The Happonomy Human Needs Model

27 February 2015
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What do we need?

One single question will determine your entire life…

Do you know which one?

Above all else, do you know the answer?

Answers from a handful of people have determined the course of our history and still, it is a question we rarely ask ourselves…

“What do I want in life?”

You may end up with success, fame, money, wisdom, maybe “happiness”. Generally though, it stops there. You probably don’t give it that much conscious thought. You unconsciously chase for the answer over your entire life, for the pursuit of happiness and then you die.

Recently, science joined the debate and the results have been astounding. Never before have we known so much about what we consciously and subconsciously look for in life.

The aim of this article is to show you which scientific building blocks exist and what we used to come to the Happonomy human needs model. We hope that it will inspire you to make those choices in life that are in line with your own well-being and will increase your own quality of life.

Previous models

The psychological foundation of human needs models

maslow-pyramidWe are not the first to think of what we need in a scientific way. The grandfather of human needs, Abraham Maslow, is probably best known for his Maslow 5 dimension pyramid. It is considered to be the very first important human needs model.

Built in the 1940’s, there is a lot of merit to this model as it identifies key categories in what we need. Later on, the 5 level model was revised to add cognitive needs, aesthetic needs and self-transcendence. More recent research papers like the psychology of world views from scientists such as Mark Koltko-Rivera added to the body of knowledge.

Levels of consciousness as an alternative approach

Using the perspective of consciousness, both of an individual and group is an alternative approach to answer the question of what we need. The theory of spiral dynamics, developed by Beck and Cowan, provides an intriguing angle as they focus on levels of consciousness. They suggest that the key driver of our needs is the level of awareness we have in the world, basically a primarily spiritual perspective of life.

Evolutionary psychology and biologically-driven needs

More recent research (2010), led by Douglas Kendrick, offers a third alternative view of looking at the question what we are looking for. The studies suggest that our needs for survival and gene-transfer command our entire existence. Pro-creating, parenting and finding a mate are at the core of our existence.

Limitations to previous human needs models

We are bodies, minds and ‘souls’

Did you notice that the three model-types all have their own distinct angle on what humans are? Maslow mainly focused on the mental and psychological dimension of people – albeit “Maslow 1” covers our bodily survival needs – Beck and Cowan targeted the spiritual part while Kendrick zoomed in on our biology.

To us, human beings are not primarily biological, psychological or spiritual. They are all three. This is why focusing on one dimension constitutes a fundamental limitation which we want to transcend.

A model that has the ambition to explain what we need, should therefore encompass all three parts: body, mind and soul, whatever that latter exactly is.

All needs are innately present

There are two additional limitations to Maslow’s pyramid, which we want to transcend. First of all, the Maslow pyramid suggests a linear build up between these dimensions, as if in case we’d feel insecure, we wouldn’t yet open up the ‘levels’ that are on top of the second level of Maslow’s pyramid.

To us, all needs are simultaneously present, depending on who you are, where you are from and what specific situation you are in, one or some needs will just be more at the forefront.

That is why the Happonomy working model is a circular model.

Finally, as with the Spiral Dynamics model, we believe that a truly usable model should not only be applicable to the individual but also to a group entity, whether that is a city, country, continent or even humanity as a whole.

The Happonomy human needs model explained

If you are curious what the model is and what it encompasses, take a look at the presentation video below. 5 main spheres, divided in 21 different dimensions. Yes, people are complex beings…

A deeper look into the model

If you want to digest the video a bit more thoroughly, below you can find the 5 spheres and 21 dimensions again. Take a minute to reflect how your life is impacted by them.

Sphere 1: Survive

We all need air to breathe – without it we choke within three minutes and water to drink – after three days we die of thirst. We need food: we can sustain ourselves for about three weeks without eating.

Sleep is the fourth essential building block for our survival. Long sleep deprivation doesn’t kill us directly; it is the resulting organ failure that does. Randy Gardner holds the world record: he stayed awake for eleven days

So, these four building blocks are the essentials we all need to cover to have our biological machinery, our bodies, working properly.

Sphere 2: Feeling at Ease

We all strive to achieve a minimum level of comfort, security and ease both for our bodies and minds.  This need manifests in many ways… six to be more exact.

At the basis, we all want to be safe: it is practically impossible to feel at ease if you have to worry about being killed, raped or attacked. We also want a minimum level of basic comfort; e.g. proper shelter from the elements, a toilet, a place to sleep comfortably and clothes to keep warm are essential for our well-being.

Health, both for body and mind, although overrated when related to our well-being, is a corner stone for a high-quality life as health positively impacts a multitude of other dimensions which we consider important.

A fourth dimension that drives our feeling of being at ease, is privacy. The large majority, if not all of us, have insecurities and want to make sure that these aren’t shared with others. Do you have anything at all you prefer people do not know? If yes, you want privacy.

There is a lot to be told about the fifth dimension of feeling at ease: financial security.

Today, money and especially the lack or perceived lack thereof, impacts many of our decisions and actions. These actions often have negative consequences towards others. Feeling financially secure enables us to divert our focus to other dimensions like personal growth and helping others.

Finally, Freedom to be who you want to be, say and do what you want to do are primordial to our psychological well-being. However, freedom in itself is not absolute as we also need connection with and understanding from other people which brings us to the third main sphere of our needs.

Sphere 3: Connect

We are innately social beings. Did you know infants require human touch to survive or that research suggests loneliness can cause heart failure?

As we live, our need to connect with others become more complex as we seek love, companionship and understanding from other beings.

Connection starts at birth as we all have a family, even if it is only our mother. Biological ties strongly determine the concept of family but are not always needed: many people who were adopted or orphaned consider others whom they don’t have blood ties with to be their family.

Already early in life, we develop connections with people we encounter; some of those might develop to become friends. Many among us even find friendship with animals.

A third form of connection can be found in the form of a partner. A partner (or in some cases multiple) ideally offers us sexual and psychological intimacy, complementing us as we walk through life.

Finally, we strive for a connection to our community. A community is a pretty abstract concept. Often it is geographically linked, for instance your street, city or country. Increasingly, it transcends the geographical limitations as we connect with people with the same interests and convictions across the globe.

Sphere 4: Grow

A fourth sphere that deeply matters to us is what we become as individuals. We all develop ourselves, intentionally or because situations force us to. In our model, there are three distinct dimensions to individual growth.

We all learn throughout our lives as we all want to understand the world we live in.  We acquire knowledge either via education, a Google search query, by personal experience or by age-old traditions.

Secondly, people are curious beings. We like to explore new environments and new sensations, whether that be savouring new cuisine, experiencing exhilarating outdoor activities or visiting foreign planets.

Finally, we also strive to be the best persons we can be, we want to grow our talents – which all of us have – and apply these in our daily lives. We all want to excel, even though we sometimes feel overwhelmed, lack the energy to do so or our need for financial security prevents us to do so.

Sphere 5: Let Go

The last sphere which we want to nurture is the one which helps us to let go of our individual selves. These dimensions give us the feeling that we belong to something bigger than just ourselves.

The first one is artistic. We all want to experience art and creativity, either actively or passively. You may intuitively think of musicians and other kinds of artists, but most of us fulfil these needs by decorating our house, listening to music and watching films.

We also help others. Helping others makes us feel good about ourselves.  Whether you consider this to be selfish or not depends on the perspective you hold.  A biological perspective shows that helping others activates our reward centres in our brains while a more spiritual perspective supports the view that human beings are not just biological and rational beings but have a ‘moral’ compass inherently built in.

We also care about our planet and strive to preserve our environment. There are many reasons why we do so. Our environment forms the stage where we can fulfil many of our other needs. By sustaining our environment, we ensure that we can survive, live healthily and we can ensure that our loved ones can have a high-quality life themselves.

Finally, we all strive to find wisdom and inner peace by emotionally accepting the world as it is, not using its imperfection as an excuse to do nothing and live in it ‘wisely’ (for a lack of better description).

That wisdom can be found in the foundations of many religions and spiritual traditions, in the experience of awe of mystics, in meditation and silence and the beauty that crosses our paths…

A human needs model is an imperfect tool

You can agree or disagree with the model and optimising it holds a lot of merit in itself. Countless scientific studies – mainly in the fields of positive psychology and neurobiology – suggest that the model holds, but maybe tomorrow a new study might emerge with different findings. What may be true today may not hold tomorrow…

As human beings evolve, so do the things which we are looking for in life. Imagine our bodies were removed from the equation – as some renowned futurists suggest –  or what if we could be immortal, as some scientists like Aubrey de Grey claim to be able to achieve. For sure, what we would want in life would probably change as well.

To us, the model as such is only of secondary importance. The Happonomy model is a tool to bring structure and work from. As we hopefully illustrated, it is nice to know and learn but it is even nicer to act upon your knowledge.

Join the Happonomy

If you liked what you read, and are curious to know what we can do with this model or are eager to further increase your own quality of life, join us (yes it is free). Your heart, hands and head is what we need to drive a happonomy forward.


Want more?

That was a lot of information, but now it’s time for action! Get started with the model and download it here. Use it to explore your own values, use it to set up a business or for so many other things!

Do you want some extra information first? Follow this link and find out more about the model.


Categories:   What we need
Bruno Delepierre

Societal entrepreneur who wants to contribute to our quality of life. Married to Soetkin, dad of Jacqueline. General coordinator at Happonomy.

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