Needs vs. Wants

Have you ever wondered what the difference between what is a “need” and what is a “want”?  Many years ago I learned a simple explanation of the difference.  Today I will share that understanding with our readers – possibly it can help you as much as it has helped me.


The difference is simple

The guideline that I have used for almost thirty years to determine what is a need and what is a want is quite simple.  There are only four needs – food, clothing, shelter, and the opportunity to learn.  Period, the end.  Everything, and I mean everything, else is a want.


The first three needs seem to be self explanatory.  We need food, shelter, and clothing to provide for the adequate maintenance of the physical structure.  Where does “the opportunity to learn” come in?


Why learning is a need

We first started talking about why we exist in our post entitled “Breaking Illusions – We Can’t Know Why We Exist.”  In that post we stated a very simple reason for why we exist.


The reason that we exist is to learn and grow and to share that learning and growth with each other.


The only rule is that we do not interfere with the free will of another individual.  When we interfere in this manner we keep them from being able to learn in the manner that they choose to do so.


That is really all there is as to why we exist.  We have repeated this idea in many other posts on this site.  Many people want to make life more complicated than that – but it really does not have to be.


So let’s extrapolate the reason why we exist into why learning is a need.  If we truly exist to learn and grow then simple existence through acquisition of food, shelter, and clothing is pointless.  Why should we have the means with which to exist but no purpose for existing?


That is why the opportunity to learn is a need.  There is no reason to have food, shelter, and clothing if we are not going to do something with ourselves.  That something is learning.


The learning does not have to be of deep, earth shattering importance.  The subject of the learning is unimportant as long as we set the intention to learn.  The intention to learn will naturally guides us into areas that are important to us. 


One person may be interested in learning about movies, another about gardening, another about spiritual subjects.  Each of these interests will guide the individual to their own advancements in their own way and on their own path.  The important point is that we are travelling our own path and are doing what we can to support those around us who are travelling their paths.


The wants

Hopefully our long time readers will recognize that when I am talking about our path of learning I am talking about true self.  It should be no surprise then that when I start talking about wants that I am talking about false self.


On this site we have looked at the idea of false self from many different angles.  In our post “Possessions vs. False Self” we looked at how false self approaches possessions.  Most of the things we “want” come from false self attachments.


As we have discussed, these attachments cause all the pain and unhappiness in our lives.  When we finally come to understand that true self views possessions as tools for learning and growth, we start to put physical objects in the proper perspective.


False self cannot distinguish between a need and a want.  False self is a bundle of attachments so it sees all of the wants as needs.


True self has no such problem.  True self makes all of our choices based on how those choices will affect our learning and the learning of those around us.  True self is constantly filtering the needs and the wants.


If false self determines that learning would be helped if we were to acquire a possession, we make the effort to acquire that possession.  If the process of acquiring the possession becomes a distraction we re-evaluate the decision to acquire the possession.


We may alter our method of acquisition.  We may decide to not continue with the acquisition.  When we are in the moment we are acting from true self and we will know what to do and then learn from the experience.


The bottom line

The primary message for today is to start to look at the things which you think are needs.  Ask yourself if these needs have anything to do with food, clothing, shelter, or the opportunity to learn.


If you already have adequate food, clothing, and shelter why do you need to change anything?  There can be many valid true self based reasons to make a change.  There can be many more false self reasons to make changes.  We each have to decide for ourselves how to sift through the needs and wants.  Then we learn from the experience.


If you do not have many needs or wants that have to do with your personal learning – please recognize that fact.  Find something that you have always wanted to learn about – and then go and become an expert on that subject.  The subject matter is unimportant.  The habit of “always be learning” is the payoff.  Once we truly start to learn we realize how much more there is to know.  At that point learning becomes a life long commitment and habit.


That is all for today.  Thank you for taking the time to read this.


Until tomorrow –


Es kava turen hai

We work towards an identical goal.



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