Saturday, June 7, 2014

Needs and Wants


Each Warrior wants to leave the mark of his will, his signature, on important acts he touches. This is not the voice of ego but of the human spirit, rising up and declaring that it has something to contribute to the solution of the hardest problems, no matter how vexing!

Pat Riley


In Do It, Let’s Get off Our Buts! author Peter McWilliams differentiates between the words “need” and “want.”  He says that we often use the word “need” when we really mean “want.”  What we really need are only the physiological needs, such as air, water, food, sex, homeostasis and excretion.  The rest are wants.  The physiological needs are on the bottom of the Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid, created by Abraham Maslow.  Maslow says many of the things we want are actual needs in order to have a sense of safety, a sense of love and belonging, self-esteem or self-actualization. 
The two authors seem to contradict each other.  Though I deeply appreciate Maslow’s work, for the sake of this argument and for a little while, I’m going to side with McWilliams for now.  Many of the things I say I need are actually things I want.  Putting aside, all but my physiological and safety needs, I don’t really “need” love or “self-esteem.”  I don’t “need” to belong.   I can survive without these things.  It may not be a happy or productive life, but I can do it.  But I don’t want to.
I want certain things in life.  Using the word want changes things for me.  Need creates dependency, often on other people or external circumstances, neither of which I have much control.  “Need” denotes a lack of power and a sense of helplessness.  It takes away my power and my creativity.  “Need” creates desperation.  Worst of all, “need” creates fear.  If I “need” something, then I can’t see other options to what I “need” and I can usually see only one way to get what I “need,” if even that.
“Want” gives me the opposite.  If I want to be loved or want to make more money, then the responsibility and the work are mine.  I make choices rather than having choices forced upon me.  “Want” involves decision-making and creativity.  It creates more options.  It opens my mind and increases my determination.  If I “want” something, I feel more powerful.
Going back to Maslow’s hierarchy, we find that our needs are more than just physiological and safety.  We have the “need” to create, to be secure in whom we are, to love and to be loved.  Can I survive without these things?  Yes, but I can’t live to my full potential.  By integrating the two ideas, by wanting my needs to be fulfilled, I can create a more powerful life.  I don’t ignore what I need, but I take responsibility for it at the same time.  I Get Started and I Keep Going, until I get what I need and want.