Everything that you do is consciously or unconsciously driven by one of 6 human needs. These needs motivate and inspire us to take action in positive ways. However, when some of these needs are not met consistently, your mind will unconsciously find ways to satisfy these needs. How your mind does this is not always good for you and can lead to addictions.
Tony Robbins identified these 6 human needs and how they are behind everything that we do. If you have a behavior that you can’t seem to stop, then it is likely that one of these 6 human needs is behind it.
Let’s get into these 6 human needs right now, so that you understand why you do what you do.
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The Top 6 Human Needs Explained
I’ll start by covering the first 4 needs as these are essential to life. You will always take action in ways that fulfill these needs.
1. The Need for Certainty
Everyone craves a need for certainty, safety, security, stability, comfort, control, predictability, and consistency. We like to know what is coming next so we can prepare ourselves accordingly.
We like to seek comfort and avoid the pain of not knowing what is coming next. This need also affects your tolerance for risk. The higher your need for certainty, the fewer risks you’re willing to take. You’ll take fewer risks regarding your career, relationships, investment opportunities or health.
To meet the need for certainty, you might prioritize financial security over other things in life. You may choose to watch the same movie multiple times because you know the plot and this gives you a sense of certainty. You might choose the same holiday destination and stay at the same hotel or apartment.
Other ways to meet the need for certainty include working for the same company for many years or staying with the same partner for life.
The need for certainty can also be met in negative ways. These include eating or drinking excessively, smoking, taking recreational drugs or trying to control other people to achieve an emotional need.
You might enjoy the predictability of a dysfunctional relationship or toxic work environment, even though you know its not good for you in the long term.
2. The Need for Uncertainty
This is the need for surprise, variety, challenge, excitement, adventure, change, and even chaos. It’s the complete opposite of the first need.
Do you like surprises? – I’m guessing the answer is “yes”
We love surprises, but only if they are positive and make us feel good. However, what if the surprise is a problem or unexpected challenge? What if it’s an upset, something you didn’t expect or want in your life? That changes things a little, right?
Unexpected challenges are useful and important too. They stretch you, grow your character and develop mental toughness.
Positive or neutral ways to meet the need for uncertainty include watching or playing competitive sports. Why? because we don’t know what the outcome will be.
The need for uncertainty could also be achieved by taking calculated risks towards your goals in life or by taking part in adrenaline sports.
Ultimately, you could meet this need by going on exciting trips or holidays. You may enjoy visiting various regions of the world, staying in different places and connecting with a wide variety of people.
The need for certainty and uncertainty are related. They work as a continuum. If you have too much certainty in your life, you feel bored and begin to desire variety. If you have too much variety or change in your life, this creates additional stress and worry. You then crave security and certainty.
Find the balance between certainty and uncertainty that works best for you. Know that this will change as you go through life as well.
3. The Need for Significance
This is the need for significance, meaning & pride. It is about feeling important and valued for who you are, and for what you’re bringing to society. We all want to feel loved, needed and significant.
Positive and neutral ways to achieve this need include academic achievements such as masters’ degrees and PhDs. It might involve climbing the corporate ladder to get to an executive position in a big corporation or becoming a highly successful musician, painter or athlete.
Some people meet the need for significance by volunteering or helping others, while others get it by making more money or through their spiritual life.
Negative ways to achieve significance include having more problems than anyone else!. If you have a lot of problems in your life and you always talk about them, this could be an unconscious way to meet your need for significance.
You can feel significant by putting other people down, gaining an unfair advantage or hurting other people. People can become bullies or rebellious to achieve their need for significance.
Of all the human needs, I feel that the need for significance is a fundamental reason behind many negative and harmful behaviors. It’s a powerful need for many people.
4. The Need for Love and Connection
This fourth human need is for communication, approval, and attachment. It’s about feeling connected with other people on an intimate level and loved by other human beings. Achieving this need can have some downsides. It might involve overcoming a fear of rejection or learning how to handle criticism from others.
Also, when you achieve this need, you might settle down, which makes life very predictable and certain. You then start to crave a little uncertainty and excitement!
Positive ways to meet this need include dating, intimacy, finding the perfect partner or getting married. However, you can also meet this need by joining clubs, social media groups, going to parties, hanging out with friends and interacting with new people on a social level. Walking in nature, even by yourself is also a great way to fulfill this need for love and connection.
If all else fails, get a pet! I know of several people that haven’t yet found their perfect partners, so they have a dog, cat or other pet instead. This helps them fulfill their need for love and connection.
Negative ways of meeting this need include joining a gang or a cult, settling for an average or even a codependent relationship. Perhaps, you’ve been heartbroken in the past, so you settle for an average relationship (or even stay single), so you don’t get hurt again in the future.
The need for significance and the need for love & connection are also a continuum. If you have too much significance in your life, you’ll often notice a lack of connection. This is a reason why certain celebrities become depressed, anxious and lonely. They over-emphasized significance and are now lonely and in need of love and connection.
Too much love and connection, especially in an intimate relationship can reduce your sense of identity as an individual. You’ll no longer feel important as an person. That’s when begin to value significance more than love & connection. So it’s important to strike a balance, so that you feel both significant and loved.
The Last 2 Needs
The 4 human needs that I have covered above are essential for life. We will always do things to meet our need for certainty, uncertainty, significance, and connection. As you can see, you can achieve these in a positive or negative way.
The last two human needs are less important. You can have a relatively good life without striving to achieve these two. They are called “spirit needs” and are essential for achieving happiness and fulfillment. Not everyone will achieve these, but those that do will feel truly fulfilled in life.
5. The Need for Growth
This is the need for the constant development of your intellect, body, spirit, and emotions. As the saying goes, “if you’re not growing, you’re dying“. This is about growing in all areas of life, including your health, relationships, career, finance, wisdom and spirituality.
6. The Need for Contribution
This is a need to get beyond ourselves, to care, protect, and serve other people. The idea around this need is that “it’s not about me, it’s about we“.
Have you ever received some good & exciting news? What’s the first thing you do? You probably share it with someone else. We like to share good and exciting things with other people.
This human need is not about what you get, but about who you become. Contributing makes you happy in the long term. Giving and helping other people is the key to unlocking the feelings of happiness and fulfillment.
These are the 6 most basic human needs as identified by Tony Robbins. Let’s do a quick recap.
The first one is the need for certainty. The second one is the need for uncertainty. The third one is the need for significance, the fourth is love & connection. The final two needs are growth and contribution.
I encourage you to look at your life and discover how you can meet these needs in positive or neutral ways. You are the master of your life. You can dramatically improve your life by leveraging the true power of these needs and by meeting them using positive means.
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