Wednesday, May 08, 2019

The dance between Wants and Needs

Like so many things in my life, I started off knowing nothing. Then I learned a thing or two, and I thought I learned everything. After I had failed a thing or two, now I know that I knew nothing.

I was talking with friends on Facebook about Fitbit when I remembered that I bought it not too long ago. It is obviously a want since I could exercise without the need for such devices and it cost me more than a few packets of chicken rice. But I knew how I ticked after living with myself for so long. If I look back with hindsight, I can safely say that the purchase of such a want creates a new habit that benefited me greatly. It makes me look forward to exercising and looking at all the data generated. Can I say that such a want is really a need in disguise?

Many years ago, I wanted to learn how to play the guitar. I bought the cheapest guitar available. It's even second handed because I thought it does not make sense to buy such a good instrument if I cannot sustain my interest in it. Silly me. I did not know that interest in something new is malleable, not constant and in flux. My future interest is dependent on what I do right now. If I had bought a brand new guitar, moderately priced and not the cheapest, it might have pushed me a bit harder towards the direction that I wanted to go. I did eventually bought a better guitar and sold off my low rated first one. Did I mix up wants and needs at that time?

In the past, my definition of needs is something that is aligned to your value system, while a want is something that is not. But with many trials and tribulations in life, I think my definition of needs and wants had been changed.

A need is something that is aligned to your current value system, but a want could be something that is aligned to your future value system. A person will change. What I like 20 years ago is different from what I like now, and what I like 20 years later. A value system is also subjected to changes. Who can tell if what I value in the future is going to be the same as what I value right now? Hence a want opens the window of possibility to peek into your future value system, to explore and discover a self that is more aligned to yourself.

Did the proverbial strawberryish yolo-ish generation get it right after all? They are stereotypically said to indulge in their wants because you only live once. To be fair, all generation have members that are like that. Perhaps the pursuit of Wants is really an exploration of our Needs. Is it too much to test out and explore what our needs are? If I haven't tried avocado toast and Starbucks coffee, how do I know if I like them? If I don't travel around different countries, how do I know if another place is really my home? Needs cannot be imparted, or instructed from a parent to a child; it has to be discovered through the process of trial and error and most importantly, reflection. We should not be too quick to point the fingers at others without taking a closer look at ourselves.


MMF Solutions said...

Nice post. Now, I better understand the difference between wants and needs.

la papillion said...


You're welcome, thanks :)

Anonymous said...

You will know what is a need and want when you got no

la papillion said...

Hi anon,

What an interesting statement. So if I have money, does it mean I don't know what is a need and want? What happens if I know my needs and wants, does it mean that I've got no money? Can we be in a situation where I have no money and also don't know what's my needs and wants?

Small Time Investor said...

A mute beggar was seen frequently begging along the streets near a bar.

One day, the beggar went into the bar and shouted " Get me a whiskey!"

The patrons and bartender were astounded.

"Aren't you the mute beggar who begs along the street? why are you able to talk suddenly? " asked the bartender.

The beggar slowly sipping his whiskey and non chantly replied " In the day, when i have no money, i have to keep quiet. At night, when i have some money, of course i need to say a few words."

Small-Time Investor

la papillion said...

Hi Small time investor,

Thanks for sharing the story. What's the moral of the story?

Anonymous said...


Small Time Investor said...

Money is important, lol

temperament said...

Ha. Ha.

If U are a multi-millionaire, is it necessary to think of what is need and what is want?

Question of needs and wants are reserved for ordinary people like us, i suppose.

So after U become a millionaire or $2 or $3, will U still think of what is need and what is want?

i suppose U still do but more relaxing now because your wants may becomes your needs.

And U most probably don't think of needs anymore because happy just buy lol.

Bored with daily routine?

Take a holiday anytime lol.

Why like that now?

"Love may sustains the World,

Money makes the World goes round."

temperament said...

Needs or Wants also remind me of the song "If i were a rich man"

temperament said...

Got plenty of money no need to think so much.

Like sure to change new car every 2 to 3 years.

In this case if U want to think is it a need or want or something else?

la papillion said...

Hi temperament,

I disagree with you. Needs vs wants is not just a money problem - it's a resource problem. The only true resource that we have is time. Every minute of our lives, we have to decide if this is worth our time. which we have limited amount of.

The dance between needs and wants is to discover the value system in our lives. I did not put it in terms of finance alone.

temperament said...

Yes the dance aka value of life can change easily like U said as time chang.

Your wants becomes needs aka car used to be want now it becomes need, right?

If no money can this change happens?

Your wants become needs now.

Time alone no matter how precious can not effects this change of your needs to wants.

If your income stagnant for a long time, will time alone helps U to own a car.

Which is a need now after having a child?

i know i seems to be always too practical and down to Earth.

i can hardly look up and count the stars

temperament said...

How about the car i am owning now i actually think I don't need and don't want.

Do U think this feeling is possible?

The only value in life for owning this car is saving time.

But retirees have plenty of time.

They like to avoid rush or peak hours.

Meanwhile I am enjoying car as luxury.

What happens to my value of life then?

temperament said...

"Time alone no matter how precious can not effects this change of your needs to wants".

"............can not effects this change of your wants to needs"

temperament said...

i just think whatever U don't need and don't want is a "Luxury".

Now maybe i understand better what is a "Luxury" because i very, very rarely has one.

Wants becomes needs are actually quite common, i think as time passes by.

temperament said...

"Got plenty of money no need to think so much.

Like sure to change new car every 2 to 3 years.

In this case if U want to think is it a need or want or something else?"


Actually the answer is U "need" to change car because U "want" to be free of the hustle to deal with the mechanic.

So this is also a Luxury but in this case U have a need and want.

Unlike i don't need and don't want to own my car has also become a Luxury to me too.

In short, there are just too many ways to understand why U do this or that or U can just justify your actions in anyway that suits U if U have the means or money.


temperament said...

Or time?


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