A need or a want?

I feel like I’m constantly having conversations with people recently (both at school, at home, and everywhere) about needs vs wants. Specifically, when someone will tell me that they need to have x, when really they mean they want to have x.

I don’t know why it’s popping up all over the place now, but it feels like people have forgotten what the difference is.

  • need is essential. You need to have food in order to survive.
  • want is something that is usually nice to have, but not required. Junk food or cable is a common want for people.

So what do these have to do with grad school? Well, I think you can learn a lot about yourself and how to make yourself more productive if you start to listen to how to talk about things. Do you constantly say “I need…” when it really should be a want? Do you convince yourself that many things that are wants are needs and let them take priority over real needs in your life?

It can get confusing, because something that one person may classify as a need will not count to the other. And so you’ll likely need to define the list for yourself as what falls into what category.

For me, some of my needs (outside of the main basics like food and shelter) are:

  • Internet access – yes, I could access it on campus, but I do a lot of work from home. My work often requires me to search for help and information online, so access is usually crucial to being able to make progress.
  • My laptop – I do all my work on my laptop. So, in a sense, it’s my entire life. It’s got all my research work (although it’s also backed up somewhere else), but also information about the rest of my life – like banking stuff and friends contacts.
  • Exercise (running, climbing or something else) – grad school is stressful. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t think that, even those where everything seems easy. I’ve found exercise is huge in helping me keep control of my stress levels.

Some of my wants (things that I could do without if I needed to) are:

  • Gym memberships – I belong to one or two gyms at a time (yeah, crazy) but one is for climbing, and the other is a regular one. I could get rid of them, and get my exercise the cheap way – running outside and using the <shudder> university gym.
  • My iPhone – I love my iPhone. But, I could get away with a simple phone that only allows for text messaging and calling. The phone has it’s uses, but, I find it also quickly becomes a crutch, and I use it for things I should just be remembering or learning.
  • My apartment – I love living on my own. And I love the view from my place. But, it’s also much more expensive than if I was living with a roommate. So that’s always an option.

Those may not sound like they directly impact my grad studies. But they do. If I had a roommate, or didn’t have internet, I would have to greatly change my work habits. And the time I have available for research or other tasks, is greatly affected by things I consider needs, like working around scheduled workouts.

Have you ever thought about your wants vs needs? If you consider some of your recent choices, do your wants normally win out?

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4 thoughts on “A need or a want?

  1. This is a really great point! I think a lot of us get lost in what we want, rather than what we need. For instance, I would rather sleep an extra 60 minutes than go for a jog tomorrow. However, I may want a sleep in, but I need a jog to clear my mind for a productive day.

    • Totally. I find scheduling in exercise as if it’s an actual class and obligation makes sure I actually make the time to go. And, the benefits of exercising are huge, so completely worth it. I think this makes it a need over an extra hour of sleep.

  2. Considering my recent choices, wants are definitely winning. I’ve been extra social with the start of a new program in a new city, so I’ve been spending my grocery money on going out to eat with my new friends. I’m hoping to turn this around now that classes are starting!

    • Yeah, I find the fall semester is the semester I generally blow through a lot more money going out for drinks/meals and other social activities. And while I’m all for balancing, I also know that it’s really important to make those connections, especially at the beginning. You’ll need your friends and classmates to help make sure you make it through your program.

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