Many conflicts in life come from confusing needs with wants, so the differences between the two must be made crystal clear so more informed choices can be made.
If you stop and evaluate the things you want, your goals and desires, you will see plainly that many, if not most, of the things you want are simply not necessary for your survival. Desire for something is an emotional conclusion that you have discovered something which will make you happier, wealthier, more desirable, etc. And because you don’t have it, you take action to acquire it.
I wish someone would tell me what contains happiness, so I could get one. Is there a college degree in Happiness? Can I put happiness on my credit card? Because our brain currently has no concept of Happiness, other than getting something new and different, it can make no distinction between what we really need and what we only want.
Needs and wants are another example of synonyms that aren’t, their meanings are very different.
Needs are essential for growth, development, and maintenance. In other words, needs are about survival.
Humans all have the same needs: food, shelter and nurturing, or Love.
To define something as a need is to recognize its essential nature. Words or thoughts cannot satisfy real needs.
Want, on the other hand, simply means you do not have something. When you want something, you just don’t have it. As an example of the difference, let’s consider this: a child needs food, but wants a toy.
Because the confusion between wants and needs causes so much conflict, we are going to take a very close look at the mechanics involved. Although we spend a great deal of our life thinking about what we think we lack and how to get it, we are still not content. Obviously, we do not understand what is important enough to make a real effort to obtain.
All of us have worked very hard for something we thought we really wanted only to find out, after we got it, that we weren’t a bit happier. Oftentimes, the “getting” itself just increases our problems. A new house or car that is too expensive for our budget, for example, brings the added financial responsibility and anxiety about having to pay for them.
If you analyze a “want” carefully and objectively, it is usually not the object you think you desire that is important to us anyway. It is the symbolic meaning you have given to it. A teenager doesn’t want the car because it is a car. The car represents status, freedom, or fun.
An object has only the meaning you assign to it. You project qualities onto it that you believe you do not have in ourselves. If you get what you think you want, you believe you will be content and happy.
Attempting to meet needs with wants actually keeps us from meeting our real needs.
Some people eat, some shop, some exercise, and some smoke; the possibilities are endless. You cannot eat thoughts or words, and they cannot protect us from the weather, so our real needs remain unfulfilled.
This substitution of wants for needs is an attempt to get Happiness and Peace from our external environment. We are just trying to convince ourselves that we will be happy if we have the same stuff as those who appear successful to us. Life just does not work that way.
As my dad said, “Happiness does not come from getting what you want or desire. Happiness comes by getting rid of the desires for things which cannot meet your real needs.”
Thoreau knew this when he wrote, “We become prisoners of our possessions.” If we have to work hard all the time to pay for something we do not need, and which cannot meet our real needs, we are truly a prisoner.
Why have you not learned how to meet your needs? As children you depended on others to help you meet your needs such as food and shelter. It is fairly logical that since others were the source for these things, and they did not teach us otherwise, the meeting of needs depends on outside sources. They apparently were also the source for love. This led you to the conclusion that love is also something external that you must earn.
This is the source of the childhood wound most adults struggle their entire lives to heal. If you do not understand the real nature of needs, you will believe you must depend on an external source or another human being to meet them. But this cannot work in a satisfactory way because YOU are the only one who can meet YOUR needs.
First, you must learn what needs really are; then you can take the correct actions necessary to meet them. The ability to meet our needs is based in another program.
Needs programs are action-based programs, not information programs. Granted, information is necessary; but it is knowledge of how to do the action that is required to meet the need. Action is the only possible way to meet needs. It does not matter if a person is an infant or ninety years old, we all have needs and will make efforts to take care of them.
Most importantly, you must understand that you can meet your needs only by your own actions.
If your needs are not being met, you are the only one who can act to meet them.
Someone else may bring you food, but you must eat. You may be offered shelter, but you must make the decision to come in out of the storm.
Your need for Nurturing and Love operates in the same way. Because Love is actually different from what many people think it is, you usually fail in meeting this most important need. If your need for Love is met, your entire world will change dramatically.
Love is Action. The only way to realize Love is a part of your life is to do something loving. If you feel the need for a hug, you should give one. You will feel much better if you do. If you need approval or appreciation, you must give them to someone else.
In the giving, you will realize you already had love to give. Since you already have love, your need will be met by your own loving action.
Take another look at this diagram from the Lesson on Learning Cycles. It shows the reflexive-ness of the learning cycle. You must change the “Do” in order to see different results.
When you Love, the cycle is changed, and you learn something entirely different. You must share the Love you have to become aware that You are the source of the Love you are giving.
Action programs require us to do the action ourselves.
You can read, talk, or think about a life of Happiness and Love, but that’s not living it. Life is action, not thought, and the most important skills you can learn are how to do the things that can meet your real needs. Until thought becomes action, nothing different can happen.