Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wants and Needs

Different from animals which usually only going for what they need, we human being, for the most part, after gunning for what we need, we have desire to seek extra things. I think that pretty much sum up most of events or movement in human history, except those of natural disasters. Genghis Khan and his Mongol armies conquer Asia and Europe not for what they need, but what they want. Why the European flocked to America? Why German, Japan and Italy started invasions and caused WWII? Why the U.S. went to Iraq? None of those were because of needs, it would be lying for whoever say so.

If all human beings only go for what they need, some people would think that the world could be much more peaceful. Cos, we only eat for survival, we only wear clothes to stay warm, we would happy with a shelter, and any transportation mean would be fine. There were philosophers wrote theory about it, and some people did try to implement that. In the Utopian world under communism, people are treated equally by allocating them only what they need. We all know how that went, just need to do a bit searching of history in the net.

We human beings just have desire. It is source of our creation, development and advancement. We have planes because we wanted to fly. We have paper because we don’t want to carry our thoughts on heavy means. We have printings because we didn’t want to write all the time, etc. For most regular folks, including me, yes we may not be inventor or trail blazer of some sorts. Needs and wants still control us everyday indeed. Our needs make us get up to go to work everyday, and our wants make us to work hard to perform at work.

From a business sense, satisfying human’s needs would make decent money, cos the demand will always be there. However, satisfying our desire would make the serious money. The risk is greater, but so does the reward. Cos, only people that have already been satisfied with their needs will think about their desires. The greater the dream that you try to help someone to fulfill it, the higher a premium that those want that to be fulfilled will be willing to pay for it. Namely, the greater margin you can charge. Certainly, with a bit of economy of scale, the cost of fulfilling desire will go down and you can still make money by volume.

So, what do we want? That may sound too broad, many people would say that there is no limit of our imagination. Is that true? I would challenge that idea a bit. Yes, there is no limit to our imagination, but there mostly have the same origin – the source of our desire is to satisfy our senses and our mind. So, how that work?

For our senses, that would be what we see, smell, hear, taste and touch, and any combination of them. For our mind, that is much more complicated. I would say that some of them are culture specific, but many of them would be tied to common universal values. For example, to be loved, cared, worshipped, admired, praised, etc.

Most religions, particularly Buddhism, are trying to suppress our desire, or direct our urge of wanting material things or things that would harm ourselves or others to something else, through different methods. Like, if we want certain things, we are told to pray God for assistance. As a result, that would deviate our attention or reliance on our full strength to get certain things. Objectively, it ‘may’ reduce our chance of getting what we want. However, the side effect is that we would be more comfort on our failure and blame part of the failure on God. However, if the thing itself is harmful, we would thank God for that. Mediation is another method to make us think about whether we should want certain things or not. As many desires are ‘urges’, once we got time to think, to calm our impulse down, we would be very likely to understand that it is not something that we need. If that thing is very hard to get, just put the desire of pursue down would be very relaxing and liberating. That actually is quite helpful to most of city dwellers like us that are surrounded by material things all the time.

I would suggest that we can take an exercise to understand where did our money goes, are they fulfilling our needs? Or extras were spent on things that we want? Or the worse part would be that we spent on things that we actually don’t need or want. What we can do is that, along the budget or expenses lot that some of us for personal finance management, add a column to mark if those expense are ‘want’, ‘need’, or ‘neither’. I think the result would be quite interesting, useful, and maybe even surprising as well. Wanna give a try?

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