Thursday, 14 October 2004

wants v. needs

I was having a conversation about happiness with someone the other day - specifically relationship-type happiness.

They were arguing that doing things to make yourself happy to the detriment of your family and friends was a Bad Thing and should be avoided.

I was arguing that making oneself happy is ones primary responsibility, and if it makes other people incidentally unhappy then that is, as Mistress Matisse has eloquently put it in a recent post, "not your dog".

I've been mulling it all over over the last few days and I've come to the conclusion that we are both right. The trick is in making a distinction between what you need to make you happy and what you simply want.

Examples of stuff I want: a bigger bath, B to somehow not be away quite so many nights in the busy season, the entire collection of SF Masterworks and my mother to be less mad.



I don't actually need any of these things for my long lasting happiness.



What I actually need for my long-term happiness is emotional support and security, laughter, a basic level of material security, and intellectual stimulation. I would be prepared to alter my life and the lives of those around me if I felt that these needs weren't being met on a long-term basis. I wouldn't for the wants.



And that's the difference. The trick though is identifying the two categories and being rigourously honest with yourself about what goes in which.

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