6 Core Human Needs by Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins introduced the concept of 6 Core Human Needs in 2006. It was based on the old Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943), but Tony revised it so that it would be more applicable to the 21st century and the current social norms and paradigms. 

For example, he got rid of physiological needs (food, water, warmth, rest…) arguing that these needs are met anyway in all developed countries. For developing countries, physiological needs have to be added. 

Later, we’ll see that he didn’t completely discard them, but rather moved them to a different category.

These are the 6 Core Human Needs by Tony Robbins:

4 Needs of Personality:

  • Certainty
  • Uncertainty (Variety)
  • Significance
  • Love (Connection)

2 Needs of the Spirit:

  • Growth
  • Contribution

Need for Certainty

Image of a certain guy from Growth Totem on 6 core human needs.

The first of human needs is the need for certainty. People who are more influenced by this need are doing consciously or unconsciously anything they can, to have control in their life and as much predictability as possible.

The means by which they fulfill this need can be Empowering, Neutral, or Disempowering. The thing is if someone really values certainty, then they will find a way to fulfill it. However, the way can be quite a negative one (disempowering) for them or for others. For instance, locking your children in the basement because you fear they otherwise run away, is a terrible way how to fulfill your need for certainty.

On the other hand, giving them money and spoiling them might be considered a neutral way.

Finally, probably the best, I can think of, is to maybe take some self-development seminars and talk to the children about your fears and about theirs. This approach might take time, but it’s, in my opinion, an empowering way how to deal with it.

Uncertainty (Variety)

Image of a uncertain, thinking guy (from Growth Totem on 6 core human needs.)

The need for uncertainty is experienced when someone wants excitement, randomness, and variety in their life. In general, the person doesn’t want to know what’s going to happen next.

Let’s assume that this need dominates you.

There are again 3 possible (out of many) ways how this need can be satisfied. That is by either:

  • going to rob a bank or maybe stealing a chewing gum. (disempowering)
  • playing poker, roulette or blackjack. (neutral, but depends if you have enough money to spare)
  • travel or find an exciting profession where you have to constantly learn. (empowering)


Image of firemen who feel significant (from Growth Totem on 6 core human needs.)

Most often, people who want to prove something or want to be in the center of attention. Generally, these people want to be famous and want to have an impact on the world.

Again, let’s assume that this need dominates a particular person.

And, there are again 3 possible (out of many) ways how this need can be fulfilled. That is by either:

  • Bullying someone to be significant for that person. (very disempowering)
  • Playing an MMORPG game or getting a tattoo (neutral, but it can be empowering if it’s your career or something like that)
  • Starting a youtube channel or your own company. (empowering)

Those were just examples so that I could explain the concept, but it depends on the person’s values and belief system what his disempowering, neutral and empowering things are for each need.

Love (Connection)

Image of girls playing with each other and having connection who feel significant (from Growth Totem on 6 core human needs.)

Those are usually people who need “deep” and “true” love. For different people love means different things. Tony Robbins’ philosophy of love is deep care and compassion so let’s stay with that definition at least for now. 

He also points out that most people are broken by their past relationships, and because they are afraid to be hurt again, they settle for connection. The “connection” is a lower state of love, which fulfills the need to some level too.

Again, 3 examples of ways how a person whose need for love and connection is strong acts:

  • Blackmailing or sabotaging the relationship with his parents, partner or friends thinking this would strengthen the relationship. (disempowering)
  • Paying for love and connection. (probably, neutral but depends on the values’ of that person)
  • Being in a healthy relationship, friendship or partnership (empowering)

Growth and Contribution

Image of a growing plant. Growth, 6 core human needs

A growing plant symbolizes a person who is constantly learning new things.

Finally, here are the last two needs of the spirit – growth and contribution.

It’s important to note that, according to Tony Robbins, these two needs are different from the first 4. Growth and Contribution are not satisfied, by either of the mentioned ways (empowering, neutral, disempowering), unless the person deliberately attempts and succeeds to fulfill them. In other words,  without some kind of effort, these needs are not realized. 

Because of this reason, those two needs are also called the happiness needs or the needs of the spirit.

First, let’s look at Growth:

It’s the need for continual intellectual, spiritual and emotional development.

Personally, I see this need to be fulfilled by studying philosophy, sociology, learning new things, self-development and testing all the theory on myself. And in that process, going closer and closer to my full potential. 

Afterall, Growth Totem is all about providing the tools to fulfill this need.

The second is Contribution:

It’s the need of giving, protecting, caring and serving others.

I think this is the reason why, for example, Bill & Melinda Foundation exists. Both Bill and his wife, Melinda are very successful people. It’s hard to know what’s happening “behind the curtain”, but I’d argue that at one point in the past, they fulfilled all their specific needs and realized that there is one more, the need for contribution in order for them to be truly happy.

Image of fingers holding each other - contribution, 6 core human needs

Why is it essential to know your core human needs?

Usually, people have 2 out of the 6 human needs which dominate them. For example, in my case, it is Significance and Growth. However, it’s good to mention that I (as well as everyone else) have to fulfill the other needs as well.

In order to do it, I identified the importance of each of my needs and made a plan to fulfilled them in a positive, empowering way.

The interesting thing is that blogging is positively dealing with 5 of my needs: certainty (because I think I can make some money out of it), uncertainty (because many blogs fail), significance (because I am writing articles and impacting people), growth (because I have to keep learning a lot to be able to write articles), and finally contribution (because I believe the content on this website is helping people in a positive way).

It’s also critical to really know your belief system. Different beliefs mean different ways how to satisfy your needs!

For example, in my case, the need for certainty is satisfied by having a lot of money, but for another person, it can be something completely different like having a stable job or having a good relationship with his family.

And to answer the question, why is it important to know your needs?

Because then you truly know what drives your behavior. You can get rid of the negative (disempowering) habits and replace them with positive (empowering) or at least neutral ones.

Moreover, I believe that knowing your needs will help with better relationships with your co-workers, family, friends and loved ones.

Homework to action:

  • Which two needs dominate your life?
  • Identify how you are fulfilling all of our 6 human needs.
  • Take an action to replace your disempowering habits with empowering ones.

Comment below and share with your friends who, you think, would benefit from this content. It would mean a lot to me.

I am signing off,

take care! :]


Daniel Pelnar

Hey, I am the founder of GrowthTotem.com. If you would like to contact me, tweet me @DanielPelnar or drop a comment below for this specific article. I wish you happy reading. ^_^

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4 Responses

  1. Alex says:

    Great info.
    I think I value certainty and significance the most.
    My gf values certainty and uncertaintity. Do you think opposite needs can be fulfilled at the same time?

    • Hi Alex,
      Thanks for sharing your and your girlfriend’s dominant needs.

      I think having opposite needs is quite common. I have a friend who watches old seasons of Game of Thrones because of that. When I asked him why he said: “Watching old episodes of something I have already seen is cool. In one way, I know it’s good because I’ve already watched it (certainty). In the other, I’m kinda hoping I’ve forgotten some parts (uncertainty, variety).

      In my opinion, this is sort of a neutral way how to go about it. I’m sure you can find empowering ways too.

      Good luck ^_^

  2. Applejuice says:

    Probably love and certainty

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