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Understanding My Needs In Life

While on holiday in a tropical paradise recently, memories of both my consumerist and minimalist days haunted me.

I could stay, eat and travel on either ends of the spectrum there, without having to give it much thought, as the length of the spectrum was very short. The relative difference in costs to live like a king or backpacker is tiny.

I contemplated a deceptively simple question, “what are my needs in life?”, and after much thought, came up with an updated and simplified hierarchy of needs:

Level 1: Physical

All of the needs of our body, including food, sleep, physical safety, comfort and exercise to name a few.

Motivation is a desire for pleasure.

Level 2: Psychological 

Our mind, including thoughts, feelings and emotions, ideas, connection to others, sense of achievement, fears and anxieties.

Motivation is a desire for happiness.

Level 3: Purpose

The final need is to be connected to something bigger than ourselves. It may be caring for a child, expressing unconditional love, a spiritual or religious belief or as simple as picking up a piece of trash on the sidewalk.

Motivation is a desire for meaning.

Pleasure is different than happiness. Happiness is different than meaning.

This simple framework helps bring awareness to my motivations in life so that I can hopefully bring great balance and fulfillment to each of my needs. An obsession with a single need at the neglect of the others would be unhealthy (which I’ve done many times, I’m sure you have as well).

Taking care of my lower-level needs so I can focus more energy on higher-level needs is how I justified living like a prince at times during my recent holiday in paradise. I feel it’s important though when investing in lower level needs to see them as a means to something more important versus as the end in themselves.

I’m confident that the above framework is not perfect, which is fine, as perfection is not one of my needs anyway.

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