Need or Want

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I think lots of people get mixed up when using the words need and want.  Americans for sure.  I think we should all start using the word want much more, replacing the word need.

This thought process all started recently on rides.  People I’ve been riding with turn off saying they don’t need to ride that far.  These guys, in my opinion, needed to ride more, but they didn’t want to ride more.

Then a couple days ago, Catherine walked over to my house before the club ride.  I’d already ridden 30 miles and was meeting back up with the other guys and to get more water.  Catherine had ridden 3 hours with me the day before at a heat index of 108, but she is short of mileage. Anyway, she used the word need instead of want when describing her thoughts about riding again at a heat index of 115.

This all got me thinking about the word need.  We, as Americans, are not much in need, normally. We have plenty.  But it really depends how strictly you want to adhere to the definition of need.  And I’m using the verb form of need, which really means essential or very important.

When it comes down to it, some people might not ever need anything ever.  Say someone has no desire to live anymore.  He really doesn’t need anything.  He doesn’t need air, food, anything.  Others might suggest he needs a chance of mentality.

But, in reality, what is essential to some people isn’t important to others.  And they use the word need to describe something that most people think they should use the word want for.

Health is one subject where needs comes into play.  Many times in health, you really do need something.   And the same in parenting.  You feel so strongly about something, that it is essential, thus a need.  But, in general the word want could be used more in both those instances too.

I guess that there are some essential things that make each of us happy.  And different things make each of us happy.  Happiness is one thing to strive for in life, in my opinion.  There are lots of different things that contribute to happiness.  But it is very personal.

But again, in my opinion, many things that make us happy are wants and not needs.  I think most anyone reading this have most of what they really need.



10 thoughts on “Need or Want

  1. darcloud

    Tell it, Steve.
    Two other words that I’d add are ‘reason’ and ‘excuse.’

  2. Russell

    Happiness is an interesting topic. I live in a part of the country where happiness would not be considered by its residents to be a worthwhile aspiration. If the word was ever used it would be considered something that was ordained by god not something you would seek. To me, the process of seeking happiness may be as important actually being happy. Can you imagine not seeking happiness? Now imagine what your day would be like. A rather solemn existence. Content? Maybe. I say a little want and a little need can be good for you. I need a beer. Or as Catherine would proudly say, I want one whether I need it or not.

  3. Lionel

    Those guys turning off earlier than you think appropriate, probably know themselves better than you do. I’ve won over half my races this year, but if I rode even half the miles of what you do, I’d be lucky to win a couple. For me, the extra miles kills my speed and makes me lethargic on the next rides; plus it would add stress due to the time taken away from other life demands. They have different bodies, different skills, and different goals. For me, the word need for not needing to ride those extra miles would be exactly correct.

  4. H Luce

    After Fukushima and Chernobyl, no one should want nuclear weapons, because the effects of their use are not local. However, the US and Israel have hundreds of nuclear weapons. Do we *need* them – and to keep the weapons in working order? No, but the Chinese and Russians have them, so there is a perceived need for them. The idea is, is that China and Russia, if the US destroyed its nukes, would blackmail the US. So, of course, the US needs to keep its arsenal… And there’s a big nuke player in the Middle East – Israel, the client state of the US, which was indirectly supplied with its nuclear arsenal by the US. And Israel has been making threats towards Iran for at least the last ten years. And while Iran is a large country, Israel is very small, five nukes would finish it – and Jordan – off, so the leaders of Iran feel compelled to acquire a nuclear arsenal to counterbalance the very real Israeli threats, backed up by the US. So it’s actually a question of realities and perceptions, not *needs* or *wants*.

  5. Steve Tilford Post author

    Lionel-No, I know them just as well as they know themselves, maybe better. The needed the mileage. For physical and mental wellbeing.

  6. Tman

    I never thought someone could read one of Steve’s posts and reply with a dreary six sentence world history for dummies.

  7. Kevin

    The use of want and need can be interchangeable. The perceived usage of said words is what affects the sentence and the perception of the individual using them. Using “want” gives an impression that the individual is greedy and selfish, while the use of “need” gives the impression of that the individual is restrained and forgiving. I’m not sure how the usage of these words could denote ones happiness; if it does then I would agree with you and say they are wanting whereas a person is already happy if they are needing.

    Interesting topic as always Steve. Thanks.


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