Transform Needs Into WANTS

by Ron Haynes

In the current economy, and with the increased interest in frugality and thrift, we’ve heard time and time again about needs vs. wants. We’ve heard over and over to focus on our needs, not our wants, that “wants” are frivolous, they’re excessive, they’re going to put you in the poorhouse. Everyone asks, “What do I really need?”

Of all the forces around us, whether environmental, physical, emotional, or mental, perhaps the most powerful is the language we speak to ourselves. What we think and say to and about ourselves can have a far greater impact on our own success than just about anything. That’s why it becomes important to focus on what you really want rather than what you need and to change the way you think about needs and wants.

A “needs” focus will keep you from success

How? Needs are the language of obligation. I need, I must, I should, I have to …

  • I “need” to pay the mortgage (so I don’t lose my home and die of exposure).
  • I “must” keep THIS job (it’s unfulfilling, yes, but I’ll put up with anything to keep food on the table).
  • I “have to” go to this meeting (even though I have much more pressing obligations).
  • I “gotta” pay my credit card bill (despite not knowing where the money will come from).
  • I “need” a job (so I’ll take anything, do anything, compromise my dreams, and live in constant desperation).
  • I “need” to create a budget (so I just throw something together without thinking it through).
  • I “really should” get my emergency fund in place (but I don’t know how I’ll fund it).
  • I “need” to [fill in your own blank].

A “needs” focus doesn’t fulfill, doesn’t motivate, doesn’t help you develop self discipline, and doesn’t propel you toward anything resembling success. “Needing” to ace an interview is a sure way to botch it. No one wants to hire a needy interviewee.

A “wants” focus motivates and inspires

How? Wants are the language of intention. I will, I am, I’m going to, my goal is …

  • You are required to pay your mortgage, but deeper down what you really want is to have no mortgage at all. Now, you have a goal, a dream to strive for. What’s your next step?
  • Maybe what you really want is to follow your passion and start your own company so you can create the life that YOU want. What’s your next step?
  • Your boss may force you attend that meeting, but what you really want is to finish your degree and become the boss. What’s your next step?
  • Credit card payments can’t be ignored, but what you really want is to make extra money and get free from that burden of debt. What’s your next step?
  • A budget is a great thing, but what you really want is the freedom that a budget gives you. What’s your next step?
  • Yes, an emergency fund is also a great thing, but what you really want is the peace of mind it provides. What’s your next step?

It’s more than just semantics

It’s a change in focus, and change in attitude, and a change in your world-view. Focus on your goals, focus on your wants, abandon the language of obligation and begin speaking the language of intention. Don’t let yourself be defined by what you “need.” After all, what you truly need is a very, very small list. Instead become a person defined by clear goals and intentions and lift the burden of needs from your shoulders.

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About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1000 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

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This is actually a brilliant observation. We always here about needs vs wants and that we should only focus on our needs (saving that “want” money for later needs) but when you put things into this perspective, it really makes alot of sense.


What a great way to turn common advice on it’s head – and make it better! Living with this attitute is a better way to live. Thanks for making me rethink some things today.

Joshua @ Accountable Living

Way to tuen the tables on the “wants and needs”. As you point out, many times our wants are really those things buried deep down within us that we layer over with “needs” based thinking….. and so we never get around to our wants.

Yes, it can sound selfish, but a “want” is not always a bad thing ( unless you are eyeing a Snickers in the grocery store checkout aisle….. ).


Interesting post. You are distinguishing between survival vs. striving to improve our condition.

I still think there is a place for the Needs over Wants, when trying to preserve limited resources, like time or money. However, since that particular thesis is so well explained in tons of other venues, I suppose we don’t need to belabor it here.

As a species, I agree that we are definitely better motivated by our wants, but it is important, I think, to distinguish between things that give is short-term immediate gratification (like a jelly donut), vs. longer-term goals that really will improve our lives (losing 10 lbs and exercising more to be healthier). I “want” to have both of them, but only one is really going to improve my life. Perhaps there is some way to distinguish between short-term wants vs. long-term wants?

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