How is it that we often know what we should do or want to do, but do not do that or do the opposite? How is it that we can remain in the habits which we know are not good for us, such as smoking, overeating, and watching programs on TV that do not benefit us in the long run?

How is it that we often know what we should do or want to do but do not do that or do the opposite?

How is it that we can remain in the habits which we know are not good for us, such as smoking, overeating, and watching programs on TV that do not benefit us in the long run?

What are the needs that we want to satisfy and that hurt so much when they are not to satisfied?

We have six needs, the four fundamental ones are certainty, uncertainty, significance (being unique) and connection/love (to be in relationship with others). The other two needs are to grow as a person and to contribute to a wider context, such as the society or the world we live in.

The latter two, we can only satisfy when the four basic needs are satisified to enough extent and therefore we will start with the four basic needs below.

The first four needs

The first four nees are as stated above:

  • Certainty
  • Uncertainty
  • Significance
  • Connection/Love


The first need is the feeling of certainty. It can be to feel secure in your identity, i.e who you are, it can be certainty in the form of turst in your relationships, financial security and it can be to feel that you have control of the situation. The feeling of knowing what to do, how to do it and why to do it.

If it becomes too safe however, we become bored and then we have a different need, which is a polarity of the first need and that also needs be satisfied, namely the need fo uncertainty or variety.


The second need is the feeling of uncertainty or variety. We want surprises (only the ones we want, otherwise we call them for problems), adventures, challenges and change. We want to feel the adrenaline rush and the kick that it provides. Here we have very different degrees of uncertainty, variety and change that we want in our lives.


The feeling of being unique, proven, acknowledged, seen, heard, needed or important. Here we are also different, some people are seen and heard often, want to be in the limelight in different ways.

Unless we get confirmation that we are doing something good, we'll do something bad so that we get acknowledgement, a child who lies down in a shop and screams often gets immediate attention from others. The same can also be true for people who are sick or in poor psychological health (if they are not in such bad shape that we become afraid of them)

So that we will not all of just be big egos who only care about ourselves, we also have a need for connection or love.


The feeling of having contact with others, to be accepted by others. To get to give love and be loved. We need to be together, to belong to one or more groups, like for example at work, the volleyball team, with girlfriends, the biochemists, the Swedes etc.

To get to give love because it feels great and not because you want to get loved back (in the latter case you are most likely looking for acknwledgement and/or significance). As we usually do with children and animals, they do not need to perform to get love.

Clarification of the first four needs

To clarify the first four needs more, here are some examples of behaviors that reflect the different needs.

  • Certainty: You often think of what the safest way to do a thing is . You dislike change.
  • Uncertainty: You love change and to be outside your comfort zone.
  • Significance: You put yourself before the group even if it means you can not be part of the group anymore or if it is at the expense of other. You put performance and results ahed of the relationship.
  • Connection/Love: You put the team before yourself and others' opinions are more important than yours. Relationship comes before performance.

We value the needs differently

We evaluate and prioritize these four different needs differently and we rank them accordingly. Four lists of priorities for four fictitious people can look as follows.

Four sample persons with different priorities
Person APerson BPerson CPerson D
1. Certainty 1. Connection 1. Significance 1. Uncertainty
2. Significance 2. Uncertainty 2. Certainty 2. Connection
3. Uncertainty 3. Significance 3. Connection 3. Certainty
4. Connection 4. Certainty 4. Uncertainty 4. Significance

These four different persons will focus on different things in life and therefore will make different decisions in identical situations. They will also look at life and what is happening from different perspectives.

Markus: It can also be challenging in a relationship to manage and satisfy different priorities of those needs.

For example, if your partner has certainty at the top of their list and wants to book all-inclusive and pre-packaged holidays, where everything is orderly and setup with predetermined schedules. Let's say instead you have uncertainty at the top of your list and you want to book two weeks deep in the Amazon jungle on a safari in rickety wooden canoes.

This can lead to interesting discussions at the dinner table on how you should plan your next holiday.

If you do not have the ability to listen to each other, do not have the awareness of these different needs and the trust to dare to meet some or all of the other's needs, the risk for painful conflicts is quite large.

It often happens that we have an inability to stop and listen for the needs behind instead of discussing facts of the matter. Need I add that everything above I have personally experienced in both previous relationships and work relationships. In the case of work it may be how we are planning projects with time management and the like that becomes the arena where the needs collide.

As an experiment, try for a period to change your focus. For example, if you normally tend to focus on security try to focus on how you can get more adventure in your life by daring to step outside your comfort zone.

Characteristics of people who prioritize different needs

If you are having a hard time ranking your own needs, or rather becoming aware of how you rank them, here are some of the characteristics of people who focus on the different needs.


You do not do anything that may pose a risk to you in any way, you probably do not leave the home more than necessary and you have alarms on even when you are home. If you go out you tend ot notice all the people that could harm you or your confidence and you socialize only with people you trust completely and that you can control, you do not live in a relationship because then you become more vulnerable, or you live with a person you can control.

You often use words and phrases such as beware, it is dangerous, for safety's sake, be careful, take care of yourself and you'd rather talk about others than tell them about yourself or your emotions. When you make decisions you choose that which you thing will cause the least pain and you see to that you can quickly make an exit in case things do not go as you have planned.


You have no problems in life, you see everything as challenge and adventure. You expose yourself to risk all the time and are impatient. You have no trouble burning bridges and going for what you believe in even when others warn you.

You move often or are not home very often and probably do not have a job but are an investor or own your own business where you obviously do not have to spend that much time. You travel a lot and preferably to places that can give you thrills.

You invest in the stock market rather than putting money in the bank. You associate with people who can challenge you, allow you to be spontaneous and be in touch when you feel like it and people who keep up with your adventures.


You are a person that others often follow and that others are listening to. You make sure to have knowledge of topics that are important to you and you are happy to share these.

People often have respect for you and they know they will not be able to master you even if many try. Some may feel threatened by you and you do not back out of conflicts.

You make sure that people notice you, for example by using your clothing, hair, jewelry, car, voice, big gestures, stories about your accomplishments or by making sure your problem sounds bigger than everyone else's.

You have no problem with amusing yourself in a group and you can go and do something yourself if no one wants to follow. You put the task at hand before their relationships with others.


You are a person who easily gets liked by others, you melt in quickly and rarely get into conflict with others. You are interested in other people's stories and are reluctant to be the center of attention yourself.

Your opinions are usually not so strong and when someone asks you what you think or want, you often respond "I do not know" or "it does not matter". You follow rather than lead.

In a project, you make sure that everyone can join in, have their opion heard and that everyone is happy before you make a decision. You are happy for others and you always have a shoulder available if someone needs to cry a bit.

Filippa: Anthony Robbins says that "The uncertainty that you are able to have in your life is in direct proportion to the quality of your life" What does he mean by that?

Well, if you depend on keeping track of your surroundings, controlling people and situations, because you are afraid that if you do not it will mean that you will experience pain.

If you on top of that also have the need to control your emotions and behaviors, because if you do not you believe will experience pain (for example being afraid of being judged by others or not being good enough as it is), then it is very like you will experienc pain because it is impossible to control everything which is around you.

If this is your situation, you will find it hard to let go and trust others and trust yourself. To have the knowledge that whatever happens you are good enough as you are, that you will cope with any challenge that comes to you. If this fits you,  you will simply find it harder to enjoy life, be spontaneous, to give love to others without expecting anything in return.

A truth that gives me comfort is that "everything that happens has a purpose that benefits me in the long run, although I can not see it today."

Markus: My partner and I have had some exciting clashes regarding my need for greatness that has been high amongst my priorities and her need for belonging that has been higher on her list.

When for example, we have worked with together in business and were going determine the structure of the work with the people in our team.

For me it was obvious that the results were the most important things and should be made a priority. Set up goals and achieve them, that was my motto. For her it was important that we were going to have fun, create joy and social occasions.

Sometimes we missed in the heat of battle we missed to see the diverse needs behind, but when we could do that it all became so very clear. The great thing was that when we could find ways to work with each other and our team in a way that satisfied both needs, then both the results and the team spirit were very good.

The satisfaction of our needs

Everything you do will satisfy at least two of the first four needs. If it satisfies three, it will become a habit. If we use smoking again as an example, how can smoking satisfy these needs?

Well, when you smoke, you take deep breaths. When you take deep slow breaths you change the state of the body even without the smoke in the lungs and the nicotine also causes you to change state (uncertainty/variety). You tend to become seemingly calmer from smoking (certainty/security).

Often when people smoke, they do so in groups and we know people who smoke because it is the only social moments of the day (connection/love). Many people start smoking when they are teenagers becase it makes them feel a bit unique and special when they smoke (significance). Adults can distinguish themselves by smoking exclusive cigars.

Since we are often looking for quick pleasure rather than avoiding the potential pain later in the form of lung cancer, so we continue to smoke.

And we do it until we gain something from quitting, either that it costs too much or that we can have another pleasure by stopping. It could also be that you found a partner who refuses to live with you if you smoke.

We humans tend to focus on what we can do to minimize pain in life and maximize pleasure in life. As noted above, we often seek immediate enjoyment, the younger we are, the faster we want to get away from the pain and get pleasure. Kids want food NOW, they want to be there NOW and not go by car for an hour to arrive at the playmate.

Usually it is not until you encounter a crisis, accident or illness that you stop and question your behavior and begin to think about what is really important in the long run.

A change can also happen because we begin to focus on and satisfy the last two needs that have not talked that much about in this text. So let's move on.

Need number five and number six

The last two needs are thus:

• Personal Development or Growth
• Contribution

Personal Development/Growth

The fifth need is the need for personal development, to grow as a person, to know that I am much more than I previously thought, and raising my standard straight across my life.

I might see my bad habits as being below my new standards in life, for example looking at TV-programs that do not stimulate me. Instead I focus on learning things that make me grow and make me see things from a new perspective.

Jim Rohn said, "do not to wish that your had less problems, wish that you were better."

How do you do to grow as a person?

Get to know yourself deeply and realize that you will learn new things throughout life, and you can get better at what you want, for as long as you live! Learn to communicate with yourself even better.

Learn how you can have abundance and wealth in your life in all areas of life like finances, love, friendship, health and more. When it feels scary to do something that you want, do it anyway and just let the fear be there.


The sixth need is to contribute to a larger context. In order to actually contribute to a better world, a better country, a better society, you need to grow as a person.

If you fare going to have energy and time to tackle the major issues and challenges you can not spend time and energy on solving small problems such as how to get money to add up this month, who will do the dishes, who will pick up the kids or unnecessary misunderstandings that take time or energy.

You contribute through how you are and what you do, like Nelson Mandela who viewed his time in prison as a time where he was preparing to lead his country and to bring peace. He chose to grow as a person in jail instead of letting it destroy him. We can also choose to have what happens to us make us grow as human beings so that we can help others even more.

The best for last

Do you know what the best part of it all is?

If you focus on growing as a person and helping others, you satisfy all six needs at the same time! If you only focus on experiencing, for example, certainty and connection, you will not grow, nor contribute to society and the world to the same extent.

Inspiration and knowledge for this article

We have learned about these six human needs from Anthony Robbins and we highly recommend a visit to his web site. We can also warmly recommend participating in Tony's trainings. He has lots of great resources for your relationship as well.

Homework Assignment

Write down what you could do to ensure that you grow and develop as a person, it need not be major things. It can be to read for a while every day in books that develop you, listen to CD:s for personal development, it can be to stop using the word "try" or words / phrases that indicate that you are not good just the way you are. For example to stop saying "what a fool I am" when you do something or say something that was not good.

Are there any of the above suggestions you want to do or what could you do that is even better for your personal development and that you can start with when you're finished reading this article?

Write it down and get into action, follow up tomorrow to see how it went. Continue for at least 10 days before making a final evaluation of the results.

Couple with laptop studying relationships