The Six Basic Human Needs

“Most people live in survival, not in fulfilment.”
(Tony Robbins)

Much of your happiness and life fulfilment lies in the satisfaction of your basic needs. You have six, in case you didn’t know. Let me tell you about your six basic needs, and let me reiterate that these needs to be satisfied in order for you to find some kind of happiness and some success in life.

This is the best framework that I have discovered for understanding why people do things and also gives us a good framework for understanding happiness, quality of life, and well-being. It comes from Tony Robbins.

  • These needs can be satisfied either in a positive way or in a negative way
  • These needs an be satisfied in 1 of 4 ways;
    • Internally within ourselves
    • Through our family
    • Through our work
    • Through our community
  • The first four needs are for survival
  • The last two needs are for fulfilment

Hence, it’s important to know about these needs for happiness and fulfillment. So, what are these 6 basic needs?

1. Control / Security / Sameness / Certainty

The first need is for control, security and sameness. You need to have some routine and control. You need things to be fairly consistent and keep a
sense of sameness. You need certainty and security. This is where we like things to be the same in order to avoid stress and to gain pleasure. In a
sense, it’s survival. This is where you like to be in control to be certain.

Think about the time when you were uncertain, when you felt insecure.Perhaps you were uncertain about your health. Perhaps you were not certain about your finances. Perhaps you were not certain about your children. Those were the times that you would have felt insecure and uncertain and therefore unhappy. So it’s true we need security, we need sameness and control.

  • To satisfy this need in a positive way is to have a diary or PDA and be effective in time management.
  • To satisfy this need in a negative way is to be what is called a “control freak” (and we probably all know someone who might fit
    this label).

Sometimes gaining variety in your life might mean leaving the “comfort zone” and moving into the “courage zone”. What’s the point in tip-toeing
carefully through life only to make it safely to the grave? Life is not a ‘dress rehearsal’ as the saying goes. (As someone once said, if somehow or other, you did manage to come back, you’re not going to enjoy it because being dead really takes it out of you!!)

Believe it or not, the real “juice” of life is lived in the courage zone. This is where live is really lived. Conquering the courage zone makes people proud of themselves and gives them a sense of joy and achievement. Remember: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got”.

3. Significance and Importance

The third need is to have significance and importance in your life. There are a number of ways that we get a sense of significance and importance.

  • It might be by achieving (e.g., gaining qualifications, getting a
    promotion, forging a career, conquering that mountain).
  • In a negative way, people can get significance by tearing others
    down, by being abusive, or by playing “sick” or being “ill.” They can
    also pursue this need negatively by living for their goods and
    material possessions by having only designer label clothes, driving
    only the latest BMW or Lexus, extrapolating about their latest trip to
    Europe or some exotic place.

Interestingly though, the more that people become important and significant (e.g., going up the corporate ladder and gaining responsibility and power), the more isolated that they tend to become…and that bring us to the fourth need (which is the flip-side of the third need).

4. Love and Connection

This need is about having love and connection. We have a need to be connected to someone else or something else. It’s all about relationships,
connecting to others, bonding and communicating.

  • This might be through caring, or providing a service, or it might be through having a romantic relationship or having a pet or a number of pets; it could be an affinity with nature or your garden.
  • On the negative side, we might satisfy this need through gaining sympathy through sickness or injury and perhaps playing “poor me” or even through abuse or violence.

Overall, those four needs are virtually going to give you a sense of happiness if satisfied in a positive way.

They each need to be satisfied for people to feel satisfied and happy. However, there are two more needs and they are designed to give fulfillment.

5. Personal Growth

Personal growth and development is the fifth need. Life is about growth and learning. It’s all about extending yourself, developing oneself, learning new things, and stepping out. As a general rule, whatever on the planet does not grow…dies.

  • Maybe it’s about learning a new skill such as public speaking or wood turning or learning to dance.
  • Maybe it could involve attending a vocational course or educational course.
  • My mother-in-law for instance, who is in her 80’s, recently attended the “Third Age University” for seniors to do a history course which she thoroughly enjoyed.
  • Fulfilling this need means trying new things, going to new places, and meeting new people. Whatever it is you need to extend yourself to learn to grow.

6. Leaving a Legacy

The final basic need which gives fulfilment is leaving a legacy and making a contribution. This is going beyond yourself; making a contribution
to society and giving of yourself.

  • That might mean that you join or volunteer to assist a charity or group.
  • Perhaps it could mean giving money.
  • Perhaps it is giving of your time &/or knowledge.
  • Perhaps it’s the passing over of skills or information.
  • Maybe it means being a mentor to someone younger than yourself.


So we need to make sure that we have satisfied all of those needs in our lives because that will certainly give us a good deal of happiness and then give us fulfilment in those last two needs.

Now we need to find places where we can satisfy those needs, not only within ourselves, but in our family, and in our work, and in the general community.