Understanding A Character’s Motivation |Tony Robbins’ 6 Human Needs

When you are writing, you often wonder whether or not you are leading your character in the right direction.

You ask, “is this actually what they will do?” The better you understand your character’s objective in life, the better you can pick the logical paths for them to go down.

The 6 human needs were first introduced to me by Tony Robbins from his book Money: Master the Game. In the book, he discusses the motivation for money, and that often times, people don’t even know why they want more money. They want to be millionaires and billionaires but have no real idea about what their dream life cost.

I gave myself an exercise, I asked myself what is something seemingly unachievable (due to finance) that I want to experience in my lifetime. The one that popped into my head was being able to live in a hotel for a year. So I did a bit of math and shared it on my Instagram account.

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But back to the point, the better we are at understanding what motivates our characters whether consciously like wanting to live in a hotel forever or subconsciously like feeling safe from danger, the better we will be at making choices for them and writing a believable storyline.

6 Human Needs:

  1. Certainty: safety, security, stability, comfort, consistency 
  2. Uncertainty or variety – surprises, challenge, excitement, adventure, difference, novelty 
  3. Significance – to feel special, pride, wanted, needed, important 
  4. Love and connection – approval, attachment, intimacy from another human, part of a community 
  5. Growth – constant emotional, intellectual, spiritual development 
  6. Contribution – the need to give, nurture, protect, and serve others 


Some of your characters might attribute multiple human needs. They might be very needy. Others might be more focused. Nevertheless, whenever a character is making a choice, regardless of where they are in the storyline, odds are they are driven by one of these human needs.

What do you think? What is your most prominent human need?

Want more writing tips and inspirations? Follow my writing journey on YouTube! 

Level up the real way


How to gamify your life

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Oct. 1, 2015

Why do we love video games? I personally don’t. I find them stressful and frustrating. More often than not, I drop the controller and tune it out. I love listening to people talk about video games with enthusiasm, though. But, because of my ineptitude, I choose to pursue more achievable goals in my life.

Hence, I reframe my question: why do they love video games? Well, I guess other people love video games because there are these little achievable goals. You go from one stage to the next collecting coins, building infrastructures, defeating bad guys, saving the princesses, and heroically winning. That doesn’t always happen in life. The game of life lacks the instant gratification felt in a video game. Life’s little achievable goals take years and years to accomplish.

Moreover, life’s little defeats aren’t as miniscule as video games either. If you lose in life—get fired, fail an exam, get dumped by your partner—you cannot restart; you have to live with it day after day after day. We love video games because a game is an escape. It’s our second life, where failure can be chocked up as a few minutes wasted.

Although video games are great escapes from the real world, the same way sports are for some, the same way television shows are for others, we need to understand that life is the ultimate game. Life is the only game that matters. But why then are we so content with being idle with our lives and putting all of our efforts and energy into a video game, where accomplishments seldom matter?

The reason is because we often make our goals in life too grand to accomplish; we set the bars and our sights too high. That is not how a video game works. In a game, you don’t start at the hardest level; you start at the beginning. You have little, surmountable tasks to accomplish first, they get incrementally harder, and then you fight the boss. That is how you should consider life. That’s how you gamify life. You do it by visualizing it not as a monotonous day-after-day grind, but reframe it as little surmountable tasks, which will ultimately lead to achievements.

When you think of work, you often consider the paycheque. Why not? That’s the whole reason for work. But if that’s the case, then you are always going to be disappointed. After all, you don’t play Mario just to collect the coins, right? Your job should be an avenue for your self-improvement. You should be growing with each day’s task. You should be becoming a better manager and a more skilled worker.

At school, we often dream about graduation, but what about the actual process of learning? Is homework just a means to an end? If it is, then it’s obviously not a game, it’s just a chore. Strive for improvement, yearn to beat the task and excel. If you are willing to waste five hours trying to level up on your iPhone game, you can very well spend that five hours beating your previous score for your homework assignment and retaining the information.

We love games because they’re an escape from reality, but we have to remember that we deserve to win in life too. So don’t waste all your efforts in front of the screen, save some for the real world.