What We Need vs. What We Want

Understanding that you must be able to divide up the two categories fairly and also be able to balance them healthily with our seemingly limitless desires at times is key to being a fully formed individual.

A key part of adulthood is being able to know the differences between knowing ‘what we want’ vs. knowing ‘what we need.’ Understanding that you must be able to divide up the two categories fairly and also be able to balance them healthily with our seemingly limitless desires at times is key to being a fully formed individual. As children, we are taught to temper our desires to manageable levels and to remember to not be selfish especially when it conflicts with the needs of others.

We are flawed as humans in that we often let our wants overtake our immediate needs and that we cannot distinguish the two in terms of actual importance. I may want a new suit but if I only have so much money, do I really need it? Am I being selfish by buying a suit when I already have a perfectly good one at you? These questions are especially important to pose when you have limited money or time to contribute towards either your needs or wants. What we focus on each day shows us if we care more about ‘needs’ or ‘wants.’

It has to be non-negotiable in your own life how your needs come first and will always come first. Your wants have to be considered in terms of whether you actually need them and how much they will actually add that much to your life. When it comes to your wants, you should not only be thinking about their utility in the short-term but also in the long-term. Will you be that much better off not just a day later, a week later, or a year later when you satisfy those wants? A short-term want will be fleeting and may end up not even be worth it whereas a long-term want like starting a business, getting your degree, or moving overseas are often worthwhile investments and satisfactory wants that will put you ahead in your life. If you do want to fulfill your wants, they should be in the interest of you moving forward, learning new things, and developing your interests.

Short-term wants are good every now and then like a new bicycle, a nice meal out with friends, or a trip to a day spa, but the gratification will be short-term, and you can’t rely on those wants to fulfill you in the long-term. Long-term wants are harder to achieve but they often have higher levels of satisfaction. These wants aren’t automatically given to you and you have to work for them but it’s often worth the effort more so than just things being handed to you automatically. Your wants have to be kept in moderation too because if you let your wants overwhelm your needs, you may be left with less than you had before. An adult keeps their wants in check and prioritizes their needs first to make sure that their life is headed in the right direction. Long-term gains have to always take priority over short-term gratification, which may give you happiness but won’t give you fulfillment in the long run.

Your needs in daily life should always come first in terms of securing them. Whether it is water to drink, clean air to breathe, food to eat, and a roof over your head; they are all part of the equation to keep you in good spirits and in good health. Do not let your wants take away from your immediate needs because when it comes down to it, your wants may come and go but your needs are your needs and that never really changes. Abraham Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ was pretty much on the money in terms of distinguishing what are most urgent needs are and beyond that, what could be considered wants. We have the physical needs of eating, drinking, sleeping, maintaining homeostasis (not too warm or too cold) but beyond that, we start to go into the wants territory of seeking out self-actualization as well as having a steady purpose in life.

We all need human connection along with friends and family who care about us but that is not given to everybody and that kind of need is something that you have to work for and what you have to ‘want’ in a way. We all need safety and security to carry out our lives but that is something that we have to work towards to and that is not guaranteed when we are born. What we need may not been given to us like friends and family or the security of a place we live in and we may have to take action to turn those needs into a reality by wanting them badly enough.

In Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’, our basic needs must be taken care of first as the pyramid shows us but then you have our psychological needs such as love, relationships, friendships, and feelings of accomplishment and goal-setting. As you go up the pyramid, you get into the ‘self-fulfillment’ needs category of achieving our potential, reaching our set goals, and becoming the best version of ourselves through self-actualization. This category is tricky, but we may feel that we need to be fulfilled that way; how hard are you willing to work to achieve that and how much do you really want to achieve it?

I would argue that our basic needs of food, drink, shelter, warmth, etc. are real needs but our psychological or self-fulfillment needs are different in that while each of us need them in our life, they are really ‘wants’ that you have to earn and to work for. Our basic needs are not given to us either, but they are of such urgency that we will do almost anything to have them guaranteed and it often subsumes our other ‘needs’ like love, friendship, or career goals.

What we need to live is our number one priority. Everything after that is supplementary in life. What we want Is important but it’s clear that our wants are endless at times and we need to prioritize with our limited time and/or money what matters to us most to achieve or to have. Being able to prioritize while understanding this internal battle is key to being a fully formed individual capable of holding our wants at bay while getting our needs taken care of.

Lastly, it is important to distinguish between short-term needs and long-term needs. Short-term needs should always take priority over long-term needs, but you can work towards both at the same time. You can hunt for food and still have companionship with a loved one at the same time. You can watch your vegetables grow while you’re studying for your next course exam or replying to emails. However, if your immediate needs are unmet or neglected, your long-term needs will have to take a backseat because they are just not as critical as what short-term needs are in terms of daily occurrence. You need to eat and drink water a lot more than you need to see your family and friends as an adult. I’m sure you would love to see them every day but it’s more likely you would see them once a week or a month or maybe less if you’re really busy.

Your immediate needs can be balanced with long-term needs, however, if you can’t cook for yourself, make money to support yourself, or be able to clean and take care of yourself physically, not many or very few of your long-term needs can be met after. As an adult, you need to take care of the daily details before you can reach your lifelong dreams and goals. What we need vs. what we want is a constant battle taking place in our mind. If we don’t pay attention to how to win this battle by trusting in our innate knowledge of what we are capable of doing to achieve them one by one and what are healthy priorities to focus on, you won’t be able to get very far in life with either your needs or your wants.

Patience Will Set You Apart

We are all imbued with the important personal trait of having patience. I believe that each of us is imbued with a certain amount of it though and there’s a certain limit or tolerance level that we have within us innately. It can be difficult to augment or increase the amount of patience you have without serious mental training and willpower. Everybody has some amount of patience, but that level will stay the same unless you can train yourself to learn to have more of it and to put yourself into situations where it is tested.

In my opinion, patience is the most important trait that a mature adult can have and can change your life for the better or for the worse depending upon how much it is exercised. The level of patience you have or what you teach yourself to tolerate will depend upon your overall maturity, resilience, and willpower. The less patience you have, the more stressful your life will be ironically. The more patience you have, the less stressful your life will be too. Managing your stress levels comes as a result of how much you are able to flex your ‘patience’ muscle.

Patience such as willpower takes time to develop but the more of it, you’re able to accrue, the more payback you’re likely to see later. For example, if you’re at a bureaucratic office of some sort and you are given a number to wait your turn and you’re not sure how long it will take for your number to be called, there’s no logical reason to complain about it. The more you get peeved about it, the more it will backfire for you. Why not make the most of your time and read a book, catch up on e-mails, listen to music, or even make a few calls to pass the hour(s)?

Not only in bureaucratic functions will patience serve you but in every aspect of your life really. When you’re learning a new language, you need to have patience regarding your ability to obtain and retain what you have learned in order to improve. When you’re starting a relationship with someone, you have to be patient with their faults and with their quirks because they are going to have to do the same with you as you get to know each other more and more.

When you’re getting used to your responsibilities and roles in a new job, it will take both patience and time to get the swing of things and you have to accept that you’ll likely make mistakes at first. When you are starting a business for the first time and you have to learn a lot of new skills as well as take on duties that you have never had before to grow the business. In any of these hypothetical but possible situations to occur in your lifetime, you have to be patient in any of these personal or professional endeavors regardless of what they are.

When things are not going your way, you just got to keep your composure, keep pushing through, and stay optimistic that things will eventually work out. Like quitting too early, giving up on exercising your patience will backfire on you more often than not. Nobody really likes someone who loses their patience a lot. There’s a time and a place for confrontation but that is a very rare occurrence especially in an extreme circumstance where you really cannot wait or deal with any further delays. If you don’t have anywhere to be, if there’s a solution to be had, if it’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, it’s better to be patient than blowing your gasket and letting go of your emotions.

You will earn respect from other people if you are able to be level-headed, to not let your emotions overtake your decision-making ability, and to keep calm under outside pressure(s). It is a great way to set yourself apart when you are able to exercise patience in 95% of situations and in the other 5% or able to de-escalate the situation calmly without losing control in some way. It is also a fallacy to suggest that you can’t exercise patience and stand up for yourself at the same time.

You do not have to be confrontational, but you do have to advocate for your interests and for your livelihood. This all can be done without losing one’s patience and it will be a sign of how emotionally mature you are when you are able to express your emotions in a healthy manner. Being able to exercise patience on a consistent basis will also make you happier, healthier, and more appreciative of others, flaws and all, when you can maintain a real sense of calm and composure.

Exercising patience is a real skill and positive trait to have that will pay off for you and then some throughout your life. However, like any muscle, it has to be exercised constantly and because life will test you, often at the most random times, this particular muscle will be tested often and you have to decide how much you can adapt and beat these tests that life will throw at you. Speaking as someone writing this article who sometimes struggles with exercising my own patience, it is a lot of work, but it is worthwhile to get better and better at it.

Whereas meaningless and trivial things would have bothered you in the past, if you can simply brush them off and move on quickly to focus your patience and your willpower on things that actually matter to your life and livelihood, then you will be on the right path. Do not let the small irritants of your day-to-day life affect your patience because you will waste precious emotional capital on inconsequential problems. When the waiter takes too long with the bill, when the checkout cashier is rude to you, and when the boss wants to call an extra meeting over something that was previously agreed upon, take a deep breath and let it all slide off your back.

Remember to guide your thoughts to real things that affect you and wait out or not react to the small irritants. The real battles of your patience will be much larger and longer in scale so don’t waste exerting a lack of patience for those irritants of minutes or hours. Save up your patience for the days, months, and years in your personal and professional endeavors that will require you to be in top shape emotionally to handle the challenges that are to come along.

As I have mentioned in other articles, a real mixture of commitment, patience, and willpower will set you apart and cause you to succeed in the long run where others do not. Those three emotional traits are a sign of both intelligence and maturity. Letting them decay or not exercising them consistently will set you back and cause you to fail more. Always do your best to keep those three traits in mind when you set your mind on something new because you will need all three traits of commitment, patience, and willpower to get ahead in life and to make your life the best it can be.