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Wednesday, May 07th, 2014 | Author:

Ask for what you need.


That was a mantra repeated again and again at Onsite when I was there a year ago this week.

Onsite is an intensive therapy workshop in Tennessee, and it was the setting for the most significant week of my life to date. I heard about it first from Donald Miller at the Storyline Conference (he also mentions it in the Storyline book).

“My assistant has been with me for 10 years, and Onsite was such a significant experience for me that she refers to me as pre-Onsite and post-Onsite,” Don said. “I didn’t even know how broken I was until I went and started to look at what it would be to get healed.”


I was in a place where I thought I knew exactly how broken I was — decimated was a term i used a lot. Turns out, I didn’t even know the depth of the broken places.


This small place in the country in Tennessee became holy ground for me as I waded through the most painful pieces of my life. As I grieved. As I found acceptance for truths I couldn’t see or stomach previously.


But, though it wasn’t the main theme of the week by any means, the underlying words that were breathed again and again just for the health and safety of everyone were, “Ask for what you need.”


And this has been a revolutionary thought, not just for me, but for me to articulate with the people I do life with.


It’s come out in my nuclear family’s dynamics. In my friendships. In my jobs.


I ask for what I need up front, instead of waiting until later when my needs haven’t been met to address it. And I encourage others to do the same.


Sometimes it’s about the temperature of the air conditioner in the car.

Sometimes it’s about expectations about traveling with a friend. Sometimes it’s “I need to share my story with you,” or “I need for you to not put a positive spin on everything.” Or sometimes, it’s the really painful stuff: “I need you out of my life,” or “I need you to be there for me in ways that you haven’t ever been there before.”


What happens is that those conversations change from being painful or awkward confrontations where someone has been let down, to being pre-emptive and healthy, and direct. (Because our relationships continue from places of hurt and dissapointment, though, there may still be some pain in these conversations. But as you practice this more, the points of pain decrease in frequency in my experience.)


The trick is, to do so, you have to know what you need. It takes self-examination, and taking the responsibility on yourself to know your needs, instead of expecting others to fulfill the needs that you may not have even been able to articulate to yourself.


I’m sure I’ll write more about Onsite throughout the months and years to come as it was so formational for me. But this week, as I am one year out, this is something that came to mind and into my conversations last night, and it’s been a part of my new rhythm of life in this past year.


It’s not easy to examine myself and figure out what I need, but it’s healthy, and it helps me have more realistic expectations of other people, and helps me communicate my needs directly. Sometimes, I can say “I need ___” and the person knows right there and then that they’re not going to be able to meet that need. And while that may be hard/sad/disappointing, it’s healthy. It gives us all the freedom to say what we need, and say what we can offer to others before the hurt and disappointments leaving us feeling in a lurch.


So the question is: What do you need?


Once you practice knowing your needs, practice asking for them. It may be intimidating for us at first, but I have seen significant amounts of health flourish into my relationships as we’ve started to use this honest, self-responsible, direct approach.  I invite you to try it, too. Feel free to share your thoughts/questions/and stories of how it goes.


If you’re interested in Onsite, I cannot say enough about the impact it had on my journey. If you feel stuck, or at rock bottom, or hopeless, or you just are interested in being the healthiest version of you, I would personally recommend their workshops. They have a variety of types and lengths of workshops. I was told before hand by a therapist not affiliated with them that it would be like a year or two of therapy in a week. For me, it was. https://www.onsiteworkshops.com/

Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

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