Shopping, deciding, navigating life

When I was a teenager and I was thinking to buy something, my mother used to always ask me: “do you want it or do you need it?”

More often than not, answering truthfully had me admitting that I just wanted it, which—as a teen—can get really annoying. Of course there were many times that I would rationalise that I needed this thing, and I was usually quite convincing. But not getting everything you wanted was something established early on in my childhood, and even if the wanted object was something my mother ended up buying for me, I was always aware that it was not a necessity.

First, that made me value whatever it was, and value it more. I understood that it was a privilege to have it. Second, it trained me for moments when I had to make similar decisions on my own.

“Do you want it or do you need it?”

When you really get down to it, what you want and what you need are seldom the same. It goes without saying that we know the difference, but we prefer living with wants as needs and sometimes ignoring the needs we don’t want.

The question applies beyond malls and boutiques or other items that can be purchased. It can apply to the consequences we foresee. For example: “If I choose this, what will happen? Do I want that to happen or do I need that to happen?”

Asking the question can really simplify some situations. Imagine what would happen if we stuck to only what we need? I know it is impossible because it is in human nature to want things, but how simple would our lives be if we cut things down to just what is necessary? Now, I am not saying one should sacrifice necessary comforts. After all, those fulfill other needs. I for one will probably never give up things like my shampoo of choice even if I don’t NEED that particular brand, but truth be told, there is a lot that can be stripped away. It is not necessary to live with or in excess.

As much as the question annoyed me before, I now find it on the top of my list when making decisions, both big and small. Being honest about what is wanted and what is needed really helps in navigating through life.


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