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
1. Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure
2. Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli
3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed
4. Connection/Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something
5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding
6. Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others
This drive is encoded in our nervous system.
The means by which people meet these six human needs are unlimited. For example, one of the six human needs is the desire for certainty that we can avoid pain and gain pleasure (i.e. comfort). Some people pursue this need by striving to control all aspects of their lives, while others obtain certainty by giving up control and adopting a philosophy of faith. Variety makes us feel alive and engaged. Then there’s the desire for significance—a belief that one’s life has meaning and importance. Some individuals will pursue this need by competing with others, or by destroying and tearing down those around them. Others may strive to fulfill this need through connection with other human beings.
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 will settle for comfort—or for meeting our needs on a small scale. Look to replace any dis-empowering 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.
Peak Performance Action Plan:
1. Which of these six needs do you tend to focus on or value the most?
2. What are the ways (good and bad) you meet these needs? For example, in your relationships, work, eating, exercise, etc.?
3. How can you increase your focus on growth and contribution? What are some things you can do, or new experiences you can participate in? Use the Hour of Power to maximize your planning in this area.
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