The five basic human needs

Human beings act the way they do because they are, from daily rise to rest, continually trying to satisfy their basic human needs.

The five basic needs built into our genetic structure have been identified as survival, belonging, power, freedom, and fun (Glasser, 1998). Un­derstanding and applying the five basic needs as a way to improve quality of life has been studied in recent years.

These needs are not mutually exclusive but interact through our physiology and total behavior of thinking, doing, and feeling. 

If we learn to proactively satisfy these needs without frustrating others, we can experience happiness. These five basic human needs drive behavior, and they consistently apply to school settings.

Five Basic Needs

This is our basic physiological need: to survive as indi­viduals and reproduce so that we can survive as a species.

Survival includes our physical needs for food, water, air, safety, shelter, warmth, health, and sex.

Survival also ex­tends to needing security and having sufficient income to pay for basic needs. Survival can have much relevance for students in the school setting, beginning with a daily assessment of the adequacy of their food, sleep, clothing, and health needs.

In addition, it is important for school staff to have an awareness of how the home environment is meeting se­curity needs, not only from parental concern and in­volvement but also in neighborhood and home safety. 

An additional survival need for students is their ability to achieve academic success, which leads to feeling secure with teachers and peers.

Learning and advancing with peers can be affected by academic difficulties as well as interpersonal and intrapersonal challenges resulting from home or peers struggles.

Students preoccupied with home issues, absenteeism, academic challenges, or personal is­sues are less likely to thrive in the educational world.

Survival needs

Love and belonging

Belonging is our psychological need to love and care for others and to believe that we are loved and cared for in family relationships, friendships, working relationships, and acquaintanceships that provide us with a sense of be­longing.

To belong, we must connect with people by co­operating, caring, sharing, and being involved.

In school settings, students need to feel accepted by classmates and adults, know they are making a worth­while contribution and feel their presence is valuable to the people in this setting who are important to them.

To achieve this, students need to have a role that is relevant and important to them as an individual student, as well as to a group.

Students who feel they do not belong are ex­periencing an unmet need that can extend to behavior, learning, and academic difficulties.

Power/self worth needs

For students to feel self-worth, they need a sense of em­powerment, worthiness, self-efficacy, and achievement.

Power here is not defined by the exertion or exploitation of our dominance over another person; instead, it is de­fined by the need to be able, to be capable.

It is an inner sense of achievement, accomplishment, pride, impor­tance, and self-esteem and an outer sense of being heard and respected and feeling competent and attaining recog­nition.

Power in a school setting may be defined by the stu­dent’s ability to make choices and be an equal contribu­tor in learning because students want to be involved in activities they have a say in and they want those activities to be relevant and to bring them competence and pride. As a result, students feel confident.

Freedom needs

Freedom is the need for independence and autonomy; the ability to make choices, to create, to explore, and to express oneself freely; to have sufficient space, to move around, and to feel unrestricted in determining choices and free will.

To achieve this, students need indepen­dence, options, choices, autonomy, and liberty in both physical and psychological aspects.

Freedom in a school setting can be as basic as getting a drink when you need it, walking down the hall at your own pace, and choosing what you eat at lunch.

Ideally, it will also include having the freedom to create, having time to generate your own thoughts, and sharing what you have created or what you think in the context of learning.

At times of physical, emotional, and intellectual development in which freedom of body and thought are important, school settings can be an environment of con­trol through structured schedules, crowded conditions, and adherence to school expectations.

Students who chronically or consistently feel “trapped” physically or creatively may feel cast into a role of misfit, leading to counterproductive freedom behaviors.

fun needs

Fun is the psychological need for enjoyment—the desire to enjoy a job, to have a sense of humor, to engage in a hobby, to have interests, and to feel excitement about a work project or leisure time activity.

Having fun includes experiencing enjoyment, pleasure, relaxation, laughter, and learning.

Students will have fun at school if educators under­stand the positive effects of learning and being with friends. Fun is maximized when students experience learn­ing success and competence.

In addition the combination of laughing and learning can maximize the relationship that educators have with students.

Students who experi­ence peer challenges or academic frustration in the school setting are not consistently fulfilling their need for fun.