Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything—Napolean Hill
There is frequently an inner conflict when we ask ourselves what is it that we want? Is it wrong to want more than we have? Do we need it? If we don’t technically need it, does that put the lid on the desire to have, be or do it? What a tangled web we weave around desire, want and need, so today I wish to help you separate and hopefully clarify for you the differences and how to create healthy balance in your life.
DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN NEEDS, WANTS AND DESIRE
Thomas Leonard and Linda Talley of CoachU created “The Coaching Distinctionary”in which they contrasted and compared similar words that frequently crop up in coaching. Understanding the subtle differences in our language enables us to make useful distinctions. These are their distinctions for needs, wants and desire.
need vs want
Something that you need is a requirement, but many of us treat our needs as our wants and make them optional. If you have a need for appreciation, or a need for touch or to be heard and you don’t take that seriously and get all that you need, you’re treating it more as an option or a want, and that missing need will consume much of your time. When the need is met, you’ll find the wants naturally diminish. So instead of focusing on what you want, establish what you need and you’ll have more time as a result.
desire vs compulsion
A person who is compelled to do something is not at choice. Even though the emotional or physical sensations feel great, the person has lost themselves. To desire, on the other hand, is the stronger form of want. It’s healthy to desire; it’s unhealthy to be compelled to want to get something.
GETTING YOUR NEEDS MET
It is important to understand that we all have needs beyond the survival ones of air, water, food, shelter and love. Our needs are unique to us. There aren’t good ones, better ones, shameful or bad ones: needs are just needs. Having any need shouldn’t be seen as being needy—rather I would ask that you see it as it is—a need that hasn’t yet been met. However, when we deny to ourselves that we have a particular need, it still will show up in our lives, despite everything we may try to do to ignore, squish or repress it. Needs are, as noted above, a requirement in your life, as vital for your well-being as the air you breathe.
Our personal needs mostly arise from incomplete childhood personal development. These may have arisen for tragic, sad or abusive reasons; but mostly it’s just because your needs as a child were different from those of your parents and so they were unable to see, sense or understand what it was you needed. When our needs are met, they will dissipate and then you will no longer feel driven, but free and at peace with who you are.
HOW NEEDS SHOW UP—EVEN WHEN YOU TRY TO IGNORE THEM
Let me share with you how unmet needs show up. Lets say you have a need to be appreciated but don’t realise that you have this need. In your relationships both at home, with family and friends, you will find all kinds of ways to be appreciated to hear the praise and thanks of others. You may even do things you don’t really want to do, just to hear that you are appreciated. People sometimes jump through all kinds of crazy hoops and bend over backwards to get their needs met without even realising why or what they are really doing. So the first step is to discover what your unmet needs are.
RECOGNISING AND DISCOVERING YOUR PERSONAL NEEDS
There is a simple way to identify what your needs are by reading (out-loud) a list of the most common personal needs and checking which words resonate with you. Click here to download my list of “Personal Needs”. You will see I have categorized different types of needs, so you will find needs like; “To Accomplish”, “To be Acknowledged” and so forth. In each category, there is a list of 9 words that subtly describe a different form of that need. For example under the need “To Be Loved” you will find: Cherished, Adored, Desired, Relished, Esteemed etc. All of these similar-ish words describe the need to be loved, and yet all have a different flavour. Your job is to decide which one (if any) resonates with you. This resonance may be in a good or in a “ugh—no!” way. Your job is not to judge whether or not a need is something you would like: it’s simply notice if you react to that word when you read it out loud. If there is no emotional charge on reading, then this is not one of your needs.
Go through the list and circle all the words that energetically resonate with you—no matter what you logically think about that word. Typically from more than 200 different words, you will end up with a list of 15—20. Now reduce these to 4–6 words by contrasting and comparing. For example if you have cherished and adored, which one is strongest for you? From this handful of needs, select your strongest one based on the depth of resonance. What is it? What your life be like if that need was met to the fullest level? What would need to change? How could you get this need met? What would your first step be? What could you do by tomorrow to begin this change?
WHEN NEEDS AREN’T MET, WANTS DRIVE YOU
What is it that you want to do, be or have just now? Buy a new car, gain a promotion at work perhaps, find your soul mate, or take a holiday somewhere exotic, fix something at your home? Notice there is nothing wrong with wanting anything. What matters is why you want it.
As you know I live on Portland, which is connected to Weymouth. You may remember that the Olympic Sailing was held here. Weymouth has a large inner harbour; crammed full of beautiful yachts because sailing down here is a very popular. Many of these yachts are taken out every week in the season. These yachts are loved and cared for. But a large number of them rarely move from their moorings. Why were they bought if they just sit there, unused? More than likely they were bought as a status symbol, but deeper than that there is probably an unmet need for luxury, opulence or excess.
If one of your “Be Acknowledged” needs is unmet, you may find yourself wanting to buy beautiful clothes (to be flattered), or wanting to go even more than the extra mile for others (to be thanked), or wanting to be indispensable to your boss (to be valued) and so forth.
Absolutely nothing is wrong with wanting to own a yacht, or to buy something beautiful, or wanting to work hard to get what it is you want, as long as it comes from heart felt desire and not from either trying to fix an unmet need or feeling compelled to have/do it.
DESIRE IS HEALTHY WHEN…
…there is a heart centred feeling for the thing you want to have, do or be AND there is NO attachment to the outcome. What do I mean by this? It means following your heart’s desire, doing what you can to make it happen, but NOT at the expense of your well-being, happiness and health.
Even if your desire is not from an unmet need, sometimes you still need to let go gracefully, accepting and knowing you really did your best, but it wasn’t meant to be part of your journey. And this is totally OK. Another desire will spring up! Desire works like that. There is a fountain of desire in your very core. Let it flow and it will help you move your life forward.
Desire is often the motivation that gets you out of bed, drives your curiosity to find-out, fathom, know about the object/subject that heart wishes to know, feel or experience. Desire can lead you to become the best you can be—again if it is heart centred and not a ‘should’ or ‘ought’ to. The latter is always head driven. Your head can help you work out the logic, rationale, strategy and it can analyse the facts and figures, but following your head rarely leads to happiness, true fulfilment and satisfaction.
I believe that happiness and successful comes more easily and abundantly when it comes from your heart. Follow your heart and let your head work out the detail!