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  • Emily Macpherson

The Four Human Needs

One of the concepts Covey et al explore in First Things First is that of the four human needs. They describe the following basic needs in our lives:

To live: this represents our physical needs e.g. food, shelter, clothing, economic wellbeing, health. To Love: this is our social need, to love, to be loved, to belong, to be accepted. To learn: our mental need, to grow to develop and to use our talents. To leave a legacy: this is a spiritual need, to have a sense of meaning, to add value, to have a sense of purpose, a personal harmony and contribution.

The needs themselves are similar to those presented by other authors, but what struck me as particularly interesting is the idea that synergy is created when the four needs are fulfilled in an integrated way.

In our day to day lives we tend to see these needs as separate compartments of life. We think of balance as running from one area to another fast enough to spend time in each one on a regular basis. For example, we might see our physical need to earn a living as separate from our spiritual need to contribute to society. The work we chose to undertake may be monotonous, dull and unfulfilling – it may even be counterproductive to society’s welfare.

Alternatively we could chose to work in an area closely aligned with our values and beliefs, combining the need to earn a living with making a wider contribution and enjoying learning and developing in the process.

I have tended to schedule my exercise time, work time and family time as separate activities but I am working on integrating the different aspects of my life to achieve a greater synergy. For example yesterday I took my Thursday run with my 5 year old son around a local nature reserve – he cycled while I jogged and we spotted Swans, Herons and Starlings and enjoyed splashing through the puddles!

Fulfilling the four needs in an integrated way provides a synergy that gives vision, passion and a spirit of adventure to life.

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