What Is a Need?

A need is a fundamental requirement or a thing that a person requires to have in order to survive. The most common need is food, which is essential for survival and well-being. Other needs include shelter, water and air. Some people also have emotional and psychological needs, such as belonging and self-esteem. The most commonly known academic model of needs was developed by psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943. His theory suggested that people have a hierarchy of psychological needs, from basic physiological or lower order needs (such as food and water) to higher order needs such as self-actualization. Maslow’s theory suggests that people typically spend most of their resources — time, energy and finances — trying to satisfy basic needs before moving on to fulfill higher order needs.

The word “need” can be found in a wide range of contexts and it is an interesting word to examine its etymology. It has several root words that can be traced to Old English, including nede (“necessity, urgent requirement, compulsion, duty, errand, business”) and nead (“wish, urge, desire”). The latter word is related to the noun wish.

Need can be used as a noun, verb or adverb. The noun form is often used to describe something that is a critical requirement, an important factor or a fundamental requirement. The verb form is most often used to express a desire or an obligation. The adverb form is used to indicate the amount of importance or urgency that a need has.

Unlike wants, needs are usually static and do not change over time. For example, a person will always need to have enough food and water to survive. The type of food and drink that is needed can change, however. For example, a person may need to have a sandwich and coke while they are hungry, but they will want an exotic holiday later on. Needs are generally prioritized over wants, because if someone does not meet their basic needs they will suffer harm.

A need assessment can help identify possible personal needs that can be beneficial for a person to meet. For example, a person may need a certain level of social interaction to feel connected or a desire for creativity in their job. Once a person has identified their personal needs they can create and execute a plan to meet them. This could be as simple as enrolling in a cooking class or as complex as starting a new business. Having an understanding of what a person needs can help them achieve happiness and success in their career and life. The need to succeed can motivate a person to work hard and overcome challenges. However, too much drive can be dangerous and lead to burnout. Keeping a balanced lifestyle is key to avoiding stress and boosting productivity. A healthy diet, exercise and sleep routine are key to reducing stress. Having a strong support system and maintaining positive relationships are other helpful habits for avoiding burnout.