TED Talks: ‘Tony Robbins: Why We Do What We Do’

UPDATED: April 11, 2020
PUBLISHED: November 2, 2016
tony robbins


Tony Robbins has gotten a lot of phone calls over the years. When people call seeking his help, the reasons can range from the stress of professional sports to defeating the inner dialogue that feeds suicidal thoughts. Robbins says in order to help people, he has to have an understanding of human needs—and what allows people to do big things and contribute beyond themselves.

For the last 30 years, he has been obsessed with answering an important question: What enhances the quality of life—and how can a person’s performance make the difference? In this TED Talk, Robbins gives the answer in the form of what he calls the six human needs.

“I look at life and say, ‘There”s two master lessons,’ ” he says. “One is, there”s the science of achievement, which almost everyone here has mastered amazingly. How do you take the invisible and make it visible, how do you make your dreams happen? Your business, your contribution to society, money—whatever…. The other lesson that is rarely mastered is the art of fulfillment.”

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It all boils down to decisions. Robbins says people have to know what they want. It’s more than just goals and desires, because most people aren’t satisfied with achieving just one thing.

“It”s [the] needs we have,” he says. “I believe there are six human needs…. Once you know what the target that”s driving you is and you uncover it for the truth—you don”t form it—then you find out what”s your map, what”s the belief systems that tell you how to get those needs. Some people think the way to get them is to destroy the world, some people to build, create something, love someone. There”s the fuel you pick.”

The six human needs aren’t used equally. All six are needed, but Robbins says what a person chooses to give the most attention, to lead with, is what pulls them in a certain direction. Of the six, he says everyone finds a way to meet at least four: certainty, the sense of variety found in uncertainty, significance, and connection or love. These needs are good for the personality, but the remaining two—growth and giving—are for the spirit. Above all, they lead to true fulfillment.

“I believe the reason we grow is so we have something to give of value,” he says. “Because the sixth need is to contribute beyond ourselves. Because we all know, corny as that sounds, the secret to living is giving. We all know life is not about me, it”s about we. This culture knows that, this room knows that. It”s exciting.”

Related: Answer 6 Questions to Reveal Your Life Purpose


TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics—from science to business to global issues—in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world. See more at TED.com.