Needs vs. Wants or My Mom Thinks I’m Crazy or How To Be Congruent
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary.
Posted by Ryan Neal
Needs vs. Wants or My Mom Thinks I’m Crazy or How To Be Congruent
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal

I'll be the first to admit I've bought a lot of stupid things I thought I needed over the years.

I thought I needed a BMW. So I bought one. I thought I needed a 2,500 square foot house. So I bought one. (I'm single with no children*, what did I think I needed 4 bedrooms for?!)

I didn't see a problem writing a check for a luxury car (I may have been stupid, but at least I bought used and didn't finance it), but I'd eat horrible, cheap, unhealthy boxed mac & cheese or WalMart pasta every day.


Spending $3 per pound for apples or oranges seemed outrageous to me.

Do you see the disconnect?

I didn't at the time.

Cars, big houses, things, they're all wants.

Quality, nutritious, food is a need.

A couple years ago (the beginning of my Drastic Life Change, which I'm still trying to put down into coherent words) it finally hit me:

Wants are dictated by outside influences.

TV, friends, family, books, magazines, Web sites, and countless other inputs.

Needs are dictated by biology.

Food, water, shelter. I'll also throw in creative pursuits and exercise because eating, drinking, and sitting in a house all day isn't healthy. Yes, I know from experience.

Be Congruent

In other words, do what you want based on what you need.

I understand needing a car to get around. But an extravagant car won't make you happier than a car that runs well.

BMWs are great cars, but mine provided no more happiness than my old 1989 Grand Prix I got as a hand me down from my Brother (thanks man!).

I let myself be conditioned to believe that since I was making a decent amount of money I should drive a really nice car. My personality is more low key than that.

I wasn't being congruent.

It's not about cheap vs expensive.

I bought a really nice Gibson SG Standard guitar a few years ago for about $1,200. I'd wanted this guitar since I started playing 15 years ago. Playing guitar isn't just a sometimes hobby for me. If I don't play regularly I don't feel right. (Which means I never pass up a guitar shop while on the road!)

A quality guitar plays better and sounds better than a cheaply made guitar (usually). My happiness was legitimately improved by playing a higher quality instrument.

Buying a quality guitar was congruent to my personality and, as a result, brought me happiness day in and day out. But I'm mindful of dependency (that dirty word dependency) and sold my SG before embarking on my travels. It's of no use to me sitting in storage.

Do you notice any of these patterns in your own life? You buy something you think you need, but after the initial elation is over you don't feel any different?

So let's try something different.

Instead of keeping up with the Joneses why not keep up with ourselves?

"Don't compare yourself to others. Compare yourself to yourself." - Henry Rollins

How To Break The Cycle

Getting out of this constant cycle of doing what we think we're supposed to do and buying what we think we're supposed to buy is simple.

1) Figure out what is congruent for you.


2) Stick to your convictions in the face of society's pressures.

You will get unsolicited opinions and advice, but nobody can tell you what is right for you but you.

You can even disregard everything I've written because it's my opinion and advice.

Challenge everything and everyone.

If you think living your life the way others choose for you is fine then who am I to tell you otherwise?

But based on the fact that you're a Ridiculously Extraordinary Reader you probably don't want to be like everybody else, do you? Thank you for that. :)

How To Be Congruent

Enough talk. Let's get down to it.

If people around you know you're serious about your convictions it helps keep them off your back.

For example, when I stopped eating animals my Mom said I was crazy. Every time I'd speak with her she'd ask if I was still being crazy. After a few months she realized it wasn't a diet, but a lifestyle.

Diets don't last. Lifestyle changes do. Now she doesn't ask, she knows.

1) Be Clear About Your Convictions

When someone questions why you're doing something, be succint and direct. This is not a time to be wishy-washy. Stake your claim and hold to it.

When people used to ask me why I ate a vegan diet I'd babble a long and unconvincingly boring string of sentences.

So I changed it to: "Out of respect for animals."

Which I more recently updated to: "Out of respect for animals and my health."

No room for interpretation there. 8 words. 2 seconds. They understand it's not up for debate.

2) There Is No Step 2.

Being congruent is about being your true self, figuring out what you need, no matter what.


* No known children anyway. BOOYA! I kid, I kid. ;) I just ruined this whole article with that, didn't I? Ssssssshhhhhhhiiiiiiiitttttttttt...