One thing’s for sure, no matter where we come from or how we’ve been raised, there are certain needs we all have as humans. In fact all of our needs fall into one or more of the following three categories: meaning/mattering, love/connection, and well being. When you can recognize how a need you have relates to one or all three of these categories, you can understand why it’s so important to you and whether or not it’s a need you can be flexible with meeting or should compromise on meeting.
Mattering to others is one of our most fundamental human needs. Think about it, humans depend on others in order to survive from the moment of birth, more so than other creatures. Horses can stand and walk within minutes after they’re born...a human baby doesn’t even have kneecaps. The fear of not being lovable or loved are complexes humans have inherited as social beings. They are as natural to us as the fear of pain and death. These innate complexes have to do with our ability to survive. We all want to matter to others, maybe not to everyone but at least someone or a few people who may be important to us for some reason. Determining the reason why a relationship is important to you, why a person’s opinion is of any value to you, can allow this mattering need to play a healthy role in your life rather than a fear based complex. If you don’t keep this driving need in check, it can turn into an all consuming paranoia that results in an insatiable hunger for power, fame, approval or control...no pressure.
Have you ever wondered why humans ask why so much? Animals may show a sense of curiosity but they do not ask “Why?” the way we humans do. We can understand there are causes linked to effects from the time we are children, so we begin using our curiosity to further our understanding of the world. We use our curiosity to avoid the discomfort of confusion and the unknown as well as to discover what we think may be of value to learn or experience. When we are seeking, when we learn and discover, research shows the pleasure centers of our brains can be being stimulated in the same way we anticipate receiving a reward. And when something doesn’t make sense to us, if it contradicts our current understanding or perception of reality, we can feel the kind of irritation that is triggered by conflict, compelling us to scratch an intellectual itch to find relief. If you think about it, the pain and pleasure of curiosity has greatly aided our ability to continue and advance as a species.
Aside from understanding our physical feelings of curiosity and their relationship to any evolutionary advantages they may have given us to learn, it’s important to know why you seek meaning in terms of expanding your consciousness. Your hunger for understanding could be motivated by a need to better understand yourself, the world around you and meet a need for spirituality. Our need for meaning and understanding will be driven more inwardly or outwardly at different stages of our lives.
○ Personal consciousness, e.g., enlightenment and self-awareness
○ World consciousness world, e.g., of the interplay of human dynamics, power structures, the general state of the world, etc.
○ Spiritual consciousness, e.g. supernatural/unexplained phenomena, the afterlife, a relationship with a high power, greater meaning to live for etc.
Often our need for meaning is relating to a desire for a clear sense of identity and purpose. It prompts the drive we have to live our lives in a way that’s gratifying and beneficial, to ourselves and others. Our identity can matter so much to us so, we can spend our days in a way that extends our value, our mattering, beyond our own lifetime...leaving a legacy, a continued impact after we’ve died. In fact, people will sacrifice their safety, their life or the lives of others in the service of a higher meaning and people will end their lives if they do not feel a sense of meaning or mattering. So our needs for meaning and mattering are closely related and drive many of our other needs which is a clue at to how important they are to meet.
Love & Connection
Because humans are highly dependent on each other and extremely social from the time we are born, all share a massive need to be loved and experience connection. Even if we have the tendency to be highly introverted, we all need companionship, intimacy, friendship, and community to one degree of another. We help each other survive and thrive when we take these needs seriously and focus on having healthy, quality relationships. So, it’s important to note what might be causing us to not be getting the connection or sense of love in connection in the way we need.
You may want to ask yourself “When do I feel lonely?” and “What makes me feel lonely?” One person could be as happy as a clam reading alone in their room day after day or hiking along a trail for weeks, even months. Another person could be feeling totally invisible while at a crowded party or extremely disconnected from the rest of an audience at a thriving concert. It’s really important to understand what contributes to feelings of loneliness and disconnection in your life. Then you can take action to change your mindset, expectations or behaviors in order to prevent any unwanted sense of disconnection from others.
Our mind, body and spirit are so interconnected, it’s amazing how off balance we will feel or how our health suffers when anyone of these parts of us is not being supported. According to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs , a prevalent fundamental theory of sociology and psychology applied to prioritizing a person’s needs, the requirements of care for the body take precedent when seeking to improve health and well being.
This is why it’s important to consider how your health is being effected and your feelings are being triggered due to your environment, intake of nourishment, light, water, and oxygen first and foremost. When clients come to see me for a stress management, anxiety, or anger issue, I’m always checking to see what contributing factors are at play in their environment, behavior, and relationships to make sure they are able to really put effort into making a change where it is most needed. I suggest you do the same for yourself and those you interact with as well.
Certainty / Security
A sense of certainty will usually tend to make us feel more secure...unless we are certain that something “bad” is going to happen. For the most part, feeling certain can mean we feel more in control or a sense or safe. When there is stability and predictability in our life we can feel a sense of certainty or comfort. This is a huge driving need within the human personality because it’s seeking to help us avoid the risk of a threat found in pain and the unknown. It’s usually one of the strongest needs within the human personality since it is linked to our primal operational modes for survival. This is one reason why a person who has been in a horrible situation may stick to the devil they know rather than the one they don’t. The need for safety becomes highly linked to their needs certainty and predictability.
It is also a driving force towards meeting our need for well being, pleasure, and in some cases meaning...the need to know. Depending on how great your need to feel a sense of certainty and desire to avoid risk and discomfort, the desire for certainty can be the deciding factor in many areas of your life - what you do to earn money, how you show up in relationships or avoid them, what you’ll do for excitement. The more certainty you crave, the less of a taste you will have for risk. The less change, confusion, or discomfort you will feel like you can handle.
Uncertainty / Variety
If you like a lot of change or variety, you may also have a strong desire for freedom and autonomy. So much so, you’re willing to pay the price of unpredictability. You may even enjoy the uncertainty and associate it fondly with spontaneity or adventure. The more you can handle unpredictability the more flexible and adaptable you can become.
When you’re growing you’re evolving and you’re truly living. When you’re not growing, you’re stagnant and decaying...you’re dying. So will a relationship or a business is not growing. No growth is no good. Be sure not to let your need for certainty overtake your need for growth. It doesn’t matter how rich you are, how big your social network is, it doesn’t even matter how many people are fans of yours or truly love you — you won’t experience true fulfillment without meeting your need for growth. When we grow in times of uncertainty and adversity, when we are expanding our consciousness and our ability to contribute, we have something of value we can offer others in this world who need our help. Who need our growing strength, wisdom, and empathy. Which leads us into the next driving need we humans have.
While we exist it is our responsibility to help ourselves, and life on this earth, to continue to the best of our ability and to have fun doing it. As far as I can tell, that’s what life is all about. Narcissists and sociopaths may disagree. But anyone who has the ability to feel empathy will feel unfulfilled if they are not, or do not feel like they are providing any value to those around them.
That should be a really big clue that contribution deserves to be within your top three driving needs if you would like to live a life where all your other needs are getting met in a healthy way. In a way that will be unconsumed by the ills bred from an inflated ego. You can see this lesson in the lives of people who have accomplished fame, fortune, and significant strides of advancement for the human race...the ones who do so from a desire to contribute will speak of a passion for the valuable impact they hope their work and life will achieve. The ones who have done so for their own significance will reveal the suffering of their emptiness, jealousy, and insatiable need for affirmation or recognition by other people.
We all want to feel significant in one way or another. So we can feel seen, needed, special, powerful, important, or unique in some way. We will seek to achieve it in our relationships, careers, or hobbies to one degree or another. Especially in our identity. Some of us try to meet this need and by earning fancy degrees, awards or trophies while others will attempt to do so by accumulating tons of money, fame, or “success” however they see it. It could done by developing a noticeable “style” in the way you dress or alter your body with tattoos or piercings. It can be done over the course of a lifetime of leadership - within your family or as an activist or philanthropist within your community. And my goodness gracious, how it can be done by being a zealot - religious or otherwise, seeking to police the world.
Balancing How Our Driving Needs Are Meet
The more needs or greater degree a need is met by any one thing meets in your life, be it a person, career, behavior, hobby, or substance, the greater the likelihood for dependence on that thing. Meaning there is a greater chance that an addictive relationship may be developed and it will take intentional effort to replaced. It’s best to keep track how you are meeting your driving needs in healthy, sustainable, balanced ways. In ways that don’t cause greater consequence than benefit.
Examine how you're currently meeting your nine driving needs and what could improve on by checking out my How Well Are You Meeting Your Most Important Needs? blogpost.
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