A Need Is Only A Need, When It Is Not A Want…


By John Harline | May 26 2015

If you were to be granted one wish, what would it be?

For some, the answer is instantaneous and selfless.  A wish for world peace, an end to global hunger, the eradication of disease, an elimination of natural disasters, immortality; noble and worthy causes that promote the good of all living things.  Or do they?  Some may argue that these altruistic wishes defy the natural order that keeps the universe in balance.  Although not always fair or just, these circumstantial anomalies represent just that, order.

What if your wish was selfish?  Perhaps a little less philosophical, but far more thought provoking.  Somewhere in the space between reality and fantasy lies “want.”  Those things that we would like to have, but that are not necessary for our survival.  Wants are typically material or emotional in nature and are often thought of as something that people feel they need.  The fancy car, a mansion on the hill, a fleet of yachts, the gorgeously youthful trophy spouse and piles of money in which to wallow; the images are constant and bigger than life. Society has brilliantly disguised these presumed needs from what they really are: extolled and glorified wants.  A want, in this context, is about pleasure and satisfaction, and most certainly not about survival. Take the lottery, for example.  Why do those fortunate enough to win the lottery, end up squandering their windfall?  More often than not, the big “winners” are penniless within five years.  Sadly, some wish they had never won anything at all.  Are they spending all their money on the wants, because they feel it is what they need? Those who pursue the things only money can buy, soon lose the things money cannot buy.  Human nature is a powerful thing, yet dangerous when fueled with excess.

Finally, what if your wish was born of genuine need? Somewhere in the realm of reality, there simply lies need that is essential to survival and hinges on maintaining one’s dignity and independence.  Need of this sort is inextricably wrought with hunger and can cultivate supernatural strength and resolve.  Yet, it is also driven by fear. Consider the married couple at age 55 with little savings, no pension, a family history of poor health and potential unemployment.  Are they thinking about what they “want” or what they “need” in order to survive?  The notion of living out their golden years while lounging in the south of France has been replaced by a gripping and daunting reality – the risk of losing it all. In fact, the five most crucial risks to their independent survival are:  Asset Allocation Risk, Healthcare Risk, Longevity Risk, Inflation Risk and Excess Withdrawal Risk.  This is an example of being consumed by the reality of their needs and not with carefree wants. Human beings are creatures who have endless needs, but who never need as much as they want. Human nature is a dangerous thing, but it is also powerful when met with the instinct to survive.

So, when is a need, really a need? A need is really a need, when it is determined not to be a want. At some point, people should wake up from their dreams and delusions.  That being said, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming about the wants… a little fantasy here and there is healthy.  At times, wants ignite our passion to reach a goal.  Wants plant the seeds of hope necessary to attain the ideal.  Perhaps the clarity becomes blurred when we lose sight of reality; when we believe that those wants are, in fact, needs.  One thing is certain, however; people (affluent, non-affluent, or even those somewhere in the middle) will ultimately face their reality and what truly matters – their survival.  Doing so sooner, rather than later, is the key.  The person who learns to face reality soon realizes how well off they were before. Why wait to learn from the past? Ask yourself what really matters, today.

So, if you were to be granted one wish, what would it be?

Leave a Comment