We all have basic needs—not merely desires, but profound needs we seek to fulfill daily. These needs underlie and inspire every choice we make. They are universal within every individual. As humans, our strongest drive is our desire for fulfillment. We all share a need to experience a life of meaning and purpose.
Many people, unfortunately, meet their human needs through unhealthy and unsustainable habits, leading to feelings of frustration, anxiety, stress, and even depression. The key to profound and rapid change lies in our ability to recognize and manage these needs, as they are the motivation and driving force behind all our behaviors.
The Six Human Needs provide a practical key for discovering one’s needs, behaviors, values, and beliefs and the vehicles we use to meet our needs. These needs assist in uncovering what prevents someone from being happy and fulfilled.
We all have 1 or 2 top needs that will shape and drive the direction of your life.
Here are a breakdown and explanation of each need.
The first four needs are the needs of the personality or achievement – the remaining two are the needs of the Spirit.
The first four are the needs of the personality or achievement and are:
1. Certainty: A guaranteed outcome that will evoke a move away from pain or toward pleasure. It’s our need to feel in control and to know what’s coming next so we can feel secure. It’s the need for basic comfort, the need to avoid pain and stress, and also to create pleasure. Our need for certainty is a survival mechanism. It affects how much risk we’re willing to take in life—in our jobs, in our investments, and in our relationships. The higher the need for certainty, the less risk you’ll be willing to take or emotionally bear. By the way, this is where your real “risk tolerance” comes from.
- Healthy activities – getting a higher education for better pay or job security. Getting a job with security benefits such as a pension, health insurance. Also, being strict or evoking control over someone or situation (right or wrong) is a form of getting certain about an outcome.
- Unhealthy activities – hoarding practices, hanging onto a bad relationship, any bad unsustainable addiction/habit (drugs/alcohol/sex) will also fulfill the certainty need. Also, by avoiding challenges or procrastination will also meet this need.
2. Uncertainty/Variety: the desire for constant change, stimulation; excitement, challenge, chaos. Do you like surprises? If you answered “yes,” you’re kidding yourself! You like the surprises you want. The ones you don’t want, you call problems! But you still need them to put some muscle into your life. You can’t grow muscle—or character—unless you have something to push back against. The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can tolerate.
- Health activities – Exploring new things, finding a new interest or hobby. Traveling to new places instead of going to the same place every year (which fills certainty need). We are also compelled to take risks, try new foods and look for new experiences.
- Unhealthy activities – Taking on habits that tend to change how they feel, doing drugs, drinking habits, engaging in extramarital affairs. They will also fill this need through drama with others and they themselves will experience personal problems which are part of that drama.
Certainty and variety are paradoxes to each other. If there is an imbalance in one you will experience a want for the other.
3. Significance: the feeling of being important, seen as unique – an individual; feeling special, pride or worthy. We all need it. How we create significance in our lives is the difference. You can get significance by creating bigger problems than anyone else. or by being more or pretending to be more than others. You can get it in a positive way or a negative way.
- Healthy activities – Search for meaning in life events, being the best in something. For some, it’s taking on meaningful work or being in a career that society tends to honor.
- Unhealthy activities – Activites much like the opposite of healthy activities. Being the worst at something, or have the worse life ever. Activities like drawing a gun on someone, destroying or bullying someone will also meet this need in an unhealthy way.
4. Connection/Love: a relationship or strong feeling with another person; approval, intimacy. Love is what we all want and need most. When we love completely we feel alive, but when we lose love, the pain is so great that most people will settle on a connection. You can get that sense of connection or love through intimacy, or friendship, or prayer, or walking in nature.
- Healthy activities – Joining social groups/clubs, while others may feel the connection by being at home with their spouse and family. We can also fill this need by being with supportive and non-judgemental family members or groups/associations.
- Unhealthy activities – Connection through dominance. Also by having unmanageable problems that require the attention of others, particularly of loved ones.
Significance and love/connection are also paradoxes and too much gaining one over the other will cause a loss of the other.
The final two needs are those of the Spirit and are:
5. Growth: knowledge seeking, a path of self-discovery, expansion; spiritual expansion. You know the old saying; if you’re not growing, your dying. Look at the areas of your life. Are your relationships, business or you growing? If they are not, you are not going to experience real fulfillment. We grow to give value to others.
Think of ways that this might be filled through an unhealthy path?
6. Contribution: a strong sense of service and supporting others; protect & serve. The secret of living is giving. Volunteering, donating time and money. Life was never about you. It has always been “we” and that very fact is that we need each other. To create real meaning in your life is to give of yourself beyond yourself.
Are there negative unhealthy aspects when trying to fill our need to contribute?
Growth and contribution provide the framework for fulfillment and happiness in our lives. Everything either grows or dies and contributes in some way. We learn that when we remove something and break the connection. Nature is the perfect place to observe this. (For an interesting example: “How the reintroduction of wolves, saved Yellowstone.”)
I have personally seen with myself and with others, how these needs do shape our lives and particularly in relationships.
With a deeper understanding and knowledge base, coaching will enable you to tweak and adjust accordingly to transform you towards a more authentic life with emotional freedom and greater well-being.
There is no obligation, no signing up to anything. Cloe Madanes, who developed the test has made this available to anyone.
Once you have completed the test and have your results, why not set up a complimentary coaching session to explore deeper into those results.
By understanding your highest human needs, you will know the “why” in those decisions that you make. Knowing why or discovering repeated patterns is the first step and the key step in shifting your paradigms.