How to Separate Your Needs from Your Desires

by Henrik Edberg

How to Separate Your Needs from Your Desires
Image by benedict.adam (license).

Note: This is a guest post by David B. Bohl of SlowdownFAST.

In life, there are those things we need, and those things we desire. Where we really screw ourselves up is when suddenly the things we desire, in our minds become things we need.

Needs are those things that provide for our daily existence – food, water, shelter. Human love and companionship can most certainly be described as a need, for without it the soul shrivels and withers away.

Knowing what you need and recognizing those things that are wants are an important part of any self-improvement endeavor. Needs provide for your daily existence, while wants are most likely those things that give you happiness and fulfillment.

1. Determining Needs vs. Wants

Needs are very basic, and should be easy to recognize. Strip your existence down until it is naked, and you will see that what you need is not very complicated. To look at it another way, imagine you were stranded somewhere, alone. Go ahead and use the proverbial island if you wish. If you were concerned about finding food, having enough drinking water, escaping predatory animals, and seeking shelter, would you really care about those Jimmy Choo’s, or fret because your sales numbers were down during the last quarter? Probably not.

This is an extreme example, but it helps you get your mind where it needs to be in order for you to figure out what is really important in life.

2. Realizing Your Own Realistic Needs

Now let’s jump back into civilized society and figure out what really matters. Do you need the corporate job that gives you an ulcer? Do you need your husband or wife, and your children? Do you need your flat in Manhattan? Do you need your Mercedes Benz? Hopefully, the only question you answered yes to was the one about your family.

Now think about what you really want out of life. Consider how you want to be remembered after you are gone. Now compare those things with your needs and wants. Can you strike a compromise between how you want to live and those things you desire? This is a crucial step towards finding balance in your life.

3. Balancing Your Needs With Your Wants

It is unrealistic to try to live without any desires. Desires fuel our creativity, energize us, give us fulfillment, and push us to reach our goals.

The problem arises when your desires become your needs. Suddenly your desires put you into a state of desperation, and a desperate person is not a reasonable person, a rational person, or a calm person.

As a result, the desperate person will push away the people around them, rather than drawing them in.

This is an important concept to keep in mind as you continue your journey to self-improvement. Wants, or desires, are things we would like to have but they do not sustain us. When you are prioritizing your life, first give your attention to those things that ensure your existence, your happiness, and your well-being. Look at anything above and beyond that as icing on the cake.

When it comes to finding your balance between your needs and your wants, this is where you may need to find that compromise. Rather than insist on the brand new Mercedes, buy one that is two years old but in great condition. Or buy a loaded car like the Hyundai Sonata at half the price. Choose the options that do not put a strain on your bank account or your emotional well-being. Use this philosophy in all aspects of your life to bring everything into harmony.

As you strive for continual self-improvement and personal development, take time to reflect upon your life to ensure you are not creating needs out of wants. Be certain you are giving your time and attention to those things that are truly important to ensuring your survival, both physical and emotional, and not unnecessarily inflating the importance of something that may bring you temporary joy but not long-lasting satisfaction or happiness.

Leading a balanced life takes work, reflection, and a great deal of self-awareness. Invest a small amount of time out of your day to reflect upon your life and ensure it is heading down the road that leads to your most important goals.

David B. Bohl writes about living your vision at his own blog: SlowdownFAST. If you enjoyed this article, you may like to subscribe to his feed, or read one of his most popular articles, Conflicting Desires: Knowing That We Have Enough vs. Always Wanting to Better Ourselves.

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{ 8 comments }

Flora Morris Brown, Ph.D. July 8, 2008 at 6:32 pm

Balance and harmony are indeed critical to happiness. I realize as I get older that some things I desired when I was younger cost more money, energy or time than I’m willing to spend.

It’s great to grow wiser as you grow older.

Wayne July 8, 2008 at 7:12 pm

I have fallen victim to putting my desires ahead of myself and labeling them as wants many times. I often grab a beer and go outside on the porch to do some reflection in an attempt to put things in the right perspective.

Taking time out to reflect allows me to calm my ever busy mind and hopefully find what is actually most important to me and identify those things that could be considered unneccesary desires.

Good post, well worth the time to read as it helps to put things into perspective. Thanks!

Bill Riddell July 9, 2008 at 1:25 am

Great Article David,
Great to see you stress the need for balance between living a great day to day while stretching to achive your dreams.
To much of the former leads to a dull life and too much of the latter may see your life spiral out of control in your quest.
I have recently posted a two part series about achieving your wants, desires and dreams – http://billriddell.com/the-first-step-to-make-your-dreams-true/

Kevin H July 9, 2008 at 2:20 am

I often find out what my wants are after I’ve succumbed to the temptation.

It’s only after that I realize I didn’t need it.

Chris Kirk July 9, 2008 at 4:10 am

Thanks for the post. I find it helpful to periodic practice non-religious fasting for a period of time. This can entail food items, coffee, television, driving, etc. By giving these things up for short periods of time, we discover the pull that they have upon us and we realize how we can live without many of the things we think we have to have. With that in mind, I must go get my cup of coffee. Cheers!

Reka July 10, 2008 at 9:27 pm

this is such a wonderful blog with absoultely smashing posts! Another great one, very helpful! Thank you.
Reka

Vince July 11, 2008 at 11:40 pm

Really great post, I enjoyed reading it! It is definitely difficult to find that balance that you speak but essential to living right!

aldohas July 15, 2008 at 2:01 am

balance for my blogwalking desire, or it’s a need?

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