When you are in an environment where you are not supported, included or recognised (the needs of connection, contribution and significance), the universal fears start to take hold.

I have been in situations where, even though I have been performing well and delivering results, these fears started to come to the surface.

Three of my core needs were not being met, and the fears were showing up louder than my colleagues or principal was.

The result was a loss of confidence, which led to lost listings and sales.

It was a troubling and confusing time.

If the environment does not support you, then it is a battle against the universal fears that you will be fighting all on your own.   

3. Values alignment

This pattern trumps them all. You could be in a work environment or relationship where all of your needs are met, and your three universal fears are quiet, but your core values are being challenged.

Our core values are our guiding compass – the standards and boundaries that we consider most important in life.

If we are not living and operating congruently with our core values, we start to feel compromised, and ultimately our integrity becomes threatened.

If we feel we need to behave in a certain way to ‘suck it up’ or just ‘go along’ with the status quo, but it feels wrong and goes against our inner voice, then over time, this starts to destroy our clarity, our motivation, our enthusiasm and our beliefs.

It is completely unsustainable and often leads to toxicity, blame, frustration, illness and a lack of fulfilment.

Being clear on your core values is a vital part of the framework of life and is the internal structure of your being.

As I was writing this and looking back over my career and the workplaces or personal relationships that I left, I can very easily identify from these three patterns exactly what was playing out and why I chose to leave.

I can also identify at the time of writing this why I am in my current career as a coach, in my relationship with my husband, in the friendships that I have, and why I pursue the interests that I do. 

My six core needs are being met, the three universal fears are in check, and I am living in complete alignment with my values.

I feel grateful to understand this and to have been able to use these models to navigate my life to this point.

I am hopeful that at a deeper level, it will resonate and help you too. 

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Caroline Bolderston

Caroline Bolderston heads up Being Bold Coaching and training, which provides coaching and support for Sales Agents, Sales Teams and Principals. For more information visit