The 6 Basic Human Needs

Do you know what you really need? All of us have basic human needs, not merely desires but profound needs that underlie and motivate every choice we make. There are six basic needs that everyone seeks to fulfill.

The first four needs - certainty, variety, love and significance - are essential for human survival. They are fundamental needs of the personality - everyone must feel that they have met them on some level, even if they have to lie to themselves to do so.

The last two needs, growth and contribution, are essential to human fulfillment. They are the needs of the spirit, and not everyone finds a way to satisfy them, although they are necessary for lasting fulfillment. Understanding the 6 basic human needs is crucial to resolving conflict and the basis to create and maintain healthy relationships.

6 Basic Human Needs

  1. Certainty – Certainty that we can be comfortable – to have pleasure and avoid pain. Code words for certainty are comfort, security, safety, stability, feeling grounded, predictability and protection.
  2. Uncertainty / Variety – Variety and challenges that exercise our emotional and physical range. Our bodies, our minds, our emotional well-being all require uncertainty, exercise, suspense, variety and surprise. Code words for uncertainty / variety are instability, change, entertainment, suspense, exertion and surprise.
  3. Significance – Every person needs to feel special, important, needed and wanted. Code words for significance are pride, importance, achievement, performance, perfection, evaluation, discipline and competition.
  4. Connection / Love – Everyone needs connection with other human beings, and everyone strives for and hopes for love. Code words for connection / love are togetherness, passion, unity, warmth, tenderness and romance.
  5. Growth – Everything is either growing or dying. We need to constantly develop emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.
  6. Contribution – We all desire to go beyond our own needs and give to others. Everything in the universe contributes beyond itself or is eliminated.

When our needs for love, growth and contribution are satisfied, they tend to encompass all our other needs. When we focus on something beyond ourselves, most of our problems and sources of pain become less significant. Most healthy relationships contribute as a unit to something greater.

Contribution is the human need that effectively regulates your other five needs. If you are focused on contributing to others, you have the certainty of being able to contribute (there is always a way); you have variety (contribution is highly interactive); you have significance, because you know you are helping others and improving their lives; the spiritual bond created when you help others gives you a deep sense of connection; and by creatively helping others you grow.

Everyone experiences the same six basic human needs. However, everyone finds different ways of satisfying these needs.

Each of these needs can be met in ways that are positive or negative. Some ways of satisfying these needs are god for the person, good for others and good for society, and some are bad for everyone.

Do the work and become aware how these six needs guide our choices and actions. You then have the opportunity to let go of the negative ways of fulfilling them, that do not serve you, so you can create space to create and maintain healthy relationships.

8 Basic Steps to Maintaining Healthy Relationships


  1. Be aware of what you and your partner want for yourselves and what you want from the relationship.
  2. Let one another know what your needs are.
  3. Realize that your partner will not be able to meet all your needs. Some of these needs will have to be met outside of the relationship.
  4. Be willing to negotiate and compromise on the things you want from one another.
  5. Do not demand that a partner change to meet all your expectations. Work to accept the differences between your ideal mate and the real person you are dating.
  6. Try to see things from the other's point of view. This doesn't mean that you must agree with one another all the time, but rather that both of you can understand and respect each other's differences, points of view, and separate needs.
  7. Where critical differences do exist in your expectations, needs, or opinions, try to work honestly and sincerely to negotiate. Seek professional help early rather than waiting until the situation becomes critical.
  8. Do your best to treat your partner in a way that says, "I love you and trust you, and I want to work this out." This base of love, care and respect is present in all healthy relationships.