Why We Do What We Do – The Ultimate Guide

6 human needs drivesHave you had one of those moments when you did something and after that, you said to yourself “I’m so stupid, why did I do this?”

I certainly have.

At other times you do something and it feels effortless and fulfilling but you don’t really know why you felt that way.

If you are reading this article, you have probably pondered the following questions at some point in your life too.

Why do some people, such as terrorists, find pleasure in killing and torturing others?

And why are others, like firemen, motivated to sacrifice their own lives to save the life of someone else?

This is just one mystery that we are going to uncover in this article.

But maybe you just want to find out something simple. Like why your spouse or children don’t do their share of the chores when it is their turn. Or something similarly common and annoying from your everyday life.

I’ve got good news for you: the answer is simpler than you might think.

Whether the person in question is you, your spouse, your children, firemen, terrorists or anyone else, there are only six reasons why anybody does anything.

And surprisingly, these are also the 6 reasons why you or anyone say anything and even feels anything!

Finally, they even have an impact on what types of thoughts you will think.

That’s quite a handful. I hope you are beginning to think now that it’s time to take these 6 forces seriously.

With the amount of influence they have in your life and in the lives of those who you care about, I encourage you to take this information in fully. This could very well be the most important article you will read today.

So, do people do or say things because they are good or bad? Or because they have self-control or morals? Or because they decide to?

Is there really such a thing as good or bad?

Why do people develop self-control or morals in the first place?

And what shapes our decisions?



These 6 primary reasons are the universal human needs. Some people, like Brendon Burchard, call them drives.

In this article, I will be using the 6 human needs of Tony Robbins as a basic framework to explain what human needs are.

There are many popular systems of needs, buy Tony’s is the one I’ve found to be the most insightful of all, during my decade-long study and application of the human needs.

I absolutely love this subject. Mastering it has given me a lot of compassion, peace, clarity, and control in my life.

It’s so easy and convenient to judge other people, and even ourselves, for what they do.

But does it serve anyone? Does it resolve conflict, nurture compassion and mutual understanding?

How about you kick the habit of judging people with the help of the insights you’re going to gain from this article?

With some practice, you’ll have the ability to understand with compassion what drives people and help them get what they truly need. The ability to be a better leader, spouse, friend and parent.

Looking at the underlying human needs instead of trying to decide who is right and wrong has the power to fill your life with compassion, and vice versa. From a strong grounding in compassion, it’ll be easier to stay focused on peoples needs and be an agent of peace.

To create a strong foundation of compassion, I recommend you download my free ebook and do the 2 compassion exercises in it on a regular basis. This will help you internalize what you`re going to read in this article much better and get rid of judging people and creating conflict.

I hope this excites you!

I am certainly excited to share this with you.

So let’s begin!



The first need is the need for Certainty.

We all need to be certain that we will survive, that we can avoid pain and gain some kind of pleasure or comfort, both immediately and on a consistent basis.

Having control over things is one way to meet this need.

Having self-control and morals that ensure we don’t accidentally do or say something that others could judge us for is also a way to meet this need.

A need to be able to trust others falls under this category too. We need to be certain that we can count on them.

If we don’t meet our needs, we are going to feel negative emotions.

Those emotions are our guidance system, hardwired into us by evolution.

This is so that we can recognise what will help us with our survival and reproduction and what won’t. To easily decide what to move towards and what to move away from.

This is the most obvious with the need for certainty. This need helps us avoid pain. Pain means damage and possibly death.

Pleasure can mean both survival and reproduction and that’s why we try to seek it. This is the reason why having sex feels so good.

But we humans have developed more sophisticated ways to gain certainty.

Gaining competence in an area is one such way.

This area has to lead to our increased survival or reproductive chances though, otherwise, it won’t fulfill this need.

I have discovered this evolutionary approach to human needs that I believe provides the best understanding. It also makes it easy to tell what makes an activity feel ‘meaningful’ to us.

Gaining competence in a skill that, say, helps a plant species survive that has no impact on our own survival at all, will not feel deeply fulfilling. Certainly not as much as gaining a skill that will help our family thrive. Our family would do anything to ensure that we survive, the plant species won’t.

Unless you are a hermit and have learned to live off the land, you are part of society.

This means that you’ll receive your resources needed for your survival, including money, from other humans.

Our brains are still wired to live and thrive in a tribe of people.

These mean that you’ll experience the greatest fulfillment and strongest positive emotions by meeting your needs through your relationships with other humans.

It’s good to understand what gives us the biggest evolutionary advantages. Then we can easily decide what to do that is the most fulfilling if we often feel confused.

Tribes used to consist of people who lived in a community and who helped each other survive, like a big family.

Today, metaphorically speaking, your tribe can be your family, friends or the people you provide services to as a business owner, for example. Serving these people who can help sustain you will feel the most fulfilling to you.

Of course, if you live off the grid, secluded, and you sustain yourself from gardening, then your connection with your plants and animals will be the most fulfilling. This is because instead of other humans, they will help you survive.

Other examples are believing that we can handle any challenge, for men to be leaders and protectors, for women to wait for a genuine pair bond to form first with their partners before getting pregnant, and so on.

A more elegant but difficult way to meet our needs is to learn to listen to our heart.

That’s an arduous and painful process to many of us who’ve been badly hurt in life.

To avoid that pain, most people stay in their heads, and block out their feelings without ever knowing that this is what’s happening.

One way to disconnect from our heart is through overeating. We actually meet our need for certainty by stuffing down our emotions with binge eating. Often we do this unconsciously to feel in control of what we allow ourselves to feel.

Fortunately, there are many roads that lead to happiness.

I can’t give you a full list in this article of ways we meet our need for certainty.

Your aim now could simply be to begin to see a pattern of how you could possibly meet your six human needs at the highest level.

I mentioned in the first article of this series that meanings in our heads will only cause us to feel negative emotions if the meaning prevents us from meeting our needs.

Our needs themselves are influenced by both meanings and unconscious beliefs.

For example, if we become homeless and we give it the meaning that this is unsafe, and we’ll get stuck in the streets, our need for certainty won’t be met. We’ll then experience a range of negative emotions.

If, however, we give it the meaning that it’s an exciting challenge to recover from, and then come back stronger than ever, everything changes. We’ll feel anticipation, focus and maybe playfulness too. We’ll feel certain that we’ll turn this into something great.

Limiting beliefs can prevent us from meeting our needs too.

With limiting beliefs, such as “I’m not good enough”, “Mistakes and failure are bad” and “The world is not a safe place”, our need for certainty will consistently be very hard to meet.

Without limiting beliefs, however, it all becomes smooth sailing.

Really, limiting beliefs can only cause us problems in 2 possible ways.

First, if they make us believe that something, that would help with our chances of survival and reproduction, is bad or impossible.

Second, if they make us believe that something that decreases our chances to survive or reproduce, is good and possible.

For example, if we believe that becoming wealthy would make us immoral or evil like all rich people are, we’d be trapped by the first type of limiting belief.

Then we might believe that raising a huge statue in the town center that`s made out of toxic and radioactive material would make us be celebrated and considered a genius. In this case, the second type of belief would be making us be in need of therapy.

Actually, we all have such limiting beliefs as this aspiring mad artist in the example. And we are all slightly mad when we believe that we need to have, do or be something to be happy.

Is it having a relationship, another car, a degree, a bigger house, fame, or our idea of  “enlightenment” that will finally get us there?

Have they already made you happy? Or do you think they will?

The truth is, if you don`t have it right now, you`ll never have it.

These ideas, beliefs and expectations in your head are what are preventing you from feeling safe, connected, free and fulfilled right now.

Our emotional and energetic states will influence our neds too.

Our current emotional state will determine what needs will become active in us and what thoughts we will be thinking.

In ecstatic, playful and adventurous states we tend not to care about our need for certainty that much, for example.

Some more examples to help you meet the need for certainty are: to have money in the bank, to get married, to buy a house, to create rules, to reduce your suffering through meditation or prayer, to gain control over your life using the Law of Attraction, to set your boundaries and to stay true to who you are.

This last one is our ultimate source of certainty: to remain consistent with our own identity and beliefs.

To know who we are is the ultimate anchor point for us in times of uncertainty, which leads us to the next human need.



“Are you kidding?” you must be saying now.

“You’re contradicting yourself!”

Not at all.

There’s no left without right. Balance is found between two extremes.

Now imagine that you create an extreme sense of certainty where the same thing keeps happening over and over and over again. And you know it’s never going to change. How would you feel?

Eventually, you’d feel so bored you’d want to die!

Our nervous system is designed in a way that we need stimulation, variety, a regular change in our state.

Even balance is a dynamic process, not a static state.

In truth, the more present you are, the more aliveness, the more variety you’ll become aware of in the present moment.

But variety is more than just the spice of life.

Children need a stimulating environment in order to develop into healthy and intelligent individuals. And that again is directed by evolution.

The more children experiment with new objects and ways of manipulating them, the more they will be able to understand how the physical world behaves. In turn, they will be able to manipulate their environment better, thereby increasing their chances of survival.

By gaining competence this way, we also meet our need for certainty and usually for other needs too. We’ll feel more certain that we can handle challenges with our improved skills.

Who said we could only meet one need by doing one thing?

In fact, most of the time we meet multiple needs through one behavior.

Talking of which, the more needs a behavior meets and the higher the level it meets them at, the more addictive and effortless the behavior will be, according to Tony Robbins.

We can meet our need for variety by trying new types of cuisines, going for a walk, reading a new book, talking to a stranger, traveling around the world, doing bungee jumping, robbing the bank or having sex with a new partner without protection.

Reading the last two examples you might have probably noticed that there can be negative ways of meeting our needs too.

We can actually meet our needs in positive, negative and neutral ways.

A positive or empowering way of meeting this need could be by challenging ourselves to reach new heights of achievement.

A neutral one would be trying a new dish or color of hair.

And a negative example is to use drugs.

What positive, negative and neutral ways can you think of for meeting your need for the first need, certainty?

In what ways have you been meeting the first two needs?



Have you met one of those men who were loud, at the center of attention, seemingly not giving a damn about what people think of them, being outrageous and probably bragging a bit as well? And everyone seemed to be totally attracted to them.

You might have felt irritated by his bragging or way of seeking attention. But maybe you were just genuinely interested or attracted.

The truth is that this person was trying to meet his need for significance. To be important, needed, valued, special and maybe unique too.

He might have seemed confident, but there was a deep hunger for these things in him and he felt miserable deep inside without noticing it.

All he needed was some appreciation, some connection, a sense that he was worthy, good enough and important.

If you were one of the many people judging him, know that there’s a better way to relate to him. A way that will make you and everyone else more fulfilled. I’ll discuss what it is when I’ll talk about the need for contribution later.

When this need is wanting to be met in us, these are the things we might need: appreciation, respect, recognition, to be given space (autonomy belongs here too), to be valued, needed, unique or special, important, and worthy of connection and love.

The last two will arise from a sense of not being worthy or good enough. Those are unconscious limiting beliefs that most of us have formed in childhood inevitably.

If people complain or mention their achievements or how hard they have worked, they usually are trying to meet their need for significance.

Wanting to be unique comes from the desire for creative self-expression.

Using our unique talents in a creative way, working for something bigger than ourselves while being challenged is an empowering way to meet this need.

Dressing cool or unique is a neutral way of meeting the need for significance. Serving and giving value to others is an empowering way as well as risking our lives to save others. Threatening someone to kill them is a negative approach.

Other examples are: to have tattoos, to disregard society’s norms, to become an expert or authority at something, to have big problems or be in a crisis situation all the time, to help others, to save lives while sacrificing ourselves, to try to always be humble, loving or non-violent, or to be angry, silent or threatening all the time.

CHALLENGE: If you have an idea of how trying to be humble or being silent and reserved could be ways to meet this need, share it in the comments below now, and then come back to the article!

And just to be clear, I’ll ask this question: who’s got the need to feel significant?

The answer is everyone!

We can meet this need in more or less obvious ways. What are yours?

From an evolutionary standpoint, this need is important, because if our tribe treats us as being important, needed, and valued, they will be more likely to support us and give us their love and resources.

The more we feel needed and appreciated somewhere, the more we’ll feel that we belong there.

You probably remember me mentioning that when we have this need, sometimes we want to feel worthy of connection or love.

So can you guess what the fourth human need is?



These 6 needs are called human needs for a reason. They are not lizard, amphibian or plant needs. Well, not in this combination anyway.

Love is a need that’s unique to humans and other mammals.

Unlike reptiles, we are helpless when we are born and need the constant love, care, and protection of our parents to survive.

To give and receive love is key to the survival of humankind.

But love is a double-edged sword. Love, or rather the withdrawal of it, is what makes us emotionally wounded in childhood. And sometimes later during a relationship break-up too.

When we make mistakes or don’t live up to our parents’ expectations, they withdraw their love from us while they are being annoyed or angry with us.

We form the beliefs that mistakes and failure are bad, that we are not lovable and good enough.

We begin to protect ourselves from opening up to love to avoid the pain of feeling bad, rejected and isolated again.

As a result, most people settle for connection instead of love.

The courageous ones who are willing to open up their hearts again and heal themselves are the ones who end up living the most fulfilling lives.

They will feel worthy and effortlessly connected again to others, even without the use of words.

There will be no more obsessively looking for company when they are alone, or fear of what others would think about them.

There will be no more awkward, uncomfortable silences during a conversation. Maybe for the other person, but not for them.

You can meet your need for connection by talking to someone, by going for a walk in nature, or you can feel connected to your source by meditating or praying.

Even when you are dwelling on your negative thoughts and feelings or if you’re depressed, you’ll be connected to yourself. That form of self-pity is also a form of connection, although a negative one.

A positive way of meeting this need is giving a public speech and a neutral one is walking in nature.

Loving those who matter to us is the most fulfilling. This is usually because they care about us too and we can count on them as well, though this is something we often don’t realize is causing our deeper feelings.

The feeling of love really is an indicator to us that there is a deep level of care between beings who can sustain one another.

We can meet our need for love by making love, by sharing our emotions vulnerably while being heard and accepted, or by serving others without expecting anything in return, for example.

Research has shown that the quality of our lives and our level of happiness are greatly determined by the quality of our relationships.

Practice meeting your need for love with others and loving yourself deeply as well in order to have an extraordinarily fulfilling life.

The needs for certainty, variety, significance, and connection/love are what Tony Robbins calls the 4 psychological needs.

We must meet all these needs in some way but they won’t make us truly fulfilled and happy.

What makes us be vibrantly alive and happy are the 2 spiritual needs, growth and contribution.



Everything in nature either grows or dies.

Growth is about learning new things, expanding, becoming more on any level, physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually.

We, humans, have many options available when it comes to growth.

We can learn and become so many more things than, say, a dog could learn or become.

There is an intrinsic joy in the growth process. Making progress towards a meaningful goal feels tremendously rewarding.

If you want to remember one thing about this need, it should be this. If you can make constant, meaningful growth an integral part of your life, it will be completely transformed and filled with excitement.

And by meaningful, I still mean something that helps you not just to reproduce and survive, but also thrive.

For example, learning how to preserve a harmful plant species that is on the brink of extinction and that can’t help the chances of your survival, the survival of your planet or of life on the planet in any way, now that’s not meaningful.

But learning a skill that can positively impact your chances of survival or reproduction in a direct or indirect way, that’s what is going to feel meaningful to you.

We are the most excited about our learning, our growth, if deep down we believe it’ll lead to meaningful contribution.

Being yourself that includes growing your unique skills will ensure that you’ll be more needed and valued by people who can sustain you, because of the unique contribution that only you can make.

Being yourself has strong evolutionary benefits and as a result, you’ll be happier.

You’ll feel more happy feelings because your subconscious knows that being you makes you fitter and more able to survive.

We are rewarded for things like this to let us know that we are on the right track as far as life’s agenda is concerned. Which is to reproduce, survive and get our needs met.

The point of me telling you this is not to get you thinking about what you should do to meet your needs and make yourself happy.

This only your heart, your intuition knows.

And I’m not talking about following your emotional impulses here.

It is more like a gentle nudge or a soft but powerful voice that is constantly suppressed by the constant louder thoughts in our mind.

It could be as easy as following your emotional guidance system, your intuitive feelings and pulls.

Without our thoughts, meanings in our heads, our limiting beliefs and expectations interfering with the natural ease of meeting our needs, being happy becomes effortless.

It’s not so simple though in practise for many of us.

It requires pure consciousness, a pure heart.

A heart that isn’t filled with emotions created by fearful, limiting thinking and expectations.

And that requires hard work.

Either way, it is going to take work and commitment to get your needs met consistently and experience lasting happiness.

But by knowing how to do it, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

And we haven’t even talked about the most important human need yet. It has the power to fulfill all 6 of your needs at a very high level.

You want to make sure you master this one.



Marshall B. Rosenberg, the creator of Nonviolent Communication has said that contribution is the most important human need, according to one of his students, Lucy Liu. I don’t know why he said this, but I completely agree with him.

Tony Robbins has said the same thing about growth and contribution.

What is contribution and why is it the most important need?

Great question!

Contribution is giving to something beyond ourselves and sharing with others.

Have you ever felt inclined to share something with others that have made you happy or filled with awe and wonder?

Most children and even adults do. It brings me a lot of joy too.

Sharing our wonderful experiences magnifies them and extends their duration as well.

Laughing together at a great joke until our belly hurts.

Being thrilled by an amazing street performance that we are watching together with our spouse, both clapping excitedly.

Planting a fruit tree in our garden together with our family.

We could do all these things alone.

But would the feeling be just as powerful and easy to create and maintain?


This is just one reason, the tip of the iceberg of why contribution is the number one need. Let’s delve deeper into why it is.

So why is giving so fulfilling?

Or is it?

It might not be if you keep being focused on yourself as you give.

Thinking how “I” am not good enough.

How “I” will be rejected with what I share.

How “I” might be stupid, boring, unimportant or incompetent.

So why bother?

Because these are beliefs and not reality. Because you are only thinking and feeling these while you are focused on yourself instead of the other.

Focusing on giving value to people who appreciate it is the fast track to getting out of your head and stop your negative thoughts and emotions in their tracks.

This is one powerful reason why this need is so powerful.

But there’s more.



Would you like to meet all your needs at the same time?


This is how it works.

Imagine there is a group of people you are about to meet.

You are certain they will benefit greatly from your information. It will make their lives and the lives of their children easier.

Are you beginning to feel some excitement?

Now imagine that you know your stuff like the back of your hand. You’re especially talented in this area so this is your unique contribution. It’ll be easy for you to convey your message. Your sense of certainty is up one notch again.

There is some variety involved too. And growth. You have to adapt your message to the already existing knowledge of the people you’ll be helping.

It’ll always be different and it never becomes boring.

By explaining your material from different angles, you’ll master it better yourself. You’ll become the number one student there as others help you learn what you are teaching. Your needs for growth and variety are met at a high level.

You’ll necessarily connect with those you communicate with. The more you care about them, the more you’ll meet your need not just for connection but for love as well. And the more fulfilled you’ll be.

By giving others valuable information, they’ll think of you as someone important, needed and valued.

If you accept this with humility, you’ll be able to meet your need for love and connection as well as for significance.

And all the rest of your needs too at a very high level.

Is this great or great?



Dedicating your life to meaningful contribution and constant growth makes it true to your subconscious mind that you’re going to easily survive and reproduce. It’s been wired to associate these things with each other.

If your subconscious believes that you are a survival and reproduction machine, this is what your body language and your entire being will convey automatically.

What you’ll be most aware of are your feelings of complete vibrancy, fulfillment and joy.

Strangely, even coincidences will start to appear that support you on your path.

You’ll become more attractive and charismatic.

We become attractive by living in beautiful states that others want to be a part of too. And by meeting your needs at the highest level consistently is how you become and remain attractive and completely fulfilled.


This video explains why you need BOTH Growth and Contribution to create an amazing life full of joy, vibrancy, and meaning.


The 66 Day Compassion Challenge

I want to be honest with you. Learning this, like anything important in life, takes time and commitment. I don’t believe in quick fixes. If you don’t either, you`re in the right place.

If you are fed up with being unfulfilled and want to learn how to do this, I invite you to accept this challenge.

During the next week, at least 3 times during the day ask yourself the question:

“What needs and in what way have I been trying to meet in the last few hours?”

Recall the most emotionally intense moments, judgments and conflict situations.

Try to identify the needs the other persons involved were trying to meet as well.

Do this for a whole week. You’ll start to notice that you`re getting the hang of it more and more.

But don`t stop there. I encourage you to extend the entire length of the challenge to 66 days. Research has shown that on average it takes us 66 days to create a new habit that will stay with us.

For now just do it for a week and notice as your ability to spot and identify needs that are trying to be met, increases day by day.

I can`t have a conversation or even watch a movie without constantly being aware of what drives everyone and what I can possibly do to help people meet their needs. You`ll get to experience the same if you continue practicing.

Reward yourself immediately with something small for each successful, compassionate understanding of a situation that you used to judge in the past. Give yourself a high-five, a bite of chocolate, a tap on your own shoulder, a 10 minutes break.

Let me know how it went! Bookmark this article now and come back to leave a comment on your progress!

Don`t forget about me! My feelings may be hurt because they are tender like a rosebud 😉

This is an area I am madly passionate about and I will be sending more content like this to your way soon which you don’t want to miss.

Please let me know if you`ve got any questions or leave a comment below.

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I`d be grateful for it!


5 thoughts on “Why We Do What We Do – The Ultimate Guide”

  1. So true that focusing outward is a great way to get out of the suffering inside the mind. Contribution is one of the most powerful forces on earth.

    Thanks for the great post and looking forward to more!

    1. Thank you so much Anthony for taking the time to comment!
      I`ve enjoyed visiting your website, magneticmemorymethod.com very much.

      And yes, you`re right! Contribution is one of our most powerful tools in our pursuit of happiness.

    1. Hi, thank you for checking out my content and for leaving a comment. I guess the reason for your visit is that I’ve just left a question on your informative tech blog. It’s great that my writing could provide value to a tech enthusiast like you as well. I’m glad you like it!

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