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What drives our actions: the human needs


“One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to treat your personal and emotional needs as if they were optional. They are not--they must be fulfilled in order for you to be your best. Deny or ignore them long enough and they will not only run your life, but have the potential to ruin it”

whether or not you are consciously aware of your emotional needs. And you can't call yourself 'emotionally intelligent' if you don't even know what your top personal and emotional needs are!

Why do human beings do the things they do?

How is it that one person will sacrifice his own life for another, while another will murder a stranger for sheer pleasure?
What creates a Charles Manson or a Nelson Mandela?
What is the force that drives and shapes all of our emotions, actions, qualities of life, and ultimately, our destinies?

While each human being is unique, we also share nervous systems that function in the same way. There are also six fundamental needs that everyone has in common, and all behavior is simply an attempt to meet those six needs.

The Six Human Needs

  • Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure
  • Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli
  • Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed
  • Connection/Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something
  • Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding
  • Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others This drive is encoded in our nervous system.

one of the six human needs is the desire for certainty that we can avoid pain and gain pleasure (i.e. comfort). The uncertainty need makes us feel alive and engaged by providing a continuous stimulus to our mind. Then there’s the desire for significance—a belief that one’s life has meaning and importance by attaching a feeling of being needed. The need for closeness and love creates a stability in lives.

The force of life is the drive for fulfillment; we all have a need to experience a life of meaning.

Fulfillment can only be achieved through a pattern of living in which we focus on two spiritual needs:
1) the need to continuously grow; and 2) the need to contribute beyond ourselves in a meaningful way. All dysfunctional behaviors arise from the inability to consistently meet these needs. When our attempts to reach fulfillment fail, we settle for less and compromise. There may be different ways people may try to meet these needs. For example, the need for certainity or comfort may be met either by trying to control all aspects of life or to completely let go and be in complete faith. The need for significance may lead someone to compete with everyone or to connect with all human beings. Look to replace any aggressive or destructive ways of meeting your needs with things that empower and support you and others. Understanding these needs, and which ones you are trying to meet in any given moment, can help you create new patterns that lead to lasting fulfillment.

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