How much should we ‘want’?

I’ve been thinking about ‘wants’ the last few days.  As the holidays approach, we hear a lot about what kids want.  It’s pretty simple, clear in purpose: kids want stuff that makes them happy and helps them have a good time.  True, they all want everything they can set their eyes on, but it’s pretty innocent.

I was thinking about when ‘want’ goes bad in adults.  Psychologists can boil it down (Maslow’s heirarchy of needs: basic survival to the much-vaunted self actualization) or make it seem incredibly complex.  Is ‘want’ good or bad, or neither?  It can be a positive motivator; if you want something, figure out how to earn it or make it happen (I really want a beer, so I should go to the store and buy one).   Some psychologists would say that ‘want’ is a powerful driving force, causing people to reach farther than they’ve ever gone before in the hopes of getting to their goal or doing something new.

Some of our wants are healthy, attainable, and realistic: I want to finish writing my book, I want to have a turkey sandwich for lunch.

Some are far out there, but perhaps provide motivation for a far-reaching goal: I want a 2013 Dodge Viper.  How many decades will I have to save to do this?

Some are ridiculous, but maybe they make us happy- like when we daydream about winning the lottery- and these wants can inspire us in other ways (I want my own Star Destroyer and a crew of Wookies to run it.)  No, I won’t get Kuat Drive Yards to build me one, but maybe I’ll use Sketchup to design something of my own this afternoon.

But it can drag you down as well.  I have a bunch of magazine subscriptions, and while entertaining, some of these rags give me pause at times.  I see a car magazine and think about the cars I can never afford, and sometimes I wonder if ‘want’ causes trouble.  You have to be realistic about it; I always tell people the secret to a happy life is to figure out what you want, then get it and be happy with it, dammit all.

There are people who want too much; look at any episode of Hoarders, after all.  Most people know they’re out of control, but the overpowering ‘want’ controls their actions.

I think how this applies to my own self- I want to sell more books, to keep writing something others will want to read, to be a good father and husband, and to lead a pretty decent life.  Nobody will ever sing songs about the great adventures I’ve had fighting sharks or wilderness I’ve tamed, but I want to accomplish something with my time here, and if I can stomp down my ‘want’ to watch the latest episode of The Walking Dead tonight, I’ll be able to devote time to my ‘want’ to write another chapter after the kids go to bed!

May your wants be within your means!



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