the six human needs: understanding what drives our every decision

the six human needs: understanding what drives our every decision
Photo by Yann Allegre / Unsplash

What makes us humans tick? What drives our thoughts, actions, and emotions? Understanding our fundamental needs can shed light on these questions. We all share six core human needs that guide our lives:

  1. Certainty
  2. Uncertainty/Variety
  3. Significance
  4. Connection/love
  5. Growth
  6. Contribution

These needs are like the building blocks of our existence, shaping our decisions, relationships, and overall well-being.

Each person values these human needs differently, and how they prioritize them can help explain why they act the way they do. The first four needs on the list affect our personality, while the last two (growth and contribution) are more about our spiritual needs. People find ways to meet these needs through their relationships, jobs, hobbies, and other aspects of their lives. Let's dive deeper into these basic human needs and what they mean for us.

Certainty: Seeking Comfort in an Uncertain World

Certainty is the need for assurance that we can avoid pain and gain pleasure in our lives. It's the desire for safety, stability, and predictability. This need is deeply rooted in our survival instincts. We all want to know that our basic needs, like food, shelter, and love, will be met. As the great Tony Robbins said, “The need for certainty is a basic human need. It's our survival mechanism. We all want to be certain that we can avoid pain and ideally gain pleasure.”

Uncertainty/Variety: Embracing the Spice of Life

On the flip side of certainty lies the need for uncertainty or variety. We crave new experiences, challenges, and surprises. This need keeps life exciting and prevents us from feeling stuck in a monotonous routine. As the philosopher Heraclitus once stated, “Change is the only constant in life.” Embracing change and seeking variety can lead to personal growth and a more fulfilling life.

Significance: Feeling Valued and Unique

We all want to feel important, unique, and valued. The need for significance drives us to accomplish great things, seek recognition, and stand out from the crowd. It's the desire to leave our mark on the world. Psychologist Abraham Maslow noted, “What a man can be, he must be.” This need for significance motivates us to reach our full potential and make a meaningful impact on others and the world.

Connection/Love: Nurturing Bonds that Sustain Us

Connection and love are fundamental human needs that shape our relationships. We crave closeness, intimacy, and a sense of belonging. Love not only enriches our lives but also provides emotional support during challenging times. Moreover, love and connection create lasting impressions and give our lives deeper meaning.

Growth: Expanding Our Horizons

The need for growth is all about expanding our capacity, capability, and understanding. It's about continuously learning, improving, and evolving as individuals. Without growth, we stagnate, and life loses its luster. Brian Tracy advises, “Dedicate yourself to continuous personal improvement; you are your most precious resource.” Growth propels us forward, helping us adapt to new challenges and seize opportunities.

Contribution: The Joy of Giving

Lastly, the need for contribution centers around serving and supporting others. It's the desire to make a positive impact on the lives of others and contribute to a greater good. When we give selflessly, we experience a profound sense of fulfillment. As Mahatma Gandhi emphasized, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." Contribution not only benefits those we help but also nourishes our own souls.

. . .

In summary, the six human needs—certainty, uncertainty/variety, significance, connection/love, growth, and contribution—are the driving forces behind our thoughts, actions, and choices. Understanding these needs allows us to lead more fulfilling lives by finding balance and meeting these needs in healthy ways. As we navigate the complexities of our human experience, we can use these needs as a compass to guide us toward a life filled with purpose, joy, and connection.


If you were to stretch out all the blood vessels in your body, they would wrap around the Earth more than twice (~60,000 miles).