Needs and wants—what a subtle difference between the two. They can overlap and create a shadow of confusion for the person trying to navigate the line between them.

Due to the abundance we have in the modern world, especially in the Western world post-WW2, we have eliminated a ton of the primal needs of life. Less of our days are spent finding food, acquiring water, building shelter, or tending a life-saving fire. These are the needs. Like Maslow lays out in his hierarchy pyramid, food, water, and shelter are the base of this. Due to this abundance, we have a new challenge to manage free time.

Because we are so detached from our long history of struggle with the basics, we have lost sight of what a blessing they are to have. This has created a blurry view of how important we believe our desires to be. These desires are wants.

From the bigger house, more comfortable bed, newer car, more income, to any existential crisis we confuse for an actual need. Building awareness of the difference between these two things will give you better control over your wants, help you recognize and appreciate the wants you have for what they are—just wants. That doesn’t make them unimportant; they are. We need things to move toward; our goals help give us a purpose bigger than the day-to-day effort.

With the focus on the external wants, we lose sight of a few vital needs. We forget the need we have for love, community, physical exertion, and food that nourishes our being. The abundance mixed with the highly materialistic nature of Western culture has created a trap.

The trap keeps people in the hedonic treadmill, chasing the next temporary flood of dopamine, hoping that the next shiny thing will finally fill that gap in our being. It won’t and never has, and despite all the evidence we have supporting this, modern times have us trapped in this quagmire of comparison to others, never feeling quite enough. We do and buy things to impress people who not only don’t care but are caught in the same quagmire, drowning slowly, waiting for external validation.

Stepping out of the trap invokes self-awareness to admit honestly to yourself what the difference in your wants and needs are. Then choosing to take actions that align with what you find out about yourself.

The needs of love, quiet, physical activity, challenge, reflection, and connection to like-minded community have to be treated as the priority over the wants. When one prioritizes the actions and habits that feed the soul, we have space to chase the wants with the honor it is to have them.

The wants and our attachment to them falsely trick us into believing they are needs. The wants are only even able to be focused on, thought about, and torture yourself over—all stemming from the abundance we have lost sight of.

Regain perspective and free yourself from the internal confusion that creates the false scarcity and lack. The more you can focus your mindset to see the abundance, the more you see how lucky you are to be one of the first people in human history with the ability to chase their desires, aspirations, and interests with the same intensity that our ancestors fought for their needs. Honor the amazing spot you are at in history and give it all the effort your dreams deserve.

June 03, 2024