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The Difference Between Need and Want

Updated on May 25, 2017
palmerlarryray profile image

A father, freelance writer and one hell of a cook, Larry Ray Palmer currently resides in a small North East Missouri farm community.

My Little Needs

Things that force you to learn the difference between want and need.  This picture was taken the day we brought Loree home from the hospital.  This was the first time Travis met his sister.
Things that force you to learn the difference between want and need. This picture was taken the day we brought Loree home from the hospital. This was the first time Travis met his sister.
My wife, Gigi, with Travis and Loree
My wife, Gigi, with Travis and Loree
We all need a hero.  This is one of mine.  Marc the invincible Spiderman.
We all need a hero. This is one of mine. Marc the invincible Spiderman.
The world could use a few more hugs...  This is Marc and Travis a few years ago.
The world could use a few more hugs... This is Marc and Travis a few years ago.
Who wouldn't want a kiss from this adorable muchkin?  And Loree is pretty cute too, isn't she?  lol
Who wouldn't want a kiss from this adorable muchkin? And Loree is pretty cute too, isn't she? lol

 

I sit here contemplating two words that so many find interchangeable. A few years ago, I fell into the same trap of confusing these two words. Sometimes, I fall back in. Want and Need... They are both four letter words... that's easy to see..... they have similar definitions in the dictionary.... they have similar connotations.... but they have truly different meanings.

 

Here's where the differences kick in. A need is something you must have to survive. A want however is something you would like to have but it's not essential to the survival process. Many people fall into the snare of confusing the two words and it causes them a great deal of unhappiness. To illustrate the difference in the two words, if you were going to be left on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean, would you want a fresh water supply or would you need it? The water would be a need because without it you could not survive. Now let's imagine you had to make a choice between having a reliable water supply and having a companion on the island. While you might want the fellowship of a fellow soul there to keep you company, you need the water to keep you alive. Without the water. both of you would perish quickly.

My point is this. Many of us confuse need and want. We go around saying I need a new car, I need a new job, I need a new whatever when we should be saying I want these things. If we really look at it, most of us are having our needs met pretty well... I know I'm a few inches to the fluffy side because I haven't missed too many meals in my lifetime.

In this holiday season, I encourage everyone to take a closer look at need and want. If you can help someone to meet their needs, isn't that the true meaning of the Christmas season? Distinguishing between need and want can make your life much easier as well. When you realize that the latest and greatest toys are nice if you get them but you won't die without them, you experience freedom. Like Baloo the Bear sang in the Jungle Book, look for the bare necessities and the bare necessities of life will come to you.

I'm not saying the difference is an easy thing to learn. I will share something with you now that may backfire on me. I learned the lesson between need and want from a bottle. I spent a good portion of my life drowning every emotion and care in a bottle. I've been to the razors edge of death and back a few times with Jack Daniel's as my driver.

Then I realized, I didn't like who I was. There were too many times when I needed a drink. I can tell you today, I was the guy who carried the bottle everywhere. I was drinking to get through church. Drinking to go out. Drinking to go to work. All because I couldn't deal with people.

When I realized that I was letting the bottle be the boss, I had to make a decision. That day, I decided that I needed to be a man more than I needed the drink. My family needed me. That morning I stopped drinking and I didn't touch a drop for the next five years. When I realized I didn't have to have it, I didn't even want it.

This last year, I had to test myself. Now I know all you AA folks out there will be screaming at me but I had to know. I come from a family of drunks and I had to find out which one of us was the boss. I'm proud to say I am the boss. I can have a drink now. But I do it for different reasons than I used to. When I have a drink now, it's because I want to, not because I need to. I can leave the bottle sitting in its place for months at a time and when I want a glass, I can pour one and stop. I can do this because I have learned a simple rule... If I hear myself say the phrase, "I need a drink.", I will not go near the bottle. I drink on my terms, when I want to drink.

I guess I'm rambling on. I just hope my words can encourage someone else. Help someone to see that they can be in control. They can have the power back. All by learning the difference between needing and wanting.

Well, hello there!

Feedback is always appreciated.

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    • profile image

      olamide 

      7 years ago

      you have rely explain this confusing aspect of life to me. thanks

    • Tom T profile image

      Tom T 

      8 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thanks for the inspiring story and congrats on choosing want.

    • palmerlarryray profile imageAUTHOR

      Larry Ray Palmer 

      8 years ago from Macon, Missouri

      Hey Kerry,

      Thanks for the encouragement. Looking forward to reading more of your hubs soon.

    • K Partin profile image

      K Partin 

      8 years ago from Garden City, Michigan

      Hey Palmer, great hub and a hell of a story. Good job and thanks for sharing with us all. Kerry

    • palmerlarryray profile imageAUTHOR

      Larry Ray Palmer 

      8 years ago from Macon, Missouri

      Hey Beth, when you are ready to stop, you will. It just has to be something you consciously choose to do. I drink occassionally and I see nothing wrong with that as long as I am in control and not the bottle. If you decide to stop and need support, I find the folks here at hubpages to be a very friendly and supportive group.

    • beth811 profile image

      beth811 

      8 years ago from Pearl of the Orient Seas

      Good that you had the courage to stop drinking. Like my husband (who before always carried a bottle of liquor everywhere he went)is now sober for 5 years. While me, still drinking once in awhile... am struggling how to stop.

    • palmerlarryray profile imageAUTHOR

      Larry Ray Palmer 

      8 years ago from Macon, Missouri

      Thanks Lorraine. I am glad you enjoyed reading. Some days I'm not as strong as I wish I was but I'm working on it.

    • profile image

      poetlorraine 

      8 years ago

      i absolutely thoroughly agree. You are brave to tell your story. I so enjoyed reading it, cheers to your next drink, you are a strong man

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