Need vs Want

I mentor people under auspices of the Accelerator program from the Entrepreneurs Organization. The main tenant of the program is to help companies with $250k or more in revenue to grow to $1000k in revenue. I joined the program when my company was around $650k in revenue and I recall how I felt this utterly burning drive to get a million dollars. My god, I believed, when I get to a million dollars, my problems will be solved! I’ll be big and powerful and rich and able to live my dreams if only I can reach a million dollars in revenue.

I thought that I *needed* to get to that much revenue. Not that I wanted to, not that I should, but rather that I needed to do so to solve all my problems. Only many years later (and long past running a company with two million in revenue, and almost zero profit) did I come to learn and understand the nefarious word – “need.” A little word that I once threw around as casually as “hello.”

“I need to get to work!”
“I need to make this sale!”
“I need to hire someone for this job!”

The problem for me with need is that it is a word of an extreme that I constantly applied to banal daily situations. I robbed need of its power as a word and lost track of my actual needs. I lost the ability to simply want.

Let me define the difference. In my opinion, a need is a burning desire that overrides other thoughts. For example, if it’s 11 AM and I’m going to be evicted if the rent isn’t paid by 11:30, then I “need” to pay the rent. It is an overwhelming, burning desire and I will skip meals, skip meetings, and skip sleep to meet that need.

A want is a much lower stress proposition. A want is simply something I desire, and, if I don’t get it, I’ll probably be fine.

When I decided to differentiate my needs from my wants, my life improved a great deal because my stress levels went way down. Needing all the time is really difficult, and exhausting. Wanting is pretty easy. Knowing the difference lets me make decisions to prioritize needs (food, sleep, time with my loved ones) over wants (more money, a new client, a new product). When I needed everything, they were on equal footing, and getting enough sleep or making more money could fight with one another.

So what are wants? Wants are the thoughts we have all day, every day. They’re low stakes desires. I want to go to Screen Door, but if the line is too long, and I go somewhere else, thats fine. I want to close this new client account, but if I don’t, I’ll still have plenty of money in the bank. I want to grow to a million dollars, but if I don’t, I’ll still make a good living and enjoy petting my cats.

Differentiating the two has improved my life dramatically, and I strongly advise people to consider the two as distinct. My list of needs is quite small, and easily filled, if only I define it correctly.

Next time…”shoulds!”



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *