Our Basic Needs

needs circle

Did you know that everything you do, you do for one of 5 reasons?  Psychiatrist William Glasser identified that there are 5 basic needs that we all have, and that every single thing we do is to get one of these 5 needs met.  Restitution is based on this principle.

The first need is Love and Belonging.  We all need to feel that we have someone in our life who cares about us and a place where we fit in.  Someone who asks a friend to go to a movie is trying to get this need met.  So is someone who joins a gang.

The second need is Power.  Power is that feeling you get when you know you are successful.  It’s the thrill you get when you figure out that guitar riff you’ve been working on, or you’ve done a really good job on that assignment.  It’s the gold star you know you’ve earned!  For some, they may get this need met by bullying another person.

The third need is Freedom.  Freedom is that drive we have to do our own thing.  It’s why some people die their hair wild colours, or get piercings.  It’s why some people love to ski, ride horses, mountain climb or bungee jump.    Sometimes it’s the need people are trying to meet when they turn to drugs or alcohol.

The fourth need is for Fun.  This one is pretty self-explanatory!  We know that without any fun, life loses it’s joy.  We all need to laugh, and have a good time!  Sometimes people get this need met in a negative way by having fun at another person’s expense.

The final need is the most important.  This is the need for survival.  We need a safe place to be, a full stomach, a healthy body, clean air, clothing, and basic necessities.  Without these physical needs being taken care of, the other four pale in comparison.

So why is it important to understand the 5 needs?  Because we often want people (and ourselves!) to stop engaging in a certain behaviour.  But since everything we do meets a need,  just telling someone to “Stop!” is often pretty ineffective.  Instead, we need to find a different way to meet our needs.  If someone is drinking because they want to fit in, they need to find a way to fit in and belong without drinking to be able to give that behavior up.  If someone is screaming or hitting to get their point across, they will need to find a more powerful way of being heard if they are going to give up the yelling or hitting.   If someone is stealing because they have no food, they will likely continue to do so until a better option is available.  So when you are trying to make a change, ask yourself, “What is the need that’s being met by this behavior?”  You’ll have a lot more success in making changes when you find effective ways to meet needs instead of just trying to deny them.


14 thoughts on “Our Basic Needs

  1. Willie Nelson says:

    Thank you for this blog! I am wondering if you have ideas or activities to help teachers help elementary age children make sense of the needs?



    • Rebecca Gray says:

      Absolutely! A good place to start is http://www.pembinatrails.ca/stavila/RESTITUTION/basic_needs.htm
      You’ll find a downloadable board game, songs, activities and lots of other resources – all for free!
      You can also visit http://www.realrestitution.com to find a huge assortment of materials for purchase. There are books like “Literature Connections” which give lesson plans for using common literature to teach Restitution principles, an assortment of workbooks for children, and a elementary kit that provides a great resource for schools looking for a library of resources for both kids and teachers.

      I’m so glad you have found my blog helpful. Thanks for being a part of spreading the word!


  2. […] is the fourth psychological need that William Glasser identifies as necessary to find balance and happiness in life. I think for most of us, we can see […]


  3. […] this week’s blog, and she suggested that I write about something that demonstrated one of the basic needs that drive behaviour.  She suggested that my behaviour while supervising her driving was an […]


  4. […] all the basic needs that we have, I think power is the most […]


  5. […] we do, we do for a reason.  All behaviour can be traced back to the desire to meet our basic needs.  Belonging, Freedom, Power, Fun and Survival – it’s the roots of all […]


  6. […] all the basic needs, I think the one that I crave the least is freedom. The relationships in my life are extremely […]


  7. […] list never ends.  But when our need for power prevents us from achieving a balance with our other needs, we are denying ourselves the opportunity to live a full and happy […]


  8. […] a reason why survival needs are placed in the centre of the needs circle in Restitution.  It seems obvious that if you can’t survive, nothing else much matters.  But […]


  9. […] up images for people of intense counselling-like sessions that help children understand the needs that drive their behaviour, and provide them the opportunity to think about how they could meet […]


  10. […] team became highly motivated and effective because under his leadership, all our basic needs were met.  Obviously we felt belonging, because he made it clear that we were important to him.  […]


  11. […] He was talking about how emotional, spiritual and physical health comes from people meeting their basic needs. […]


  12. […] best for a person.  But each person is truly unique – with a different balance of basic needs, and different preferences about how to achieve these needs.  What works for me to fill my need […]


  13. Cindy says:

    Tocnudowh! That’s a really cool way of putting it!


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