The 6 Human Needs

Thankfully, all human beings share the same 6 basic human needs.

These needs underlie all the choices we make in our lives and drive behaviour.  They are basic and profound needs, not desires, which motivate every choice we make.

The key to understanding and changing behaviour lies in our ability to grasp these human needs. When we understand these, many of our problems can be resolved simply by clarifying our beliefs, values and purpose. Problems are solved most effectively as a result of a person’s growth, responsibility and mastery of his/her emotions, needs, decisions and purpose.

These can be used to understand an individual, a couple or a group.  They can be used to identify what people want or need and what is preventing them from being happy. They allow us to determine what strategies will be most effective in promoting human change, progress and fulfilment.

The first 4 needs are fundamental needs of the personality and everyone must feel they have met them at some level, even if they have to lie to themselves to do so.

The last 2 are essential to a sense of fulfilment and happiness. These are the needs of the spirit and not everyone finds way to satisfy them … although they are necessary for a life of lasting fulfilment.

So, what are they?

1. The first need is for certainty.
We want to feel safe, avoid pain and feel comfortable in our environment and our relationships. Some code words for certainty are comfort, security, safety, stability, feeling grounded, predictability and protection.

Every individual needs to have some sense of certainty and security – a roof over one’s head, knowing where the next meal will come from, knowing how to obtain care when one is sick, knowing that a neighbour won’t attack us.  These are just a few examples of what constitutes a basic sense of certainty.

Even though some certainty is necessary to all of us, the degree to which certainty is needed or desired varies from person to person. Some people feel secure living in one room and collecting an unemployment check. Others can feel certainty only if they make a million dollars each year.

2. The second need is for uncertainty.
A need for variety and challenges that exercise our emotional and physical range. Everyone needs some variety in life.

Our bodies, our minds, our emotional well-being all require uncertainty, exercise, suspense and surprise. Just as a sense of security is reassuring, so the excitement that comes from variety is necessary to feel alive.

People express this need for variety / uncertainty by sometimes using words like change, thrill, entertainment, surprise, suspense, exertion, fear, instability, crisis or conflict.

For some; variety may be satisfied by watching the news on television; others may seek extreme high-risk activities such as extreme sports.

3. The third need is for significance.
Every person needs to feel important, needed, wanted. Significance comes from comparing ourselves to others – in our quest for significance, we are always involved in questions of superiority and inferiority.

We can feel significant because we have achieved something, built something, succeeded at something, or we can seek significance by tearing down something or somebody.

In its positive aspect, significance leads us to raise our standards. But if we are overly focused on significance, we will have trouble truly connecting with others – comparisons focus on differences rather than commonalities.

For some, significance comes from providing for the family; for others, from doing meaningful work; some need to make a major contribution to the community; some require considerable wealth. Some people achieve a sense of significance by failure, by being the worst at something, or by having low self-esteem.

Whatever the measure of significance, a sense of being important is necessary to all human beings. Other words for significance are: pride, importance, standards, achievement, performance, perfection, evaluation, discipline, competition, respect, and rejection.

4. The fourth need is for the experience of love and connection.
Who can live without this? We all need connection with other human beings and everyone strives for and hopes for love.

An infant needs to be loved and cared for during a long period of time if it is to develop normally.  Infants who are not held and touched will die.

This need for love continues throughout our lives.  It is epitomized by the concept of romantic love, the one person who will devote their life to us and make us feel complete.

In some cultures, romantic love doesn’t exist; it’s replaced by the love of relatives, friends and tribe. Some people rarely experience love, but they have many ways of feeling connection with others – in the community or in the workplace.

The need to be loved is characteristic of all human beings. Some code words for love/connection are: togetherness, passion, unity, warmth, tenderness and desire.

5. The fifth need is for growth.
When we stop growing, we die. We need to constantly develop emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. We need to learn, self-improve. To study and go beyond our current understanding.

We grow and change physically as we develop from infancy to adulthood and old age.  We grow and change emotionally with every experience, and we grow intellectually as we respond to events and to the world around us.

Anything that you want to remain in your life – your money, your health, your relationship, your happiness, love – must be cultivated, developed, expanded.  Otherwise, it will degenerate.

Some people satisfy the need to grow by working out physically or by reading a book.  Others need to study and learn constantly in order to feel that they are truly growing.

6. The sixth need is for contribution – to go beyond our own needs and to give to others. A life is incomplete without the sense that one is making a contribution to others or to a cause. It is in the nature of human beings to want to give back, to leave a mark on the world.

Giving to others may mean giving time to community service, making a charitable donation, planting trees, or giving to one’s children.

Not only can everyone contribute in some way, but contribution is essential to a sense of fulfilment and to happiness. Some code words for contribution are: giving, sharing, helping, supporting, guiding, teaching and making a difference.

Now that you know...
You will be able to see these needs everywhere, and you'll begin to be able to use these to further affect change.

If you'd like to learn more about how to improve your happiness, well-being or relationships through managing these human needs, contact me for a coffee. We can have a chat and see if I can help you.

— Gwen Meyer

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