We greet the start of a new semester with excitement as it signifies the beginning of many new adventures. To get through the difficult parts of these new experiences, taking care of our mental health is vital. A powerful tool to maintaining mental health lies in knowing our needs as humans. Every person has six fundamental psychological needs, first identified by Anthony Robbins, that drive our decisions: certainty, variety, significance, love/connection, growth, and contribution.
Knowing how each of us fulfills our needs creates awareness of our actions, desires, decisions, and motivations, which ultimately helps us find contentment and joy. Often when we feel empty or unhappy and do not know why, it may be because one of the needs is not being met or because one of the needs is being prioritized over the other.
The first need, certainty, is about comfort and predictability and determines how much risk we are willing to take. An example of filling this need in an unhealthy way would be holding onto a habit or relationship because it is familiar and safe even if it may be destructive.
The second need, uncertainty/variety, is the opposite of the first. It is about change, adventure, and challenge. The adrenaline junkie prioritizes this need on their list.
The third need, significance, is about feeling important and worthy of love. Examples of meeting this need include getting a degree or having lots of followers on social media. On the flip side, having more problems than another person or even bullying can also fulfill this need.
The fourth need, love and connection, is about intimacy, friendship, and a sense of belonging. Prioritizing significance over love/connection may lead to loneliness; however, prioritizing love and connection over significance may lead to a loss of sense of self and identity. Again, a balance between meeting needs is important.
The last two needs when fulfilled create a high sense of satisfaction because they are harder to meet. The fifth need, growth, is about always progressing emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Growth transitions into being able to give and serve, which leads to the sixth and final need: contribution. Being able to contribute gives meaning to life.
Our actions spring from attempts to fill these needs; even if it is an action that is self-sabotaging, it is still filling a need at that moment. Knowing these six needs, you should now ask yourself: Which needs should I prioritize? How do I meet all these needs in my life right now and am I doing so in a healthy way? What needs should I prioritize and how should I do that? Answering these questions will not only bring contentment and joy for yourself, but also understanding for others’ behaviors and actions.