Wants Are Not What They Are Cracked Up To Be

Have you ever stopped to consider it is your wants that get you into various troubles, and rarely your needs?

I asked my 17-year-old son the other day if he would accept a job offer that would guarantee him all of his needs being met for life: food, shelter, clothing, transportation, medical, educational expenses, etc. Not surprisingly, he said, no…emphatically! 

Whereas, I would take that deal in a heartbeat. 

When I pressed him to explain his decision in our hypothetical scenario, he said, there’s stuff I want, and stuff I want to do. I agreed and praised him for the recognition that often times those kinds of things are over and above ”needs”. But I warned him that indulging wants is very often a never-ending, ever-enlarging cycle of displeasure, disappointment, and disillusionment.

His demeanor displayed the fact that accepting a life-time salary that would meet every need did not feel like a win for him. When you’re 17, that feels like settling. So, I asked him how much would be enough? If you could earn twice as much as you needed, would that satisfy? He said maybe. In reply, I asked him to consider the nature of a want, and just how important those wants would really be, once his needs were already met.

My hope was to get him to focus on nailing down his needs; and making decisions about wants fully aware of the different ways that they far surpass needs in total cost of ownership. And how they drive you into an endless state of discontentment.

Once a desire has it’s hooks in you, you must determine if you have the means to scratch that itch. And if you don’t, your dissatisfaction with your status quo deteriorates. Now, you need another job, or a lucky windfall. Or you need a different house, or a different husband, and so it goes…

I found out a long time ago what a want can do to my soul. (with a tip of my cap to the Eagles for taking artistic license). What I’ve wanted has too often proven to be the worst thing I could have gotten, once I’d done and spent all that was necessary to obtain it.

But the least amount of time I’m forced to devote to providing for my necessities, secures me with the true wealth of self-directed time. And friends, they aren’t making any more of that.

As Bob Dylan, that Nobel-prize-winning-master-of-poetry-and-literature, with the voice of an angel (…albeit one with a very bad sinus infection), said in Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues,

”Up on Housing Project Hill, it’s either fortune or fame

You must pick up one or the other

Though neither of them are to be what they claim”

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