What is the difference between a need and a desire?
Are your needs connected to your desire?
Simply put, a need is what you ought to do while a desire is what you want to do.Hunger is a need that has to be satisfied but having a gourmet meal is a desire. Having a mode of transport is a need but owning a fleet of premium cars is a desire. Clothing is a need but owning only premium brand clothes is a desire. A need is the bare minimum requirement for survival but a desire is what pushes you forward to get more.
Needs are pretty much generic but desires are very individualistic and that is what sets people apart. Everybody needs food, clothing and shelter but someone may desire to be able to afford the best of everything while someone else may desire to have just enough for survival and nothing more.
Needs keep on changing with time and when one need is satisfied, it gives birth to another need. But desires keep on increasing, they are never satisfied. For e.g. when an unemployed person gets a job with a decent income and job security, he is able to afford the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter and thus his physical needs are satisfied and he will move on to social needs, i.e., the need to be associated with people, to be accepted and appreciated by people and to have friends.
But if this person has a desire of being very wealthy, instead of moving to social need, he will be stuck with finding ways of earning more and more money. No amount of wealth accumulated by him is going to satisfy his desire as the more money he earns, the more he would want to earn. This obsession with wealth will detach him from all his actual needs and make him restless and anxious. But he would still try to find peace in earning more as he would not be able to realize that he has enough wealth now and it is no longer his need, it’s just a desire.
Sometimes, we are not able to differentiate between our needs and desires. What we perceive as our needs are actually just our desires and they have nothing to do with our needs. And it is only after fulfilling those desires, we realize we didn’t need them at all, and all we are left with are just regrets. What is sadder is the fact that many a times these realizations strike us after wasting a lifetime on something that we never actually needed. All our life we run after money, power or fame, only to realize later that we have lost what we needed in the pursuit of what was unnecessary. Running madly after your desires without even thinking whether you really need them is sheer stupidity.
But this is not to say that having a desire is bad because having a desire is very necessary. In fact not having a desire at all is very dangerous. How would you differentiate between a success and failure when you have no desire at all? A desire less life is no life.How meaningless is everything going to be, when you have no desire at all? People move forward in their lives only because they have a desire. All great stories are based on a person’s desire to do something, to achieve something. All conquests in the world, all discoveries and inventions happened because somebody desired to achieve them. Desire is the essence of life.
You may ask if desire is really that important then why I spent so much time writing about why not to follow a desire. Actually following a desire is not wrong in itself, what is wrong is following a desire without realizing what you actually need. Needs and desires have to be aligned. You need to follow a desire only till the time it is relevant to your need. When a desire goes way beyond the need and becomes completely detached from the needs is the time when problems arise. It is the time when you get trapped in following your desires and you start losing the sight of your needs. And this is where you need to stop yourself. This is where you have to use all your will power and control your desires.
No matter at what stage of life you are, pause and think, do you really need to do what you are doing? Introspect and ask yourself, what are your desires and what are your needs? Are your desires connected and aligned to your actual needs? Do you really understand your needs or are you running after superficial needs? Are you happy doing what you are doing? Do you feel peaceful? The ultimate need of every person is peace and you will find peace only when all your needs are fully satisfied. Blindly following your desires may take you away from satisfying your needs and thus leave you anxious and in a constant search of peace.
Stop yourself from getting trapped in the vicious cycle of desire but also do not let your desires die. Having a desire less life is as bad as running blindly after your desire. Understand the difference between your needs and your desires and align your desires to your needs. It is a balance that you have to maintain to attain peace in life and have no regrets.
Wishing you Peace and Abundance…
• Being an Engineering student I desire to become a musician. How can I know if the desires of my heart will fulfill my life’s need or not?