Psychology 101 for Change Agents, Session 4: Human Needs Psychology and You

Uncategorized Mar 10, 2021

What if I told you that deep down, every single person is motivated by instinctive drives to meet the same 7 psychological needs? 

Do you know what they are? 

Do you know which of these needs is most important for you?


Psychology 101 for Change Agents

Session 4--Human Needs Psychology and You

 Human Needs Psychology is at the heart of the psychological model around which this coaching curriculum is centered.  The key idea is that we can understand an incredibly variety of human behavior on the basis of universal psychological needs.  This concept goes back to Abraham Maslow and his “hierarchy of human needs” as well as Alfred Adler and his ideas around our deep drive for fulfillment and self actualization.  More recently Tony Robbins and Cloe Madanes have made a key contribution to the field with  their “6 Human Needs” framework. 

The model we use in this coaching curriculum is built around 7 innate human drives as listed in the diagram below: Security, Novelty, Social Status, Social Connection, Social Contribution, Self-Evolution and Self-Transcendence.   Even though all human beings share these same instinctive needs, the wide variety of human behavior we observe around us every day stems from the equally wide variety of vehicles each of us chooses to meet these common needs.   This model is a great place to start if you are looking for some immediate, actionable insight into what makes you and those around you tick. This worksheet will guide you through a process of mapping out how these innate psychological needs show up in your life, and the major vehicles you are using to meet them.


This is a great place to start if you are looking for some immediate, actionable insight into what makes you and those around you tick. This session will guide you through a process of mapping out how these six human needs show up in your life, and the major vehicles you are using to meet these needs.

4 lower-level ego-drive needs and 3 higher level self-actualizing needs

The core premise of this human needs framework is that all of us have 4 basic, egocentric needs, and 3 higher level, self-actualizing needs.  The drive to meet these  lower-level needs is so powerful that no matter what, everyone figures out a way to meet their 4 egocentric  needs for security, novelty, social status and social connection.  The vehicles we choose to meet these immediate needs may be positive and healthy, or they may be destructive to ourselves and others--we will violate our values to meet these needs if that’s what it takes.   This is why a big part of our personal development journey is to find creative, positive ways to meet our immediate, egocentric needs.   Finding true fulfillment in life also means we must also find a way to meet our 3 higher level needs for making the world a better place (social contribution), psychological growth (self evolution) and ultimately for connecting with something larger than ourselves (self-transcendence).  We call these three “higher level” needs because although you can survive without meeting them, but you cannot feel truly aligned and  fulfilled without meeting them.  And when you do find ways to meet these higher-level needs, you also typically end up meeting your lower-level needs in the process.

The four, lower level, egocentric human needs:

  • Security: This need encompasses not only the items at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy, such as physical safety, shelter, food etc.  But also includes the need for a predictable, ordered environment. 
  • Novelty: Humans all crave a degree of entertainment, adventure, surprise—if everything around us is entirely certain and predictable we quickly become bored. 
  • Social status: Everyone needs to feel that they matter to others and to themselves. 
  • Social connection: At our most basic level, humans are social creatures.  This means we are all wired to seek love—although some of us will end up settling merely for some form of connection with others, even when that connection is primarily negative.

The three higher level, self-actualizing needs

  • Social Contribution: service to others can be a source of deep fulfillment and meaning, and a key that unlocks all the other needs. In other words, if you can find vehicles in your life for successfully contributing to others you can meet all your other needs in the process.
  • Self-evolution: A sense of growth, progress and personal development is vital to flourishing as a human being. Unfortunately, not all of us figure out a way to meet this need, and when we cannot satisfy our need to grow and evolve ourselves we are blocked from a source of deep fulfillment.
  • Self-transcendence: The highest stage of personal actualization comes when we become less focused on our sense of “self” and on meeting our own needs, and begin to appreciate how we are ultimately an integrated part of something much larger than ourselves. This is the perspective which gives us the greatest leverage to see and to transform the larger systems of which we are a part. 


Applying the Human Needs Framework to Yourself

The worksheet for this session is designed to help you think about how this framework might apply to you, what words do you use for these needs, and what are your go-to vehicles for meeting them?  The worksheet also gives you an opportunity to reflect on which of these needs you tend to prioritize the most, and whether there are any conflicts or synergies between the ways you meet them. 

A Resource For Further Exploration

A great way to get further insight into your own psychological wiring is to take the assessment instrument that Cloe Madanes developed as an accompaniment to the Six Human Needs framework she and Tony Robbins created.   The 6 human needs framework tracks closely to the 7 needs used in this worksheet—the major difference is that this worksheet, following Maslow, adds a 7th need for “self-transcendence” (which also speaks to our need as change agents to perceive and transform the larger systems that surround us).    Madanes’s assessment takes the form of a questionnaire, and it provides insight into the importance you place on meeting your psychological needs, relative to each other. 

Currently, there is no officially sanctioned version of this assessment available to the public online—but there is an unofficial “fan” version available here in a user-friendly online format. 

When it comes to interpreting the results, Madanes has a 20-page guidebook for understanding how the relative priority you place on meeting each of your needs influences your psychological outlook and your relationships with others.

A little bit of background on the Psychology 101 for Change Agent Series

 These videos are excerpts from group coaching sessions I do as part of a livecast series for the social entrepreneurs who are part of our Joyful Impact Accelerator.  Along with the videos there are worksheets that go with each session.  I hope these sessions can generate some deep insights and breakthroughs for you in your journey to more fully answer your own call to serve.   Additional sessions will be posted every other week to the Joyful Impact blog as the livecast series makes it way through the 12-session curriculum.  To download the worksheet for this session, click here.  And if you missed Session 3 from two weeks ago, you can catch it here.


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