Balancing Needs and Wants: Mastering Delayed Gratification for Lasting Fulfillment

In the fast-paced world where instant gratification is just a click away, distinguishing between what we need and what we merely want becomes increasingly challenging. Looking at social media and seeing a perfectly contrived illusion of what life should be like, facilitates the belief that you’re not good enough and what is the point of trying… Yet, mastering the distinction of what you need vs want is crucial for personal growth. In this post, we’ll explore the differences between needs and wants, the lure of instant gratification, and strategies to foster patience and long-term planning.

Defining Needs and Wants
The traditional definition of Needs are essentials required for survival and basic functioning. These include food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare. Without these, one cannot live a healthy life. Wants, on the other hand, are things we desire to have, which enhance our life but are not essential for basic survival. This can range from luxury items like a new smartphone to experiences like dining at a high-end restaurant.

As society evolves so to have these definitions. You do need to get your needs met to survive, and if you are living in survival mode this is where you need to start. I want you to grasp your needs to survive are not your needs to thrive. Focusing on your needs to survive only will only ever allow your to survive. Your needs to thrive are non-negotiable and will still come before what your wants. If you want more information on the differences between your needs to thrive and survive go to the previous blog post on survival vs thrival.

The Allure of Instant Gratification
In our modern society, the ability to satisfy desires immediately is not only possible but often encouraged. Technology and consumer culture have significantly lowered the barrier to instant gratification. Whether it’s fast food, fast fashion, or fast streaming, everything is geared towards fulfilling our wants right now, often at the expense of our needs.

The problem with succumbing to instant gratification is that it can lead to poor financial decisions, unhealthy lifestyles, and a diminished capacity to wait for more significant rewards that require time and effort, decreased life satisfaction, lower happiness levels and a lack of accountability. Instant gratification often satisfies the “inner child” in us—the part that seeks immediate pleasure without considering long-term consequences.

The Challenge of Long-Term Goals
Contrary to the fleeting satisfaction of wants, fulfilling our needs often requires planning, effort, and patience. For instance, saving for retirement, pursuing a degree, or building a healthy relationship are long-term endeavors that bring lasting satisfaction and stability, unlike impulsive purchases or short-lived experiences.

The lack of desire to work for long-term results is partly due to the increased emphasis on speed and efficiency in our lives. However, nurturing the ability to delay gratification is essential for achieving enduring success and well-being.

Finding the balance between living in the moment and planning for long-term results is where we need to be holding ourselves accountable. If you are aware that your inner child is running the show and you are constantly giving into instant gratification, you need to shift to the other end of the spectrum so you can learn balance. And vice versa.

Prioritizing Needs Over Wants
Here are some strategies to help prioritize needs over wants and manage our inner responses:

Actively Identify your Needs: Write out all your needs and wants in these seven areas- Physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, financial, sexual and educational. A page for each of these areas in life. Then find the common themes on each page. Find three different behaviours you can do that will get these themes met. You will be getting your needs met in a healthy and conscious way.

  1. Budgeting and sticking to it:
    Create a budget that distinguishes between your needs and wants. Allocate funds to cover your needs first and then decide how much you can afford to spend on your wants without compromising your financial health. Paying off the highest interest rate debt first, Remember to put 10% of what you bring into your house hold into an emergency fund/ savings/investments.

  2. Setting Goals: Focus on setting and achieving long-term goals. Whether these are financial, personal, or professional, goals give you a roadmap and help you resist the temptation of short-term gratification. Put your goals somewhere you can see them every day and be reminded what you are working towards.
  3. Building Patience: Develop practices that enhance your patience, like meditation, exercise, or engaging in hobbies that require prolonged effort. Patience is a skill that can be strengthened with practice.
  4. Rewarding Yourself Responsibly: It’s okay to satisfy wants but do so responsibly. Use rewards as a motivator for meeting more significant objectives rather than as an end in themselves.

By learning to manage our needs and wants effectively, we not only take care of our essential requirements but also build a foundation for fulfilling and sustainable happiness. Managing the inner child’s immediate desires and focusing on long-term satisfaction can lead to a more balanced and phenomenal life.