A new twist on ‘wants versus needs’

Heritage Golf Links, Tucker, Georgia

We have all heard the discussions on ‘wants versus needs.’ Usually, these discussions are in the context of financial responsibility. That is, do I really ‘need’ that new ____ (fill in the blank) or do I just ‘want’ it? However, today I would like to talk briefly about ‘wants versus needs’ in a different context… one that is, arguably, much more important that whether you should buy that new car or TV with 4G technology.

Before I was married, I played golf every chance I had. Even after we started having kids, I played once a week in a league after work with others from my company. However, as our family began to grow, it became more and more difficult both time-wise and guilt-wise carving out so much time to play golf just for myself. So, I essentially put my clubs away for a couple of decades continuing to play only a few times a year. It was much more enjoyable and valuable for me to spend that time with my family or helping my wife at home than going to the golf course alone for a few hours every week. I knew that a day would come later in life when I could play golf any time I wanted, but for those short and precious years, my golf clubs ‘needed’ to be stored in the basement because I ‘wanted’ to spend that time with my family. (Note: it is important that we all have hobbies – I’m not at all advocating that we put those away, including golf – however, as with all things in life, balance is important. I could have used any number of other examples of things in life that, when out of balance, can become a problem.)

There are times in our life or in our work that we need to place needs ahead of wants. There are times when you need to place the needs of others ahead of what it seems you want for today. Let’s explore a few examples:

  1. Career choices – Most individuals in the workplace have desires, dreams, and goals for what they hope to achieve during their career. During your career journey, it may appear that you must take every step forward that comes your way. However, there are times when you are in a certain position, company, or group for reasons that go beyond your own career. For example, you may be where you are simply because you will gain a specific knowledge that you could never get doing anything else. Or, you may be in your current position simply because you have an opportunity to perform a special task or influence someone else in an important way. It could be that you are in the place you are in “for such a time as this” meaning you have a specific calling to fulfill. In any event, before moving on to another company or another position, it is helpful to ask yourself, “Do I need to stay in this position for the benefit of my own knowledge or to influence another? Is this new opportunity something I simply want to take or something I need to do? Will this help me achieve my ultimate career goal? Will there be collateral impacts to others if I make this career change?”
  2. Relationships – Have you ever been in a situation where you just knew or had the feeling that you needed to call someone or reconnect with a former colleague? Or, have you ever been in a relationship in which you knew that you needed to move on? Relationships can have a significant impact on our well-being. Likewise, we can have a tremendous impact on others (mentoring, coaching, supporting, sponsoring, etc.). There are times, however, when we need to ask the question, “What do I need to do?” Not, “What do I want to do?” Let me illustrate… A few months ago, my neighbor mentioned that a former colleague in another state had died. This individual was the father to his daughter’s best friend from high school. His daughter had asked, “Should I take a day off from work to drive 3 hours to attend his funeral?” The advice my neighbor gave was, “I’ve been faced with this question many times, but I’ve never been sorry for attending a wake or funeral for someone. It just always seems that when I go, I made the right decision.” There is a time when you need to do something even if it is not something that is convenient for you or something you want to do.
  3. Day-by-day choices – Every day, we are faced with choices or decisions about what to do, how to do it, when to do something, etc. For some individuals, these choices are easy, but not so for others. Many individuals are guided by the philosophy ‘what is best for me’? As a result, these individuals often struggle with relationships, success at work/home/community, and personal satisfaction. By changing your viewpoint to ‘what do I need to do’ or ‘what is the right choice’, your perspective changes. When you begin to consider the impact of your choices on the bigger picture – and others – you make better decisions for yourself. It is amazing how your own life gets better when you begin live more to serve others.

So, what is your approach for making decisions? Is your default, “What do I want to do?” Or, is it, “What do I need to do?” Is it possible that by doing what you need to do, you’ll actually be doing what you want to do?