Screen Shot 2019-05-07 at 12.08.55 AM.png

Understanding Wants v Needs

I meet a lot of people with drive — no one actually hopes to end up broke, unhappy and unemployed — but sometimes that drive comes without any steering, so there’s a lot of energy and talk, but no results.

Often, the issue is that people know what they want — and you all sure want a lot — but fail to take care of what they need. I hope everyone knows the difference, but if not...

A want is something you would like to have.

A need is something you must have, or can’t function well without.

Seems simple, but when it comes to goal setting, we start off by nodding understanding of what we need, but then we get distracted by something we want. Think of someone you know who, let’s say, loves to shop, to browse. They are limited in time, and have to pick up meat for dinner (a need). Right next store to the grocery store is a clothing store with large SALE signs, and he decides to stop in, just for a moment mind you. He gets a great deal on a few shirts that were a steal, and drives home, completely forgetting about the meat that was his family’s meal.

This is pretty close to what I see people do when they work with me to set goals. They WANT to be successful, perhaps get to a VP position in their company. However, they struggle with understanding what they truly NEED to get there. Truly needs aren’t that complicated and we all share many of the same needs, for example:

• Health and safety

• Good relationships in your professional and personal life

• Finances

• Relaxation and fun (yes, that is a need; all work and no play make Jack an unsuccessful boy)

The point is to realize that wants and needs aren’t necessarily opposite things. In fact they are completely related and one serves the other. So, the next step is to take what you need and make sure those needs are met first. Again, I start every session by asking “Are you for real?” which is really asking people to examine who they are, what motivates them and why. I can tell you those needs I just listed are closely tied to their answer, if they are completely honest.

Your wants, then, are always to align with what it will take to meet your needs. Development Counts, which serves as consultants to mental heal professionals, presents this relationship between needs and wants in a simple yet thought-provoking question:

“What would I like to experience in my life on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis (WANTS) as it relates to _________?” (fill in the blank with your needs)

Literally, needs come first, with what you want serving those needs. For example, if your want is to earn 20 percent more than you did the year before, you must take the time to plan for that while also fulfilling your needs in having and developing strong relationships. You must create an environment where you are achieving these goals in a healthy manner. That can mean time management to ensure you are using every minute the most efficiently so you aren’t staying up to the wee hours of the morning every day.

What we want can certainly motivate us - it’s the engine in our car. But even with the greatest horsepower, the ability to steer and maneuver is really what gets there.

So write it down - ALL of it, in two columns. Your wants and your needs. Then apply a plan of SMART goals to help you achieve them. Ask yourself these key questions:

• How will I need to change my behavior and actions personally and professionally?

• Where will I draw my support from - who will be my accountability partner to make sure I’m staying on course and to offer me guidance and advice to improve?

• What could my obstacles be, and how can I plan to face them and overcome them?

• What other resources might I need?

Make sure your goals can be measured and set timelines for them on a weekly, monthly and perhaps even quarterly basis. You can even select up to three personal objectives to really focus in on in the first month, and turn them into habits that will lead to your success.

The key in this exercise is putting things down on paper, in writing. Time and again coaches, motivational speakers and popular figures like Brian Tracy, John Maxwell and others will echo this thought. Why? Writing your goals down, or any type of planning and strategy, makes it REAL. It also does something practical, like allowing you to capture it visually in front of you, which makes it easier to manage.

It’s like going to the grocery store...when you have a written list in front of you, the trip is

• Easier - you have a written plan you simply need to follow step by step;

• Less stressful because you aren’t trying to remember it all in your head;

• More predictable because you are focused on the list and less likely to be distracted by items you don’t need;

• Quicker because you probably know where the items are and can chart the most strategic path to get them all and check out.

In fact, I’d bet you’ve walked out of the house more than once with a list sitting on the table, and realizing it, you stop, turn around and go get it. You do so because you desire a successful outcome (wants) and know that list provides the steps you need to get there (needs).

So, the question becomes, why are you going to work everyday without such a list for your life’s success?