Needs, Wants, Desires

A simple concept to take you into your lovely weekend: let’s talk about the core elements of what go into your relationship with what you love. Much like before, I’m not talking about a person (unless I am, as you read this) or a vocation (unless it applies) or anything except that which you look at and say “I love this.”

To steal a metaphor: it’s like a car.

Gas That Puppy Up

What does your car absolutely need to move? I mean really need? Things that come to mind are:

  • Fuel
  • Wheels
  • A surface to drive on
  • A functioning engine (i.e., stays running long enough to turn the wheels)
  • Someone who knows how to drive it

That’s my short list. The thing is, you may think of things that I missed…but for every one that you do, check and see if it’s something that is actually required for the car to go somewhere. For example, I didn’t say they had to be a good driver. Nor do the tires need to be in good condition. You don’t need a lot of fuel to just get out of the driveway.

In fact, just to get the thing moving, you don’t need a whole lot. As anyone with a learner’s permit will tell you, it still can be a pretty exciting thing just being able to turn the key, hear the motor running, and feel the tons of metal respond to your touch.

After a while, though, that initial excitement wears off. Then you need to start looking into the possibility of acquiring more than what you need. You start to consider what you want.

Preventive Maintenance

CC Flickr Pool courtesy jimf0390

When it comes to love, getting what you need – and only what you need – is kind of like being on life support. Yes, you can survive – but is the quality of the experience something that you really want to prolong? Life support is predicated on the hope that if you just keep it together long enough, things will get better.

In the car metaphor, the wants are the things that improve the driving experience in a sustainable way. They keep the car running well, not just running. Well-inflated tires that are balanced and aligned. A regular tuneup for the engine, and maybe a quality of gasoline that makes the engine feel more responsive.

It seems to me that having a well-running car is not really much use unless you also have somewhere to go with it – so perhaps a destination, a time set aside to really explore roads and sights. GPS, perhaps, or the fun of old-fashioned paper maps and a guidebook. These are the things that aren’t necessary for the car to run, but are probably still essential to having a good car experience.

The Fuzzy Dice

Then there’s the gravy. There’s the chrome, the special playlist on the iPod, the air freshener in the shape of Invader Zim and the steering wheel cover with the embossed dragons that makes you feel like you’re in a Jason Statham movie. There’s the touchless wax with the undercarriage rinse and the protective coat, and learning how to downshift through curves to improve mileage.

None of this is necessary to having a working car, and you can certainly enjoy your vehicle in spite of them. A good way to tell the difference between wants and desires: if you couldn’t have them, would they really be missed?

Desires are fun. They are the things that you didn’t expect but make your inner child giggle, like the fun little LED lightshow that my old radio used to do. It’s things like the fact that my car will leave the dome light on even as I walk away, to make sure that I get to the house safely, before turning itself out. It also won’t let me lock the door when my keys are in the ignition; “I love that my car is smarter than me,” I remember saying when we bought it.

Paint Jobs Don’t Fix That Noise

There’s a reason why it’s worth it to figure out what your needs, wants, and desires are around that which you love. It’s because if you don’t have it figured out, when something goes wrong – say the brakes start making grinding sounds – the temptation may be to just turn up the radio a little louder and hope it goes away. Nine Inch Nails blasting in quadrophonic stereo is not going to fix your brakes; only a brake job will do that.

CC Flickr Pool courtesy MarkN3Tel
Nice rims, eh?

It helps you prioritize: if you only have enough money for either an oil change or the new seat covers, which is going to really keep your driving experience going? And if you have a new paint job, the maintenance schedule has been kept forever, but the engine block is cracked…it may be time to stop putting money and energy into the car, and instead either look for a new one or find a decent mechanic with an engine hoist.

Like any metaphor, it’s not perfect. But it’s worthwhile, because it’s your life, your heart, your attention, and nobody else is going to do it for you.

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