This post first ran in January 2011.
While I often wax poetic about defining what you want and then acting on your desires, it’s not so much what you want but what you need that will propel you into a life lived outside the box.
When we “want” something, it can almost feel dirty, shameful. Who are we to want more than what we have?
Needs are more difficult to question. Shelter, food, clean air, pure relationships – who are we to argue with our own needs?
They didn’t teach this in school…
After college, I worked for a national bookstore chain. I worked my way up from barista to Sales Manager in less than a year. I went from making $6.50 per hour to making $28,000 per year. Even though it wasn’t enough to reach my goals or feel comfortable on my own, it was more money than I’d ever had in my life.
For that $28,000, I worked 50-60 hours per week at all hours of the day and night. I managed events, merchandising, local book sales, and a cafe for $5 million dollar per year business.
Shortly after my promotion and after I had bought my first new car, a cherry red, 5-speed 2005 Ford Focus, I had a conversation with my co-manager about money.
“I feel like I should be making more money,” I said.
As the words left my mouth, I felt so much shame. I had so much more than the people who worked for me. I had my parents’ roof over my head and a car to drive. I had new clothes and lots of sweet, milky coffee drinks.
I thought I wanted more money. And wanting money is “not okay.”
Before Lola was born, I searched for new jobs. I chased after what it was that I desired. I focused on getting what I wanted and acted with loud, shrieky desperation. Everything I wanted was always just out of my grasp.
I didn’t recognize the significance of my own needs. And so I wasn’t able to meet them.
But I didn’t want more money. I needed more money. On that salary, I couldn’t afford my car, a reasonable food and entertainment budget, and a home to call my own. Not only that but I needed more freedom, more autonomy, and a better creative outlet.
Changing that thinking took another four years and it required a fundamental change in understanding what I needed for my life. I needed to be in charge of my life and in control of the way I lived in the world. I needed a platform to share my ideas and time to generate new ones. I needed the time to build a relationship and the resources to have a family.
After Lola was born, what I needed was a way to stay home with her. What I needed was an outlet for the creativity that I was rediscovering. What I needed was a career that let me reach my full potential. I felt that need with the same longing I have for clean air and good food.
I moved ahead with the quiet desperation that turns ideas into action.
Instead of chasing after those desires, I acted on my real needs.
No longer was there room to doubt my motivations or feel shame for wanting more than I had, my needs were real and valid.
If you have difficulty defining what you want life to look like, consider what it is you really need. Alexis Neely asks you to consider just how much money you need. Danielle LaPorte asks you the same (via Kelly).
Of course there is so much more to need than money. There is love, freedom, joy, and making.
Your needs will take different forms at different stages of your life. In ten years, I may not need the money I need now or need the amount of technology I now possess. In twenty years, I may need to travel. In thirty years, I may need to sit in meditation and contemplate a new direction.
Just because your needs change and evolve does not negate their importance.
Take a minute today to consider your goals. Consider what your life looks like when all of your needs are fulfilled. Visualize the relationships you will have, the career you will pursue, or the causes you will support.
Do you feel shame in wanting those things?
Or can you allow yourself to accept your own needs as truth?
And then proceed with action.