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  • Writer's picturewabbate

Do You Want It, or Need It?

To better see who we are, let’s start with the big picture and ask a basic question: What is really important?

You value many things in your life—your job, your home, your family, your friends, your car, your hobbies, and so much more.

Where does the desire for the things we value come from? Are these things truly important to us, and why?

Lying beneath the things we value are deep needs. Finding these deeper needs that drive our desires and behavior requires exploration. We need to unearth our needs so we can see them.

The best way to explore is to find the right question or questions to ask. Before developing the questions that will help you see your own life more clearly, let’s discuss the difference between a want and a need, to eliminate any confusion between the two.

For our purposes want and desire are synonymous. We want many things in our lives, like a new home, a new car, a vacation, or our favorite food or flavor of ice cream. Yet we can most often do without these things or scale back with little consequence. Things we want are just that—desires we can delay or do without.

A want is something you desire but can do without. Wants are things that are nice to have, yet they’re optional. A want, when filled, can provide short-term satisfaction.

A need on the other hand, is far different than a want. A need is something that is required in life. Air, water, food, and shelter are needs. Without them, we cannot function, much less stay alive for very long. When needs are not met, life becomes a struggle. A need met leads to long-term fulfillment.

Beyond these essential needs, have you considered what you really need in life to thrive? All of us also have deep needs that, when not met, can create considerable discomfort and distress in our lives. You might need a job to earn money so you can provide for your family. You might need relationships, such as a good marriage and good friendships, to add joy to your life.

What do we need to live a life of true significance and to have lasting fulfillment? I suggest you dig in to Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” for an even deeper understanding of fundamental human need, and to gain a better understanding of yourself.

Here are some examples to help us further differentiate:

  1. I need transportation; I want a high-performance, expensive car.

  2. I need food to survive; I want ice cream.

  3. I need rest and time to recuperate; I want to take a long cruise to New Zealand via Hawaii.

  4. I need to work to provide for my family; I want to work at a high-paid, prestigious job.

These essential needs are more basic than our wants/desires. Not getting what I want might lead to short-term disappointment. Yet when my needs are unmet, the result is ongoing struggle and distress. When needs are met, the result can be deep satisfaction and peace. Met needs lead to being fulfilled.

Your needs point to what’s really important in your life. As we go through life, we occasionally have glimpses of our deeper needs. Most of us realize that relationships are important, for example. As the old song says, “One is the loneliest number.” Yet how often do we stop and realize the true significance of relationships in our lives?

What about time? As we explored in an earlier article, we each have the same amount of time in any given day. Time is our most precious and limited resource. Sure, we think about time when we are pressed on a deadline or something urgent, but what about right now? How important is your time in an ordinary day, doing ordinary things?

Since we will naturally take care of our vital needs like air, water, food, and shelter, let’s not look at what we require to stay alive, but at what we need to live and thrive at the deepest levels. Our deeper needs come from within, out of what we value (see my previous article, Values, to determine which values are most important to you).

From the deep value we place on being a good provider and responsible person comes the need to support those we love by earning money to take care of our family. From the values of caring, loving, and sharing our lives comes the need for a happy relationship with our wife, child, and close friends.

These intangible needs come from who we are, from the very core of our being. To understand these needs is to become more aware of who you want to be, leading you toward a meaningful and fulfilling life.

One of the wisest things a person can learn in life is to understand what he really needs in life. Out of your deepest desires, or wants, arises the key to what makes you thrive. Uncovering these deep needs helps you become more aligned with who you really are and who you want to be. Once you understand what your soul needs, you can avoid the short-term, quick fixes that actually slow you down on the journey to fulfillment.

Knowing what you truly need will help you develop the strength to delay those more immediate wants or desires in order to develop wisdom and patience. This can also help you develop a greater understanding of your purpose in life and allow you to move toward it with greater ease.

What’s one path to happiness? Become clear about what you value, deep inside, and then work to understand this to take a true leadership role in your life to get what you value.

Let’s take a few minutes to uncover some of your deepest needs. The following exercise will provide you with invaluable insight.

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Adapted from Uncommon Sense @

Needs Exercise

Here’s a key to living a more meaningful and fulfilled life: Let what you must have take precedence over what you want. Or put another way, live to your needs, not your desires. If you want to further differentiate wants and needs, review the above article entitled “Do You Want It, or Need It?”

Give some thought to what you really need to have a meaningful and fulfilling life. What is most important to you? Which things would you put yourself in harm’s way for, or even die for? Without them you would experience a great deal of stress.

Remember: These things come from being selfless, not selfish. They are tied to who you are and your very identity. They are outward-focused.

For example, some of my needs include:

  1. My faith

  2. Good relationships with my wife, close family, and close friends

  3. Being a good provider for my family

  4. Meaningful work that helps others improve their lives

  5. To spend my time wisely

List at least five of your deep needs below:






What do I notice about these needs?

What steps will I take today toward fulfilling these needs?

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