What you need will bring happiness wants can never satisfy

what you need

If I were to ask you what you need out of life, what would you say?

Chances are you’d probably confuse the word “need” with the word “want” and before long you’d provide me with a list filled with materialistic possessions that have nothing to do with what you actually need.

I recently came across an article by Allison Kahner, Psy.D. on Psychology Today entitled Key to Happiness: Focus on What You Need, Not What You Want. She had some pretty interesting things to say.

“Studies of happiness and wealth repeatedly show that beyond a certain level of income or material prosperity, happiness levels do not continue to increase with increased levels of wealth. That is to say, once you have what you actually need (and maybe plus a little extra for security/retirement), you are set in terms of how your happiness level will be impacted. Other factors then become more central to your sense of happiness or fulfillment.”

In today’s American culture, that statement completely contradicts what our materialistically driven society teaches us. From a very young age, we’re raised with the notion that in order to be truly happy in life we need to amass incredible wealth and a host of materialistic status symbols that often cost more money than some people make in a year.

Kahner goes on to say that, “While it can feel good to earn a high salary, and while there is nothing morally wrong with doing so, to expect that a higher amount in your bank account will keep you fully satisfied emotionally is short-sighted.”

“Wants” won’t bring lasting happiness

I live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, and only after driving some 26 years did I finally treat myself to a nicer car.

But you know what? They don’t really make me happy. Yeah, they’re nice “wants” to have, but at the end of the day my happiness is not tied to them and my self-worth is not defined by them. My happiness comes from the people I’m blessed to share my life with.

To be there for people not just when it’s easy and convenient, but always. To offer an ear to listen, a smile for encouragement, a hand for support and a hug to show one’s value – those are the only things that bring true happiness to one’s life.

“The key to happiness is this: the fulfillment of our needs, not our wants, is what makes us happy. Pursuing extra wealth when we are lacking in family connection reflects an imbalance, and is less emotionally rewarding than having less wealth but better relationships.” – Kahner

Our needs are pretty simple actually: food, clothing, shelter, safety, love, appreciation, respect and kindness immediately spring to mind. Stop confusing what you want in life with what you need. As simple as it might sound, few of us actually understand the difference.