The important things

Oftentimes in life, we have these little moments of real time to ourselves, where there’s nothing but silence to keep us company. In today’s always on, ever connected world, these moments in time become ever rarer, and we have to grab them while they’re here.

In these moments, we see many things in a different light. One direction we were on is revealed to be flawed, while journeys yet to take become more important.

There’s no real rhyme, nor reason, as to why certain thoughts take centre stage to ponder, while others remain hidden, waiting on their own time in the spotlight when the next peaceful moment comes.

What is clear is that it allows us to refocus, and define what we want versus what we need.

What We Want

We all want different things. Depending where we are in our lives, these can interchange or disappear altogether.

When I was a teenager at school and college, for example, I always wanted to be a journalist. I loved writing and had an curious streak mixed with a stubborn nature, that would probably have come in handy had I decided to pursue that career.

But then I discovered girls, and my hormones decided that while my grades would have allowed me to take a journalism degree at one of Scotland’s most successful universities, what I wanted was to discover more about girls.

As I grew older, I found I wanted different things in life.

I wanted to be rich (still do, to a degree). I wanted to be famous, as in celebrity famous. I wanted to fly into space. I wanted to travel the world. I wanted to invent something that changed the world. I wanted to be liked by all that met me. I wanted to be an author.

For a while – during my teen years, I hasten to add – I wanted to be the world’s most popular male porn star. I mean, that had to be the world’s best job for any guy, right? Riiiight….

So, yeah. I wanted.

The thing is, as I discovered when I fell into marketing and then built on that with a degree in the medium, there’s a big difference between want and need. As marketers, our job is to find that difference and instill a desire to buy.

Now that I’m probably well into the second half of my life, the pursuit of want isn’t anywhere near as important to me as the acceptance of need is.

What We Need

Much like we are when it comes to what we want, we’re all different when it comes to what we need, at least from a material sense. From the metaphysical and emotional side, perhaps they’re not so different.

I can look back at some of my wants and how they manifest themselves differently when they come up against what I actually need.

I wanted to be rich, but do I need to be? No. There’s no doubt being rich helps attain a level of comfort few of us ever achieve, but what is comfort? For me, it’s being able to keep a roof over my family’s head and ensure we don’t go hungry.

Being rich may provide more expensive food and a bigger house, but do I really need that? No.

I wanted to be an author, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have realized that goal. But while it might seem mysterious and attractive, or whatever, to be an author, the travel away from home when you have a wife and two young children where the oldest is barely three can be soul destroying, despite being surrounded by great friends and new friends-to-be.

Do I need to be an author to prove something about myself? Maybe, I don’t know. But I do know I need my family more than whatever that former need is.

I wanted to be liked by everyone I met. Call it vanity, ego, or whatever, but my younger self believed that if you were liked by all, that made you someone that demands respect. The thing is, while it might seem a contradiction, liking doesn’t necessarily equal respect.

I may like someone, because I feel they’re doing what they believe to be right. But that doesn’t mean I respect the way they’re doing it. So, popularity and respect aren’t as close as I had them pegged to be.

Now I know better. Now I know that it doesn’t matter if people dislike me or, to take it to its natural next step, don’t respect me. While it’d be nice to have, generic respect is a flawed goal. The bigger picture, and the more important one, is the respect from those that truly matter.

As long as I can end the day, and look my wife and children in the eye and know that I didn’t let them down and did the right thing, that’s the ultimate measure – for me – that I kept on the right side of the respect track.

My family; my friends; my colleagues; my clients. These are who I deliver for; everything else is happenstance.

What We Want Versus What We Need

We’re all in the same boat. Your moment of silence and clarity may not be today, but it’s there, just waiting to pull up a chair and spend some time.

Make that time.

We live in an age where we’re always on, and rarely take the time to sit, think, regroup. We need to do that. Every single one of us. Otherwise we’ll go stir crazy from the speed of the merry-go-round we’re on, and miss the chance to think of what’s important to us.

That’s not to say we should give up on our wants – far from it. It’s nice to have goals and dreams, and see some of them come true.

But we can live without our wants.

Our needs, however, are simpler to achieve – yet, more often than not, they have the highest return. And that’s no bad thing, when all’s said and done.