Christian Long

Tony Robbins: Why We Do What We Do

In TED Talks on May 22, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Reflection by KATHY B.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Tony Robbins:  Why We Do What We Do

Certainty. Variety. Significance. Connection. Growth. Contribution.

These are the 6 human needs according to Tony Robbins. Let’s take a look at each of them individually.

The first need is certainty. This is an interesting idea, because while it is true that most of us do need an amount of certainty, too much of such can make life dull and boring. So why do we need some certainty? We need to make ourselves certain that throughout life we will be happy and painless. If we are not certain about something, our outlook is changed. For instance, if we’re not relatively certain that we’ll be safe if we go to a new place, chances are we will avoid going there and experiencing it. We need a certain degree of certainty ingrained in our minds that nothing bad will happen to us in order to make ourselves at peace. On the flipside, however, if we were completely certain of everything-when and with whom we will fall in love and marry, how many children we will have, what job we will have, and when we will die-life would seem pretty meaningless and, frankly, pointless. If we knew in advance exactly what would happen throughout our entire lives and when, what would be the point of living it? We would already know how everything would turn out, therefore eliminating emotion. We wouldn’t have excitement, anxiety, nervousness, fear, anticipation, or any other emotion, because we would have already seen our lives played out before us like a movie of which we already know the ending.

This leads to the second human need- variety. We need variety. If life had no variety, it would be utterly boring. We need surprises once in awhile; we need change. Again, if life just stayed the same throughout the years, what would be the point of living it? There would be no hope for improvement in any way. Without surprise and variety, there’s no room for anticipation, which in my opinion is key to our happiness. Anticipation keeps life interesting; not knowing exactly what will happen but being extremely excited about the possibilities is what we thrive on. We need to be able to look forward to things in the future- taking a vacation, getting a driver’s license, becoming legal, being able to drink, getting into college, getting married, having a child- all of these prospective life events that make us want to endure the present in order to get to the endless possibilities of the future.

The third human need is significance. Everybody wants to feel important. We need to feel special, be it from our personality, money, spirituality, career, or love life, we all need to feel important and unique, in some way, to some person or people. As Tony Robbins explained, some people even resort to violence to achieve that feeling of significance. If you hold someone’s life in the palm of your hand and you know it and they know it, then you are instantly significant and the center of attention. We crave significance in any form, and will do whatever it takes to get it, be it by holding someone at gunpoint, donating thousands of dollars to a charity, or throwing a temper tantrum in a store. Without some degree of significance or uniqueness, we would just be another person in the crowd, undistinguishable and unimportant. Nobody wants that.

Connection and love make up the fourth human need. This, as well, can come in a variety of forms- intimacy, family, friendship, spirituality, passion, or even pet ownership. It doesn’t matter where the connection comes from, as long as we can feel it and rely on it. We need to feel close to someone or something; we need to feel cared about. We need something or someone that we know will be there for us no matter what happens, as a shoulder to cry on or best friend to laugh with. Although each time we make a connection we risk getting hurt, we keep trying nonetheless, because while the pain will eventually numb, that desire for closeness never will.

The fifth and sixth needs are what Robbins calls the needs of the spirit, as opposed to those of the personality as were the first four. The fifth human need is growth. We all need growth in every way- in ourselves, in our relationships, in our careers, and in our happiness. Without growth, nothing can ever improve, and everything just stagnates. This ties back into the first few needs; we have to have change and we have to have an anticipation of improvement in order for life to seem worthwhile. We must grow as people in order to gain perspective and wisdom. We must grow so that those close to us do not become annoyed or frustrated with us and leave us. In addition, everything around us must grow so that we do not become bored with what we have, and so it does not fail as everything else improves.

The sixth and final human need is that of contribution beyond oneself. We need to give more than we take. We need to feel as if we have a purpose in life- a higher calling, if you will. If we spend our entire lives taking what is given to us but never giving anything back, life will seem rather empty and meaningless, for even if we ourselves are happy, if those around us are not then our happiness does not feel as sweet. If we have so much but are not generous to those who have nothing, we may be overcome with a twinge of guilt, or if not then we shall be in our own personal little world in which no one else is welcome nor do they wish to be. This would result in the loss of other human needs, such as connection, significance, and growth. Helping others makes us feel a connection with others. It also makes us feel important in the lives of those whom we help, and helps us personally grow as human beings.

These six needs were an emphasis in Tony Robbins’ talk. I would encourage you all to take a look at his talk; he speaks about an enormous amount of important and fascinating ideas, such as these six needs, the power of emotion, and the importance of resourcefulness, and also tells some truly moving personal stories of adversity and growth, one of which involves himself as a poor boy taking it upon himself to help others and another involving a spiritual man on vacation from his work in the World Trade Center and an aspiring terrorist coming together upon hearing the news of the attacks of September 11, 2001.


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