Unveiling the Truth Behind Behavior: How Our Needs Affect Our Choices

Unveiling the Truth Behind Behavior: How Our Needs Affect Our Choices


Have you ever done something and wondered why you did it? In this article, I’m going to be talking about the truth behind the behavior: how our needs affect our choices. We’ll start by exploring the different needs that drive our behavior, and then we’ll take a look at how those needs can play out in our everyday lives. Finally, I’ll discuss some ways to better understand and meet our own needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you do the things you do? Why did you choose the career you do or the relationships you build? What motivates you to make the choices you make?

If so, then you’ve likely heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Developed in 1943, it’s a theory that explains human behavior in terms of basic needs. According to Maslow, our needs are arranged in a hierarchy, with the most basic needs at the bottom and the most complex needs at the top.

Needs & Behavior: Maslow Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow Hierarchy of Needs

The most fundamental needs are physiological needs — things like food, water, sleep, and reproduction. Once these needs are met, we move up to safety and security needs, like having a safe place to live and being safe from physical harm. Next, come love and belonging needs, like having friends and being part of a community. After that comes self-esteem needs, like feeling good about ourselves and having accomplishments. Finally, we have self-actualization needs such as parenting and personal growth.

Three further categories were added later to Maslow’s model: cognitive needs, like creativity, curiosity, knowledge, and meaning. Aesthetic needs such as the beauty in your surroundings and in nature. As well as transcendence needs which are the most complex and include things like spirituality and a desire to connect with the infinite.

Why Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is important

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is important because it details the basic needs that drive human behavior. These needs are physiological in nature, and they are the most important needs that we have. When these needs are not met, we tend to overcompensate in another area of our life that’s not healthy for us or that’s not in line with our values in order to function in society.

For example, if you are hungry and do not have access to food, you will likely find a way to get food. This may involve stealing, begging, or any other number of strategies. The need for food is so strong that it will motivate you to take extreme measures.

The same is true for all of our basic human needs. When they are not met, we tend to act out in some way or another. This is why it is so important to be aware of our needs and what motivates our behavior. That way, we can make more mindful decisions and live a life that’s more in line with our values.

Most of our behavior is unconscious

Most of what we do every day is on autopilot. In fact, it’s estimated that 95% of our behavior is unconscious.

So what exactly does that mean? It means that we’re not really in control of most of what we do. We’re not aware of the reasons behind our behavior, we just see the results.

For example, let’s say you have a colleague who you can’t stand. Every time they open their mouth, you just want to scream. But you don’t, because that would be unprofessional.

Instead, you might find yourself avoiding them at all costs, or maybe you passive-aggressively do things to make their life difficult (like CC’ing them on every email, even though it’s not necessary).

You’re not really aware of why you’re doing these things, you just know that you don’t like this person and you want to make their life as difficult as possible.

The reason behind your behavior is that your colleague is triggering a need for love and approval. Deep down, you feel like they don’t like or respect you, and so you’re trying to get their approval by making their life difficult. From the outside, it doesn’t sound logical. It’s a subconscious way of trying to meet your needs.

Every behavior is driven by a subconscious desire to meet a need

Think about the last time you did something you know you shouldn’t have. Maybe you ate that extra slice of cake, procrastinated on a project, or said something unkind to a loved one.

What was driving that behavior?

More likely than not, it was a subconscious desire to meet a need. And while you may not have been aware of it in the moment, that need was probably something fundamental, like the need for love, approval, or safety.

Of course, not all of our needs are ‘negative’. Some of our behavior is driven by the need to feel joyful, creative, or connected. But whether they’re positive or negative, all of our needs are powerful forces that influence our choices and shape our lives.

What are the results of unmet needs?

Unmet needs can manifest in a number of ways, some of which may be harmful to ourselves or others. When our basic needs are neglected, we may overcompensate in another area of our life to function in society. For example, someone who doesn’t feel safe may become aggressive or violent. Or someone who feels unimportant may become needy and clingy.

On a more individual level, unmet needs can lead to all sorts of problems like anxiety, depression, addiction, and eating disorders. If you find yourself engaging in unhealthy behaviors or struggling to cope with life, it’s possible that you have unmet needs that are driving your behavior.

The good news is that once you become aware of your unmet needs, you can start to take steps to meet them. This can be through therapy, self-care, or simply making changes in your life to create more balance and fulfillment. When your needs are met, you’ll likely find that your behavior changes for the better as well.

How to decipher your needs and motivations

There are a few ways you can start to get in touch with your needs and what might be driving your behavior. One way is through self-enquiry, or taking some time to reflect on your choices and behaviors. This can be done by journaling or speaking about your experiences with someone you trust.

Another way to get in touch with your needs is to work with a life coach or therapist. They can help you zoom out and see patterns in your behavior that you might not be able to see on your own.

And finally, one of the best ways to decipher your needs is to simply follow what feels good. Our bodies are very good at letting us know what we need, we just have to learn to listen. When we make choices that feel good, we are more likely to be meeting our needs in a healthy way.

How to nurture your needs

The trick is to become more conscious of your needs so you can nurture them in a healthy way rather than neglecting them or trying to overcompensate. Here are some tips:

  • Pay attention to your feelings and bodily sensations. What are you really craving?
  • Get in touch with your emotions. What are you really angry or sad about?
  • Listen to your thoughts. What are you really afraid of?
  • Consider your values. What do you really care about?

Once you become more aware of your needs, you can start to nurture them in healthier ways. It’s also important to practice self-care and maintain healthy boundaries. This means taking care of yourself emotionally and physically, setting limits with others, and being compassionate with yourself. This can look like taking a break when you’re feeling overwhelmed, saying no to plans when you’re tired, or reaching out to a friend when you’re feeling lonely.

Related Post: Breaking Free From People-Pleasing: How to Communicate Your Needs


When it comes to understanding human behavior, it’s essential to know that every action is driven by a subconscious desire to meet a need. We’re not always aware of our needs or what needs we are trying to meet with certain behavior, as most of our behavior is unconscious. We only see the results of that behavior rather than the reason.

When our basic human needs are neglected, we tend to overcompensate in another area of our life to function in society. This is why it’s so important to be aware of our needs and what we need to do to meet them. If we can get a better understanding of what our needs are and how to meet them, we can start to live more fulfilling lives.

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