What are the Six Basic Human Needs?
Every day we make decisions and take actions in our life based on what we think, feel and believe is most important. While we may not always be consciously aware of why we make the decisions that we do, the truth is that each of us have our own unique filters of perception that naturally rank certain decisions and actions higher than others. It’s fascinating to consider that while we currently have over 7 billion versions of reality unfolding each day on the planet, that each of us share a core set of Human Needs which guide and motivate our decisions and actions.
The Six Human Needs
The Six Human Needs were originally introduced by Anthony Robbins, who has cultivated a life long fascination with human behaviour, development and motivation. Merging his studies with Neural Linguistic Programming, Cognitive Therapy, Gestalt Therapy and many other models of thought along with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Robbins developed a dynamic way of exploring what he believed to be the six core psychological “needs” that each of us constantly works to satisfy on a mostly unconscious level.
According to Robbins, these Six Human Needs influence our deepest motivations and determine how we go about prioritising our decisions and actions throughout our life. Similar to our modern Chakra system, our Six Human Needs move in ascending order, from a more personality and material level, into our connectivity, interaction and energetic influence in the world. We each have different phases and areas of our life where our focus and prioritised need may be different, and in truth each need serves a vital part of creating a life that is whole and fulfilling at all levels. Let’s take a closer look now at the Six Human Needs.
The need for safety, security, comfort, order, consistency, control
At a basic level, each of us has a need to satisfy a core sense of stability in the world. At a very primal level, satisfying the need for certainty helps guarantee the continuation of our DNA. We do what we need to claim Certainty by covering the basics, doing the work that is needed, paying our bills, securing the roof above our head, staying safe in our endeavours and relationships.
We all have a need to satisfy a core sense of stability in the world
The challenge of satisfying this need is that the world and lives of those around us are constantly changing and so sometimes our need for Certainty causes us to put a fence of controls around our life and/or to stay in our comfort zone and resist change (even healthy change). In the positive, fulfilling the human need for Certainty means finding and creating a sense of centeredness and stability within. As the world moves we claim power in taking the time to know who we are, in having faith in the currents of life and trusting that one of the certainties of life is change.
The need for uncertainty, diversity, challenge, change, surprise, adventure
Just as we each need to experience a sense of Certainty in the world, there are times when we must also break from that which is known, defined and predictable in order to allow ourselves to evolve and become more of who we came here to be. The need for uncertainty, diversity and movement interrupts patterns of predictability and stagnation, allowing us to expand who we are and experience ourselves in motion. Of course, there is risk in letting go of that which is certain and known, but when we let go of “needing to know”, we enter a realm of possibility that is not bound by past experience.
In life, our efforts to satisfy the need for Variety can be taken to extremes when our primary driver is constant change (in location, relationship, job, etc.) and while there may be times when feasting at the full buffet of diversity is exactly what we need, over time, satisfying the need for Variety by changing our external surroundings alone, can prevent us from fully engaging with life right where we are.
In the positive, Variety comes in a balanced approach that allows us to move dynamically in our outer and inner landscapes – allowing change when change is needed, starting with ourselves. When we create a genuine shift within, that which needs to change on the outside will do so naturally (often without needing to move to another country or leave one job or relationship in order to discover similar challenges in the next).
These first two Human Needs (Certainty and Variety) work as polarities with each other – seemingly opposing forces that together make a whole. When we are out of balance with one (i.e. so Certain that we are bored) it is often the other (i.e. a dose of something new) that brings us back into balance.
The need for meaning, validation, feeling needed, honoured, wanted, special
As we balance the forces of Certainty and Variety in our life and step out into the world, the next Human Need is to be seen and validated for who we are and what we do. The need for Significance tells us that we do not exist in isolation but as part of a greater whole, and to be an effective part of that whole we need to know that we are playing our part – and being honoured for that expression. Satisfying our need for Significance is part of creating our sense of identity in the world and for those who follow the Chakra system, this need can be aligned with our Solar Plexus and the experience/expression of the Self.
The challenge with fulfilling this need is when we become solely dependent on input and approval from others in order to feel complete within ourselves (a big challenge for teens). Or if we have a single source of Significance that is far more powerful than other aspects of our life (i.e. a job or career), that source can become an addiction causing us to lose perspective and limit the depth of our relationships in other areas. In the positive, our need for Significance is fulfilled by a humble sense of internal acknowledgement for following our own path of integrity and expression in the world and by doing so in ways that are life-force giving to ourselves and those around us.
4. Love and Connection
The need for connection, communication, intimacy and shared love with others
We each have a need to love and be loved by others. We each have a need to belong.
Central to our experience of fulfilment in life is to authentically love and make deep connections with other living beings. While fulfilling our need for Significance may temporarily fill our own cup, exchanging genuine Love and Connection with others allows that cup to overflow and pour into the hearts and lives of those we are with. The shift to this Human Need is much like a shift from the Solar Plexus up into the Heart as it takes our energy and focus beyond self-concern into the discovery of power in our depth of communion with others.
As with the previous Human Needs, there are different ways to experience and express our Love and Connection with others – some more healthy and balanced than others. In most cases, the most balanced place to ignite the fulfilment of this Human Need is by taking time to genuinely connect with and love the many aspects of our own being. When we are connected to our Self in the truest sense, this connection naturally aligns with and permeates out to genuine Connection and Love others.
The first four Human Needs are often referred to as “personality needs” as they are centred around our individual quest for self-fulfilment and achievement in a worldly sense. In Human Needs Psychology, the final two needs are defined as “Needs of the Spirit” as they provide doorways to our deeper sense of true happiness and fulfilment in life – in both physical and non-physical realms.
The need for physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual development
One thing that is true of every living thing on Earth is that in order to survive, in order to thrive, we must grow. Whether we are talking about a micro-organism, a relationship or creative endeavour, that which ceases to grow, ultimately stagnates and dies. The Human Need of Growth both relies on and feeds the first four Human Needs, breathing life into all areas of our existence. As with all Human Needs, the need for Growth can also be taken to out-of-balance extremes.
Growing and expanding can be so fulfilling in its own right that sometimes our quest to fulfil this need causes us to limit ourselves from being fully present in life as it is, or postpone applying our growth and knowledge in the world for fear of not being “ready” or “enough”. In the positive, fulfilling our need for Growth comes with an acceptance that Growth is a journey, not a destination, and that continual Growth also means allowing ourselves to be real, to be imperfect and to find authentic ways to share what we discover and learn with others.
The need to give, care, protect beyond ourselves, to serve others and the good of all.
As we ascend to the sixth Human Need we move into the power of living our life’s purpose and bringing real value to the lives of others. Our need for Contribution rises naturally from the positive fulfilment of the other five needs, being expressed in such a way that brings a genuine sense of value to the word.
Contribution comes from a fundamental yearning to have our lives mean something, to make a difference, to give or bring something to the world that continues to benefit others when we are gone. Our need for Contribution can be fulfilled in a massive variety of ways – from launching a foundation or volunteering to support a cause we believe in, to simply pausing from our busy day to smile, hug or help someone in need). The challenge with this Human Need is that once we connect the power of being in genuine service in the world, we can quite quickly become overwhelmed with all of the places, people and animals that are in need of support.
Many people who value the need for Contribution above all others, find it difficult to also contribute and give to themselves. One of the greatest expressions of this need comes when we allow ourselves to realise that Contribution comes not only from what we “do”, but from who we are “being” on a moment to moment basis. When we are empowered to BE our Contribution in the simplest of ways, actions that arise from this place are aligned with who we are and carry great power.
How are you meeting your Six Human Needs?
At different phases of life and personal development, we naturally value different needs for different reasons. In the end, creating a fulfilling, successful and happy life will likely weave a positive balance between all six of these Human Needs.
Here are a few questions to help you gain a sense for how these needs are currently being met (or not) in your life:
- How do the Six Human Needs show up currently in your life?
- If you ranked the Human Needs in order of which gets most of your focus what would be at the top of the list?
- Which of the Human Needs are you meeting in positive/life-giving ways and which ones feel out of balance, over-indulged or lacking in your life?
- What’s one Human Need that you could focus on fulfilling in a new way that would be more aligned with who you came here to be and how you want to live your life?
- Is there a seventh of eighth Human Need that you would add to the list? How do you fulfil that?