The 6 Human Needs and Why I Run

Have you wondered about why you do what you do?  For instance why do you run?  I recently listened to a podcast by Tony Robbins from one of his seminars with a profound explanation on Why We Do What We Do.  It’s an updated version of his famous TED talk back in 2006 which happens to be the #6 most viewed TED talk of all time.  Working with millions of people, Tony Robbins determined the six basic human needs that drive our behavior.  These are not based on goals or desires, but rather the emotional needs every human being wants to fulfill.

6 Basic Human Needs

At 15, one of the best decisions I made was when I joined my highschool cross country team.  Since then, running has been a significant part of my life.  Sure I took several breaks throughout the years but I found my way back to it time and time again.  Why? Because running satisfies all of the 6 human needs.

1.  Certainty.  

Knowing exactly what to expect and be in complete control.  I like to go for a run because it’s a simple form of activity. All I need to do is put on my running gear and I’m out the door in a few minutes without giving it much thought.  There’s no question about it. Every time I go for a run, I always feel good afterwards.  When I want a quick and satisfying workout, I know I can always get it from a run.

2. Uncertainty.  

Can you imagine waking up to the same experience everyday?  Like Groundhog Day.  It would be absolutely boring! As much as we like to have certainty in our lives, mixing in variety makes it more exciting.  There are so many ways to induce variety when running  becomes monotonous. Pick a different route, run faster, sign up for a race.  Look at all the different types of races we can now run – Obstacle Courses, Mud Run, Bubble Run, Color Run.  A few months ago, I signed up to run my first trail half marathon in December.  I had the intention to sign up for the USA Half when I realized the course was very similar to the half marathon I ran in March.  I figured it was time for a change of scenery so I opted to run a trail race instead.  Off road racing is a completely new experience for me and I am excited for this new challenge.

3.  Significance.  

To feel important or unique or special.  What I found interesting was when Tony Robbins mentioned that even people who doesn’t want the spotlight still secretly yearn to be signficant.  How does running make me feel unique? First off, I am truly grateful to have the strength and energy to run.  Each time I finish a run, I count it as a big accomplishment of the day.  As far as statistics, according to Statistic Brain, the percentage of U.S. population that has finished a marathon amounts to 0.5%.  The percentage even becomes smaller when you account for those who ran a Boston qualifying time (although I couldn’t find the exact % for when I qualified for Boston).  My competitive side emerges when I want to beat my previous times and achieve new personal records.  I guess faster times make me feel more significant.

4.  Connection/Love.  

We are all wired for connection.  On a deeper level, we need to be able to give and receive love.  Many of my friends I met through running.  The first time I bonded with my best friend (and best running friend) was out on a run in Canada back when we were both still in the military where our ship spent a few days inport.  It was love at first run!  That was 16 years ago and we continue to deepen our connection with every run.

It’s even easier to connect now with other like-minded runners with technology and social media.  I like being in a space where I can share my thoughts about running with people who can appreciate it. And I love reading about people’s journeys, training for races, battling injuries, overcoming barriers and celebrating their successes.

5.  Growth.

Tony Robbins made a powerful point when he stated that Progress = Happiness.  We set goals, big and small so we continue to grow.  Think of it in terms of running, I have daily mileage and specific pace goals in the short term.  And big PR goals in the long term.  When I achieve my goals of a new PR or a strong finish, I feel ecstatic about it for days. Then I set another goal so I can continue to progress forward. 

However, the goal itself is really not the most important part.  Its the person who we become during the journey.  It’s about how it has changed us to become better version of ourselves.  During the long mile runs when I was alone stuck with my  own thoughts was the time I learned a lot about myself.

6.  Contribution

The need to step outside ourselves and provide value to others by volunteering, donating to a cause or even simply helping out a friend.  How does it feel when you give someone a hand and expect nothing in return?  Tony Robbins pointed out that the final two needs (Growth and Contribution) meet our spiritual needs while the first four are the needs of our personality.  When your intentions is not just about you, you experience fulfillment.  

Running provides so many opportunities for contribution.  Before I had my girls, I was an active volunteer for the San Diego Track Club as part of the committee for the marathon training program.  I also volunteered to be an assistant coach for the American Heart Association’s Start Training, the first one held in San Diego to raise funds for awareness and prevention of heart disease and stroke.  However lately, I haven’t put forth as much effort into it and something I need to work on.

Anytime your brain perceived that doing something, believing something, feeling something meets at least three of these needs, you become addicted to it.

At his seminar, Tony Robbins had everyone write down the above statement.  No wonder why I can never turn my back on running.  It’s my addiction.  Fortunately it’s a positive one to have.  

Our behaviors are shaped by how we want to meet these basic human needs and it also depends on which needs we value the most.   Mine are Growth, Connection/Love, and Certainty.  What are the top 3 needs you value? 

If you would like to hear the 2006 TED Talk, here’s the link.  For the updated version, go to this link.

Sharing this post with Jill Conyers Fitness, Health, and Happiness and Ilkas Blog.