During my first job, when I got my first credit card, I remember how I went on a shopping spree. Yes, I’m not proud of what I did back then. Back then, I was a sucker for red colored t shirts. So in one of those episodes, I had gone to a recently opened clothing shop. The guy at the shop showed me some. I liked. I picked one. He showed some more. I picked more. Now he was getting delighted and began to show even more items. I picked some more. I had two bags of clothes. Upon getting back to my residence, the thought that came to my mind was of the tshirt that I did not buy! Now when I think of it, at the time I did not need as many I bought, but somehow the contents in the bags spoke otherwise.
Just about a hundred years ago, what were man’s needs that gave rise to his aspirations? A house, land, cattle, a good spouse, kids and enough food on the table for all; reputation in the society that earned him a front seat at community events and some good entertainment once in a while. Is that all, you say? Well, by and large, yes! Cut to today. Would we be happy with the things listed above? Heck, no!
Maslow would be grimacing had he been around now, seeing how ‘needs’ have changed into ‘wants’ so quickly. We want much more than this to even feel we’re barely enough. We want fancy cars and gadgets and need to change them every few months for added effect. If we have one, we want more. We want jobs that provide not just money but a heavy dose of boosted ego, enough satisfaction and also the opportunities to grow. We want the thousands of likes on social media for every post of ours. We want and want and keep wanting more. Nothing is ever enough. We were a kid who would grab the ice cream and finish it off, and yet keep looking at his younger sibling slowly relishing it.
We are still that kid whose wants have become monstrous with age. We’re not happy to have fulfilled our hunger and keep eating without a need. Maslow hierarchy of needs spelt outphysiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization, but today’s wants have far outgrown Maslow’s thinking. Why has this happened?
Every living organism has some basic needs like food, water and mate. Humans outgrew that phase. They needed safety from wild animals and natural elements. That met, they needed love and belonging and thereupon came the institution of marriage. Relationships, community living brought about the need for esteem and recognition. When we’re done with that, cam self actualization needs. This was the process of human evolution. But the industrial revolution of the past two centuries has brought about unprecedented progress. And it leaves us not needing but wanting for more. There are two reasons why humans are craving for more and more and never appear to be satisfied
- Confusing wants and desires for needs
- Not being grateful for what you have
Needs and wants are two drastically different things. Needs are fulfilled to leave you happy and contented. Wants actually never end. They are like a bottomless pit. Needs satisfy life’s basic functions. Wants boost the ego which needs to be fuelled again and again.
Not very long ago, people would be happy to even get a square meal or a good pair of clothes. Having some money saved would be a boon. Today, we are always insecure about our tomorrow. We are scared about the hefty medical bills if we fall ill. We fear for our kids’ education and future. We fear for our jobs, lest we lose them. We keep wanting more and more because nothing makes us secure anymore. This unending wanting has kept us away from feeling grateful for what we have.
We have stopped looking at the people who don’t posses what we have, those deprived of even life’s basic needs. All we do is keep looking lustfully at the wealth of the rich above us. Their cars, their fancy houses, exotic holidays, better schools for their kids, better attire entices us all the time. We forget that we have risen from a state of humble beginnings and there is plenty to be grateful about. From a rented house, we move to own an apartment. From just three meals a day, we now have a kitchen full of food for all. From the same old clothes, we now own better ones and multiple options. But nothing is enough. That’s because somewhere in the race to acquire more security, we have become more insecure. We fear losing it all. That makes us hold more and hoard more.
How much is enough
The definition of ‘enough’ may be different for different people. For some, it could be arranging a comfortable life for themselves and their kids for the next few years. For others, it could be a utopian dream. We never hear someone say, “Oh! I’ve earned enough. Now I don’t want to earn anymore.”
Why, even the world’s richest people like Warren Buffet and Jack Ma, keep looking for new and better ways of creating more wealth. Yes, but they know that they don’t quite need all this wealth and hence have started donating for good causes.
A lot of man’s insecurities stem out of their childhood, upbringing and the community they live in. A childhood spent in deprivation results in people yearning for more and more. Nothing ever seems enough and since they feel they are ‘self-made people’, they rarely feel grateful towards anything or anybody. The way our parents raised us also has a bearing on our wanting more and more. If our parents have quarreled over finances and savings, we quite obsess over money and belongings. We link having more to feeling more secure when it is far from true. It is not just more money, more wealth, bigger house, better cars that give us happiness and security. There are other things that matter too, like true friends, loving spouse and kids and a heart full of contentment. A country’s economic policy also plays a key role. Some nations propagate the capitalist ideology where money equals success. Some nations like Bhutan count the nation’s Happiness Index as an important indicator of the nation’s well being. When there is enough for everybody, people rarely hoard wealth. It is only when the opportunities are rare and the competition is stiff that success and more success becomes an obsession.
However, we are the sculptors of our own lives. We can decide to create the kind of life that we want to lead, one that of perennial wants and desires and an urgency to run behind them or one that of accomplishments and contentment coupled with sharing with those deprived and a feeling of gratitude. The former leads to constant competitiveness, resentment and heartburn while the latter gives you peace of mind and joy.
What are some of the things that you do to distinguish between a want and a need? How have you overcome the temptation to seek the wants and refocused on achieving your needs? Take a moment and comment below.
Did you notice any corrections to be made on this page? Submit your feedback here. We will take the necessary action.