-The Rolling Stones
A human being needs only three things — shelter, sustenance (food, water, air, light), and human contact — in order to survive.
To do more than just survive, a human being also needs personal, emotional, and financial security (healthcare and the ability to sleep are part of these).
To thrive, a human being needs to feel like they belong. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, that includes family, friendship, intimacy, trust, acceptance, and receiving and giving love and affection. Maslow did say that the need for belonging may overcome the physiological and security needs, depending on the strength of the peer pressure. In contrast, for some individuals, the need for self-esteem is more important than the need for belonging; and for others, the need for creative fulfillment may supersede even the most basic needs.
But I think we can say we have a good working definition of what a human being needs. Those are the essential things that allow a human to function in a healthy manner.
A want, on the other hand, comes from the ego. A want often has a grabby quality to it. Wants are things that we think will change how other people see us. We live in a society that bombards us with messages about what we should want; it tells us we don’t have enough, that there isn’t enough, and therefore we aren’t enough. Those things you want do not define you. Thinking they will makes them your god. Don’t deify things that are finite; it won’t end well.
When you can differentiate between those things that you need and those things that you want, you will start to see the true nature of the blessings in your life. When you have been given the opportunity to thrive, you are wealthy beyond measure, because nothing will change your life the way being able to thrive does. We have to be able to see that though.
Out of the things that you want, do you know why you want them? What you really, truly want from life? Not what other people tell you to want, not things that would just be kind of nice to have. What do you really want? Generally, when we want something, it is because we think it will bring a certain quality to our life, like joy or security or belonging. So what we want is not thing thing, it’s the quality. Those can be created without the assistance of things. Make a decision to be happy, to experience joy, to be pleased, to love. Create those qualities for yourself. You may find that, the more you do this, the more of those things that you thought would bring you those qualities suddenly appear in your life. Or not. Either way, you will have what it is you truly wanted to begin with.
This post is part of a series called Monday Message, based on that day’s reflection from 365 Days to Enlightenment (authorized versions are currently out of print, working on a new edition). Check back next Monday for another one! You can also sign up for the Daily Message on my mailing list if you’d like to receive a new reflection every day. I also often post them to Instagram, if that’s a medium you enjoy.