In this post, we’ll unpack all you need to know about the 6 Human Needs, defining exactly what they are, how they drive our behaviour, how we can leverage them and more.
What Are Human Needs?
Human Needs refer to the fundamental needs that are encoded into out subconscious that every human must satisfy in order to optimise health and ultimately survive.
The 6 Human Needs
All human needs fall under 6 categories: Security, Novelty, Significance, Love & Connection, Growth and Contribution. These needs operate like an internal compass by driving us to pursue experiences that promote survival.
It is important to understand that these are not goals or mere desires, but profound intrinsic needs that underlie and motivate every belief we have, every decision we make and every action we take.
How They Drive Our Behaviour
Everyone meets all 6 Human Needs at some level, consciously or subconsciously. However, most people value one or two needs above the rest, which then become the driving force of that person’s behaviour and shapes their life. If you meet three or more needs you become addicted.
You can determine which needs are the current driving force behind your behaviour by evaluating which needs you instinctively default to during times of stress, fear or difficulty.
All 6 Human Needs can be fulfilled in positive or negative ways ― the question is, are we meeting them in a way that is sustainable? Most people meet their needs in a way that works in the moment ― not long term.
By meeting the needs for Growth and Contribution, you also meet the neds for Certainty, Uncertainty, Significance and Love & Connection.
Unpacking The 6 Human Needs
Below we’ll explore all 6 Human Needs in more detail.
Security refers to the need to avoid pain and the desire to gain pleasure.
We are biologically hardwired to need to feel safe, comfortable and secure ― consistently. This ensures we can pass on our DNA and prolong the survival of our species.
Certainty gives us a sense of control and provides us with the stability we need to fulfil our roles and responsibilities in the world. However, the challenge is that the more we want to control in life, the less we actually do control. When we feel like we lack control, we can feel powerless which can lead to sadness and even depression.
Furthermore, the higher our need for certainty, the less risks we take which can cause us to resist change and stay in our comfort zone.
People who have certainty as their number one need like to keep things the same or know that certain things will be a certain way ― this gives them a feeling of certainty.
Positive examples of satisfying the need for certainty include creating routines, having empowering beliefs, being financially secure, having faith and practicing prayer. Negative examples include food, drugs, alcohol and committing acts of violence.
Novelty refers to the need for the unknown, for surprise and for new stimulation.
We are biologically hardwired to seek out novel experiences. This encouraged our ancient ancestors to explore their environment for “rewards” that enhanced their survival. When we seek out novel experiences our brains release dopamine.
Uncertainty provides us with adventure and makes us feel alive. It allows us to exit the realm of the known and enter the realm of the unknown ― of possibility and opportunity. The more uncertainty we can live with, the more exciting life will be. However, the challenge is that constantly pursuing the next thrill can prevent us from committing to things such as a relationship or a job.
People who have uncertainty as their number one need like change and taking risks.
Positive examples of satisfying this need are through learning new things, engaging in new activities, taking risks, embracing challenges and growing. Negative examples include constantly changing relationships or jobs, food, drugs, alcohol and committing acts of violence.
Significance refers to the need to feel seen, special and wanted.
We are biologically hardwired to feel validated and appreciated for who we are and what we do. When we feel valued, our brains release dopamine.
Significance gives us a sense of purpose, identity and importance and makes us feel unique. However, the challenge is when our self-esteem and ability to feel whole and complete within ourselves becomes solely dependant on other people.
People who have significance as their number one need like to be recognised.
Positive examples of satisfying this need include mastering a particular skill, working hard, providing, succeeding, achieving and contributing. Negative examples include tearing down others mentally or physically, committing acts of violence and having a problem.
Love & Connection
Love & Connection refers to the need to feel loved and to form bonds with others.
We are social animals and therefore we are hardwired to establish relationships and seek genuine connection. When we connect with others, our brains release dopamine and oxytocin.
Love & Connection gives us a sense of intense joy and belonging. However, the challenge is that by focusing too much on everyone else’s needs we tend to neglect our own in the process.
People who have Love & Connection as their number one need like deep, meaningful and fulfilling relationships.
Positive examples of satisfying this need include building relationships, intimacy, practicing prayer and being out in nature. Negative examples include food, drugs, alcohol, committing acts of violence and having a problem.
Growth refers to the need to keep developing ourselves mentally, physically and spiritually.
We are biologically hardwired to set and move towards goals. The purpose of goals however is not to get, it’s to grow. It’s about the journey, not the destination. When we learn new things, accumulate new knowledge and make progress towards our goals, our brains release dopamine.
Growth gives us a sense of purpose and fulfilment. However, the challenge is that a constant need to keep growing can cause us not to be fully present. This makes it difficult to appreciate and live in the moment. It can also prevent us from taking the time to recognise our achievements.
People who value growth as their number one need constantly strive to be, do and have more.
Positive examples of satisfying this need include studying, reading, solving problems and taking on challenges. Negative examples include becoming a tyrant.
Contribution refers to the need to help and add value to others.
As mentioned earlier, we are social animals and so we are hardwired to be altruistic and sensitive to others. When we give to others, our brains release oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine.
Contribution makes us feel like we are making a difference in the world. It therefore gives us meaning and a sense of purpose and fulfilment. However, the challenge is that we may neglect our own needs and the needs of those closest to us.
People who value contribution as their number one need like to serve.
When you satisfy the need for contribution, you simultaneously satisfy the other five needs; certainty of being able to contribute, variety in the different ways you can contribute, significance in knowing you have contributed, love and connection with who you have contributed to and growth in evolving your spirit.
Positive examples of satisfying this need include helping local communities, setting up a charity, volunteering. Negative examples include losing site that giving begins at home and therefore neglecting those closest to us.
How To Leverage The 6 Human Needs
The key to leveraging the 6 Human Needs is to identify which needs you must prioritise in order to achieve your goals and life you desire and then create strategies on how to meet those needs in positive, empowering and sustainable ways.
Furthermore, knowing the 6 Human Needs not only helps us understand our own behaviour, but it also helps us understand the behaviour of others. Therefore, by understanding the primary needs of others, we are armed with the knowledge on how to satisfy them, leading to deeper and more fulfilling relationships.
While each of us are unique and shaped by our individual life experiences, our behaviours are motivated by the desire to satisfy the same six fundamental needs: certainty, uncertainty, significance, love & connection, growth and contribution.
By understanding the driving forces behind our own behaviour and the behaviour of those around us, we can identify negative, disempowering and unsustainable patterns and transform them into positive, empowering and sustainable patterns that lead to lasting fulfilment.