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The Basic Human Needs

Updated: May 13, 2018

Our basic human needs determine most of what we do and why we do it. What needs drive you?

There are different theories of what the basic or primal human needs are.  At the forefront is the Hierarchy of Needs proposed by Psychologist Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation."  There have been variations or extensions of the basic human needs theory.  Here are some of the most interesting.

Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs.


Air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.


Protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.


Friendship, intimacy, trust and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love, being part of a group.


Esteem for oneself including dignity, achievement, mastery, and independence. The need to be respected by others, like prestige and status. 


Achieving self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences. Being the best one can be. 

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is best presented as a five-level pyramid, with higher needs being met once lower, more basic needs are satisfied. Maslow called the bottom four levels of the pyramid "deficiency needs."  If deficiency needs are not met, we may become anxious and unable to grow and satisfy higher needs. From the "deficiency needs" perspective, we have physiological needs such as eating, drinking, and sleeping; safety needs; social needs such as friendship and sexual intimacy; and ego needs such as self-esteem and recognition. The highest and fifth level of the pyramid is called the "growth needs" such as the need for development, originality, and creativity.  Once we satisfy our growth needs, we become "self-actualize"-- we reach our full human potential.  

Anthony Robbins's six primal human needs.

NEED #1: CERTAINTY Our needs for security, comfort, and pleasure. We need to feel in control so we can feel secure.  We want to avoid pain and stress. How much one needs certainty determines that individual's risk tolerance level (how much risk one is willing to take in life, work, and relationships). 

NEED #2: UNCERTAINTY/VARIETY We have as much a need for certainty and security as we have for variety and adventure. Uncertainty trains our mind to adapt and be flexible. 

NEED #3: SIGNIFICANCE Our need to feel special, wanted, important, and unique.  People attain significance in different ways. Some people accumulate money and achievements.  Others meet their need for significance by being the center of attention.

NEED #4: CONNECTION/LOVE Love and connection move the world around. These are our needs for love, intimacy, friendship and relationship with a higher source.  We can fulfill our need for love and connection through relationships,  family, friends, or being in contact with nature or prayer. 


Our need for growth reflects our need to achieve and be the best we we can be. If we are not growing, we are not learning and we are not living. 


Research shows that self-centered people are less happy and attain lower levels of subjective well-being as compared to generous people. In the words of Albert Einstein, "strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of other men..."


Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. 

Entrepreneur, Antony Robbins: Six Basic Needs That Make Us Tick (2017).

Psychology Today, Our Hierarchy of Needs (2012).

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