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Human Needs Psychology

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Below is an overview of the 6 Human Needs, to find out more about these needs, how you choose to prioritise them and how this impacts on you and others in detail, then sign up below to receive my free e-book! In it I will share how understanding your needs can provide insight into why you have the challenges you do and identifying what you can do differently to promote positive individual and group change.

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Human Needs Psychology is a term created by Tony Robbins and Cloe Madanes to describe a practical inquiry into what motivates us as people. By clarifying our beliefs, values and subsequent emotions and behaviours, many of our problems and challenges can be solved by making strategic decisions and taking specific actions. The goal is to promote rapid, sustainable change and personal growth by increasing our responsibility and mastery of our emotions, needs, decisions and purpose.

While we are all unique as individuals and have unique and individual challenges and problems, we all share the same basic needs that drive our thoughts and behaviours, we just choose to meet them in different ways.

The following are needs, not just desires and are essential to our survival as they underline and motivate every choice we make in all areas of our lives, especially in how we view and treat ourselves and others.

So, what are these needs?

There are six of them:

  • Certainty
  • Variety
  • Love and Connection
  • Significance
  • Growth
  • Contribution

Certainty:

This is what it says on the tin, a need that we can be sure certain things will happen or remain the same and within our control. We want to have feelings of safety, avoid pain, and feel comfortable in our environment and relationships. While we all have the same need in terms of shelter, warmth, food and basic safety, there are then hugely different ways we choose to meet that need. This can range from the certainty of following set rules, values and beliefs from society or religion, needing to always have the same amount of money coming in, the same routine and daily rituals and our expectations of others. For some, the need for certainty can lean into a need to control, either our own emotions and responses or those of others.

Uncertainty/Variety:

The need for things to be different! Variety and challenges that will stretch us emotionally and physically. Surprises, thrills, new experiences. Again, we all are very different in how we meet this need, ranging from the danger and thrill seekers to feeling changing our route home once a week is variety enough or what we have for dinner on a Thursday.

The most common way to meet this need is the changing of our emotions and mental state. Obvious ones include drinking, smoking drugs or out of character behaviours in order to feel different and seek out new emotions/experiences. Or, most common of all, creating and sharing problems. Focusing on problems, either our own or others’ is a great way to add variety to our mental state, especially when it distracts us from facing or dealing with the real cause of any uncertainty or unhappiness we may be feeling.

Significance:

We all need, on some level, to feel we are valued, important and have some sense of appreciation from others. While this need for validation is usually sought from external factors such as from family, partners, bosses and colleagues, the ways we seek this and what makes us feel valued again is hugely variable. Common is the need to feel unique and special in some way and to feel respected.

In some ways significance and certainty are tightly linked as we create rules about what we need in order to feel valued. At our basic human level, we are programmed to compare ourselves to others and make judgements as to how important we are based on how we feel we are treated compared to someone else.

We may seek to feel significant by being the best as something or the worst and may stay stuck in patterns of behaviour that creates a certain desired response from others.

Love and Connection:

Arguably the most important need for everyone but with the key question of what, exactly, has to happen in order to feel the desired amount of love and connection to ourselves and to others?

Again, each one of us is very different in how we meet that need.  A core belief may be that you need to feel love in order to let love flow as without it you feel worthless. It is common to also believe that being needed is the same as being loved. Love is not just referring to romantic love, there are many ways to feel love and love is not always necessary to feel connection.

While prioritising this need can demonstrate much empathy, generosity and willingness to be of service, the danger is in feeling disappointed by not feeling appreciated or fear of disappointing others by not doing or being enough.

Growth:

It would be lovely if we could just sit on a stump and not move or grow at all but sadly this is impossible! By living we grow and change physically year on year, with each stage of life and experience causing emotional growth. Without growth and cultivation, anything we value and want to keep in our lives will wither.

Those who prioritise growth tend to always look for new things to learn, are very self-sufficient and love developing different skills. The downside is they can also lose a sense of connection with others, be quite reclusive and may neglect developing their relationships in any meaningful way.

Contribution:

Of all the needs, if this one is prioritised, the other needs naturally are brought together. Essentially, this is a need to look beyond the self and contribute to something ‘other.’ Again, this can be in many different ways; being a good parent, teacher of member of the community.

Contributing to others, in whatever way we choose to do it, brings a sense of fulfilment and purpose which is essential for our emotional well-being. By contributing we have the certainty we are being of service to others, we experience variety through our experiences, connection to family or wider community and growth through learning from others and our experiences.

If this need is in conflict with significance or love and connection, we may neglect our own well-being to be of service so awareness of this is needed to create balance.