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Robbins' Six Needs


Explanations > Needs > Robbins' Six Needs

Certainty | Uncertainty | Significance | Connection | Growth | Contribution |  So what?


Tony Robbins has described six human needs. Here's a discussion of each of these.

The first four are more about personality and the final two more about 'spirit'. Within these, we tend to have a primary need on which we focus most, possibly at the expense of the remaining needs. As with other needs, the way we achieve these needs may vary significantly and is not always the best way.

A way of looking at these needs is in pairs that operate at three levels, as in the table below. The pairs seem contradictory, yet is a part of the paradox and richness of humanity that we can make such opposites work as be balance the needs of the inner self with the forces of the outer world.


  Inner Outer
Basic Certainty Uncertainty
Self Significance Connection
Spirit Growth Contribution



First of all, we need certainty in our lives. When we are certain about how things work and how others behave we can predict what will happen in the future and so feel safe.

When we are certain about others, we can trust them. When we feel safe, we can relax and reduce our constant scanning for threats.

Certainty is related to the CIA need for control, Maslow's needs for health and safety, and McClelland's need for Power.


While certainty is important, too much is boring. We also want stimulation and novelty to add interest and fun to our lives. This is why people try new things, take risks and gamble, even when they do not need to do so.

Uncertainty is related to the CIA need for a sense of arousal.


We need meaning in our lives and want our lives to have purpose and direction. We want to be important and for others to look up to us. We may gain this in many different ways, from becoming well-qualified to being friendly and helping others.

Significance is related to the CIA need for identity, Maslow's needs for esteem and self-actualization, and McClelland's need for achievement.


Without company, we easily get lonely. We are social animals and connecting with other people is important for us. In this ways, we bond with others as we form friends and extend our sense of who we are.

Just as uncertainty balances certainty, so outer connection with others balances the inner need for significance of the self.

Connection is related to the CIA need for a sense of identity, Maslow's need for belonging and McClelland's need for affiliation.


Beyond fulfilling the previous needs, we want to learn and become more than we are. For this purpose we study and want to develop our careers.

As a higher need, we can live without it and some people seek little in way of growth, while others are highly motivated to make something more of themselves.

Growth is related to the CIA needs for arousal and a sense of identity, Maslow's need for self-actualization and McClelland's need for achievement.


Combining growth and connection, contribution takes into account other people and the world at large. If we are active in contributing to other individuals and groups, rather than just 'belonging', we increase our connection with them and it feel good as our sense of identity is expanded.

Contribution is related to the CIA need for a sense of identity, Maslow's need for belonging and self-actualization and McClelland's need for achievement.

So what?

Review yourself or others with the lens of these needs, asking the important questions:

  • Exactly how is each need fulfilled?
  • Which is most important?
  • Which is least important?

Answering these questions can tell you a lot about a person, including how they may behave in certain circumstances and how they may best be motivated.

See also

The CIA Needs Model, Maslow's Hierarchy, Acquired Needs Theory


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