The 3 Core Psychological Needs and How They Factor into Entrepreneurship

In today’s world, it’s easy to focus on things that divide us. But we’re far more alike than we realize. In fact, we all have the same basic psychological needs, and by knowing that, we can use it to shape our entrepreneurial journey with a more humanistic approach.

On a recent volume of The Psychology of Entrepreneurship, I sat down with Mark Fisher, a giant in the New York Fitness world. Mark, like me, has always been fascinated with psychology, and has made an effort to apply what he’s learned over the years into everything he creates.

While creating Mark Fisher Fitness, a specialty fitness studio designed for people that don’t fit the average mould of a gym-dweller, he tried hard to think outside the box to meet his clientele and his employees’ emotional needs. To do this, he applied the Self Determination Theory.

The Self Determination is a psychological theory of motivation and personality that focuses on three universal human needs: autonomy, competence and relatedness. Let’s break this down from an entrepreneurial standpoint.



Autonomy is basically about choice. As humans, we want to be able to have some say in what happens around us, and want to feel that we are our own agents for action in our lives. So how do you apply this in entrepreneurship?

For Mark, he uses the autonomy concept to shape the integrity of MFF, leaving a lot of room for his clientele to shape his business model. Feedback has a lot to do with this. He allows for feedback from clients to a big part of his decision-making process, although this does come with drawbacks.

At the start of MFF, Mark put a little too much weight into the feedback he was getting from clientele. “We wasted a lot of time solving problems that we didn’t really have,” Mark says. Since the squeaky wheel gets the oil, sometimes it’s easy to forget that the loudest voice isn’t always speaking the truth.

It’s crucial to find a balance between listening to feedback and listening to your gut. Feedback is undoubtedly valuable in any business, but its value shouldn’t be overshadowing every other compass you use to guide your business.



“Humans have a fear of looking stupid,” Mark says, which is where competency comes into the Self Determination Theory. Competency is about having control over outcomes, which gives us the ability to have mastery over our domain. It’s pretty easy to see where competency would work into entrepreneurship.

We all want to be the best in our niches, we all want to be masters of our crafts. It’s what gives us that drive to be the best, work the hardest and get the most notoriety, but it’s also the psychological need that can get us in trouble. 

Instead of being the best, why not strive to enable others to be their best? For Mark, it’s about “how deeply you want to serve people, and how short our life is on this planet”. By setting our goal posts to serve, instead of to gain, we can not only get what we want, but help others to do the same. This not only allows us to meet our own psychological needs but helps build our legacy. I don’t know about you, but I want to be known for spreading joy, not hoarding it for myself.



The third psychological need is about human connection. The longing we have to be part of a community, it’s the wanting to care for someone and have someone care for you. Humans are social by nature. Even the most introverted among us have a desire for connection. Entrepreneurship is centred around this because it allows us to connect our passions and talents with others who have the same desires.

Whether it’s with the teams we build, or the clients and customers we serve, you can’t be successful in any sort of business if you suck at connecting with people. You just can’t.

 As you continue on your creative journey, keep these three core psychological needs in mind. Not just so that you’re fulfilling them for yourself, but for those you serve. We’re all human after all, and success is only worth it if it’s making the world a better place.

The Psychology of Entrepreneurship

For more insight into how to fulfil your psychological needs check out volume 19 of the Psychology of Entrepreneurship podcast hosted by Ronsley Vaz and with special guest Mark Fisher.

Author: Ronsley Vaz

Ronsley is the founder & chief day dreamer at AMPLIFY. He is an author, speaker & serial entrepreneur.

He has a Masters’ degree in Software Engineering and an MBA in Psychology and Leadership. He is known as the creator of We Are Podcast – the first Podcasting Conference in the Southern Hemisphere, and the host of The Bond Appetit Podcast and Should I Start a Podcast. He has an audience of over 3 million in 133 countries.

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