Tony Robbins, a growth and mindset coach with tons of insight into human behavior and motivation, has a theory of the things that all humans need and seek from the world. Aside from physical needs, these seven things dictate our various behavior patterns and the decisions that we make on a daily basis. Everyone will identify with all of the needs some of the time, and usually a couple of the needs are felt more acutely than the rest. These seven needs are certainty, uncertainty, significance, love, growth and contribution.
- Need for Certainty-
Routine, predictable action/reaction patterns, a feeling of stability, like you know what to expect and it will all work out.
- Need for Uncertainty-
Variety, spontaneity, new sights and sounds, a change of scenery, something you’ve never experienced before.
- Need to feel Significant-
Make an impact, be unique in someone else’s eyes, stand out, have a moment of special attention.
- Need to be Loved-
Compassion, connection, a feeling that you are respected and valued, having your “love tank” filled in the language you find most meaningful.
- Need to make a Contribution-
Impact on the world, a difference in your community or someone else’s life, your legacy, the special gift of your soul to be shared with humanity.
- Need for continued Growth-
Progress, change for the better, learning and implementation of new skills and information, desire to constantly move forward in the direction of your goals.
This perspective has long given me a sense of understanding for my behaviors and feelings. When things are going well and I am in a great pattern of doing all the routines I know are best for me, all of a sudden I feel like I need to get out. I need to eat a whole chocolate cream pie, go on a spending spree, have a fight with someone, or go on a trip. Sometimes I don’t even identify that I feel those needs, I just find myself on the couch, watching a ridiculous rom-com instead of working out and eating popcorn mixed with barbecue chips and Twizzlers instead of making dinner. Adding some variety and uncertainty into my life when I start to feel that desire can keep me from hitting the couch.
On the other hand, when my schedule is out of whack, I have a consistent diet of things that I’m not used to, I’m not sleeping at usual times or I’m in a different location I get a bit overwhelmed. From this list you might think that travelling must be hugely stressful for me, and sometimes it is. When I’m travelling and start feeling stressed, I know that what I need is to infuse some certainty into my days or nights. I’ve started travelling with my favorite snacks from home, my water bottle, my journal, and my sleep mask; the things that are a huge part of my home routine. I try to work out as many days as time allows, and try to find a new flow for wherever I am.
When I first heard this assessment I immediately connected with it, and with a few needs that were strongest for me. I’m sure it’s the same for you. This week in thinking about relationships and their complexities, I realized our strivings for relationship directly mirror the needs we work to fill in our broader lives.
We all crave relationships with people who make us feel certain about ourselves. We know where we stand with them. They’re always there when you call or need something. Maybe they take two days to get back to you, but they always respond with exactly what you need. These are the relationships where we meet our need for certainty.
Anybody have a friend you turn to when you’re looking for something crazy and fun to do? The guys who are always trying out the newest or most ethnically accurate restaurants. The friends who are in a different town or country every time you call them, today shepherding a flock in Pennsylvania next week harvesting grapes in France. Maybe it’s as simple a spicy addition as always coming to your house with a new snack to try or a new haircut. These are the relationships we seek out when we are looking for uncertainty.
Sometimes we all want someone to acknowledge our achievements, to make special mention of our good qualities. We all need a friend who is quick with a compliment, calls us their bestie, and tells everyone around to shut up and pay attention when we’re talking. We love them because they fill our need for significance.
Some of my favorite people are the ones who make me feel like they care, like there is nothing I could do to make them think any less of me, like spending time with me is a precious gift. My mum has always been so very good at this. From the time I can remember my mum has been a shining example of how to listen, how to show people that you care about them, how to make someone see their own value because you value them. These people send you a text just to say “Hey! You’re special to me!”, bring you a cup of coffee on your lunch break, take time to be with you, and shower you with hugs. We look for them because they are so good at meeting our need for love.
With some people we feel like we have a lot to give to the relationship. We are mentors, advice givers, the only listening ear. Maybe these relationships are with friend who come to us when they are looking for a volunteer project because they know that we will be involved and interested in participating with them. Maybe they’re people in the community whose kids we babysit, or dog we walk. Regardless of how we find them, or what we get in return, we need these people and the contribution we give to them and others when we’re with them.
Finally there are the precious few who share their knowledge without calling out our lack. The people who we seek because they have such unique and rich experiences to share, or who love to hear our stories. Maybe these are the people who participate in seminars with you, share a book club, or keep you accountable in your goals. We need them because they move us forward by going on the journey with us. We need them because they support our need for growth.
Tony teaches that if an activity meets three or more of these needs in high levels, we’re going to be all over that and make whatever it is a habit or even an addiction. The same is true of relationships! As we go about our lives we’re looking for our relational needs to be met in these different areas. The more of these areas someone meets for you, the more attractive they will be as a connection, regardless of the form that takes.
Next time you find yourself thinking that your friend list is inadequate give a moment of thought to what you are looking for and not finding in your current contact list. Are you missing a connection with someone you can contribute to in a meaningful way? How many people do you interact with on a regular basis who are helping you to grow by encouraging you and sharing their own growth? Maybe you just need to call up the friend who most exemplifies a life full of what you’re lacking!
And folks, when you find a friend that helps you to meet most or all of these needs in a healthy way, hold on to them forever; they’re worth more than gold.