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The 6 Basic Human Needs

Updated on January 1, 2014

The 6 basic human needs are:

  • Certainty
  • Variety
  • Significance
  • Love/connection
  • Growth
  • Contribution

Every person needs all 6 of these needs to be filled. All behavior is a direct result of trying to fill one or more of these needs at a time. These needs can be met in a positive, negative, or neutral manner. Understanding what these needs are can help you gain a better understanding of what you are getting out of certain behaviors. This understanding can lead to empowering yourself to make a better choice in getting your needs met/filled.

According to Tony Robbins, if you are filling three or more of these needs with a given behavior it becomes addictive.

This is important to understand because by recognizing what you are doing and what needs it is filling, you can make a conscious choice to alter your behavior by replacing the negative behavior with a positive one which also fills these needs.


  • Safety
  • Security
  • Structure
  • Control

We all have a need to feel safe, to know there will be food to eat or a roof over our head. We need to know that we can be free from pain or painful experiences. We need to know we can find happiness or pleasure. We need to know that there is a base level of structure and "grounding" in our lives.

Some positive ways you may get your need for certainty met are:

  • Having an address to call home
  • Having a cell phone for people to reach you or for you to reach them
  • Having enough food in the cupboards
  • Keeping your vehicle in good working condition
  • Having a car alarm or in-home security system installed

Some negative ways you get may get your need for certainty met are:

  • Eating disorders (you control what you put into your body)
  • Smoking, drinking, or drugs (again, you are controlling what you do to your body)
  • Over powering someone with physical or other abuse, being a bully
  • Becoming obsessive over people or things

When someone feels that they do not have stability/certainty it can lead to a feeling of powerlessness. Your world feels upside down and unstable.


How boring would life be if every day was the same as the last, if everyone looked the same, dressed the same, and talked the same? How boring would it be if every meal you had exactly the same thing every day for the rest of your life?

We need variety! It makes things interesting.

Positive ways you may meet your need for variety include:

  • Trying new and different foods
  • Visiting or vacationing different areas/places
  • Having conversations on a range of subjects with multiple people
  • Moving to a new home, changing your hairstyle, or buying a new outfit

Negative ways you may meet your need for variety include:

  • Sleeping around - numerous different sexual partners
  • Dangerous or extreme activities/sports without proper training or gear
  • Altering your state of mind with drugs or alcohol


We all want to know we matter. We need to feel special, unique, and valued for who we are.

Positive ways you may meet your need for feeling significant are:

  • Taking on a roll of authority or leadership
  • Parenting
  • Mastering a skill or talent that you are noticed or admired for
  • Acting, singing, or being funny

Negative ways you may meet your need for feeling significant are:

  • Mutilating your body to get noticed
  • Participating in activities with "shock value"
  • Yelling, screaming, or hitting
  • Violent crimes


Love and Connection are vital to life on this planet! We all need to feel loved, accepted, and cherished. There are many different forms of love and connection, all equally important.

Positive ways you may meet your need for love/connection include:

  • A romantic relationship
  • Friend & family bonds
  • A pet
  • Joining a religious group or organization

Specific ways include:

  • hugging, kissing, holding, or other healthy physical contact
  • long meaningful talks
  • Praying or other religious rituals that put you "in touch" with your higher power

Negative ways you may meet your need for love/connection include:

  • Depression
  • Feeling sorry for yourself - pity party
  • Creating "problems" that you need someone to help you "fix"
  • Emotional abuse or control over someone


To expand yourself beyond what you once were or currently are is a basic human need. We need to constantly feel that we are growing or we shrivel and die (metaphorically speaking).

Positive ways you may meet your need for growth include:

  • Learning a new skill
  • Reading, researching, or exploring
  • Going to school
  • Exercising
  • Overcoming previous limitations

Negative impacts which hinder the ability to grow include:

  • Fear of being hurt
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Past pain holding you back
  • Limiting beliefs that you are not good enough, smart enough, or capable enough


A man who thinks only of himself is a lonely man indeed. We need to give and contribute outside of ourselves in order to really feel complete and whole. To know that we are making a difference in the world or just in our small corner of it.

Positive ways to contribute may include:

  • Teaching
  • Giving to a charity or cause you believe in
  • Sharing
  • Recycling

Negative impacts which may hinder your ability to contribute may include:

  • believing giving is monetarily based
  • fear that if you give you will not have enough left for yourself
  • fear that you are not good enough or your gifts are not good enough
  • focusing more on your needs than the needs of others

Different People Different Needs

While we all have the same 6 needs, the importance of each differs from person to person. Understanding which one or two are the most important to you can help you better understand the driving motivation behind why you choose to do the things you do.

Understanding which one or two are the most important to your friends, partner, children, co-workers, or other important people in your life will help you better understand why they do the things they do.

This understanding can help open up empathy and compassion where frustration may have stood before.


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