Needs vs Desires


We all want things.

But our wants can be categorized in two different ways: needs and desires. With some things, it’s super-easy to determine if our want is a desire or a need. However, with other things, it’s harder to figure out. Or, are needs and desires the same thing? Let’s find out.


Desires are items that you lust after or that you ‘think’ you need. They are the things that you don’t need to survive, but instead just really enjoy having. Desires can be physical things like the internet, new clothes, shoes 👠, snack foods, or a new car 🚗. Desires can also be nonphysical things such as attention, acceptance, or high social status.

We usually think desires will lead us to happiness or a better quality of life but aren’t usually strong enough on their own to make us take action. When describing our desires, we use words like “nice”, “wish”, “would”, or “could” in order to describe an ideal situation where our lives would be better, happier, or more satisfactory.

Your desires are what set you apart from everyone else. Everyone needs food to survive. But do you desire pork over chicken? Yes, you need food, but if you could choose, what kind of food would you desire? When all of our basic needs are met, and we are doing better than just surviving, we can focus on our desires.

Sometimes, desiring things is held in a negative light and I wrote a blog about this a few weeks ago. You can read it here. After all, where there’s desire, there’s usually some attachment to an outcome as well (hello disappointment, frustration, and unhappiness if the desire is unfulfilled).

It’s perfectly fine to desire to have fun by reading books, playing games, sewing, or something else. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to take a speech class instead of a math class, wanting mustard over ketchup, or olives instead of pickles.

We’re all different and our desires will be unique and ever evolving. The main thing to look out for is to make sure that you are taking care of your needs before your desires.

Enter Needs

Needs are requirements. Some of the easiest needs to identify in your life are those required for physical survival. Things like food, water, shelter, and proper clothing are all needs. You need those to have a happy and healthy life. Other needs can be based on mental and emotional requirements.

These could be things like friendship, mental stimulation, tranquility, order, or even education. While physically you can survive without these things, you need them in order to flourish mentally.

Maybe you need alone time in order to function. Or perhaps you need ten hours of sleep instead of eight. Maybe you need to sit in the front of your class in order to not be distracted. These are things that you still need in order to survive but are not as obvious to others.

For me, I find that I get triggered if my needs aren’t met as opposed to a desire not getting fulfilled. If my desire is unfulfilled, I might be disappointed, but it doesn’t really push my buttons. Some experts point out that needs are the foundation to building our daily habits. Between 40% to 60% of our everyday activities and habits are based on satisfying our needs. So, even though we may not be aware of why we do some of the things we do, it’s likely that, consciously or sub-consciously, we are trying to satisfy our needs.

I talk a lot and write a lot about desires. Maybe I should be talking and writing more about needs since taking care of your needs is a critical component in who you’ve come here to be. I wasn’t taught how to identify my psychological, spiritual, or emotional needs. How about you? Not only that, but I don’t want to be needy so I didn’t spend much time thinking about those higher-level needs.

I mistook these higher-level needs as mere desires and ended up robbing myself of feeling fulfilled and sometimes acted out in unproductive or negative ways. Now that I’ve identified these higher-level needs, I’m able to ask for what I need, make better choices, and feel more empowered.

Not only that, identifying and fulfilling your needs is part of living your aligned life.

Say YES to yourself by knowing what your needs are.

Rock On

About Janet
Janet Kingsley helps people believe in their own potential and transform their dreams into fulfilling, inspired, and prosperous realities. It’s time to say ‘yes’ to yourself and live your aligned life.


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