The “N” Word

“I need I need I need I need.” How many times per day do we have these thoughts? The “I need _______,” thoughts. How often do these thoughts imply that we need _______ to be happy? The latter is what concerns me most. We’re human, we’re going to consistently fall victim to the belief that we need x, y and z (because there are things we need in order to sustain life…air, water, food, love). But, being creatures of habit, we often snowball those basic human needs into big, crushing, often unfulfillable avalanches of want. Therein lies the difference…need versus want.  

So often I hear someone at the coffee shop say, “Ineedadoubleextrahotvanillachainonfatlattenofoam.” All in one big breath, the word need exhaled emphatically, the rest a jumble of desire. When I first moved out on my own the first position I was offered in my desperate job hunt was a cashier at a grill. I took orders from hungry people on lunch breaks, date nights, midday fuel stops. The food was icky, in my opinion, high on the grease and low on the nutrient-density. That’s beside the point, though, because what struck me more than anything else was how frequently folks began with, “I need………” and paused as they squintingly scrutinized the menu hanging above my blonde head. I would think to myself, need? Really? You need air, you need water, but do you need this bacon cheddar burger with fried onions? Want versus need.

This very base level concept of how we verbally express ourselves using language is just part of the point. As a figure of speech we often use words like “need” without fully considering it. We just say these things. We don’t mean to imply that we need our latte or bacon cheddar burger like we need air and water. But perhaps we should?

Think about your own existence. What do you really need to exist, survive, even thrive? I have already listed some of mine…water, air, food, love. Absolute foundational needs to function as a human being. To thrive I would add movement (exercise), proper nutrition (rather than just “food”), stimulation (learning, writing, reading) and nature (hiking, camping, taking in a sunset, feeling the rain on my skin). What would your foundational needs be? What about your thrive-worthy needs? Probably a list containing far fewer items than the number of instances we actually say or think “I need,” in a day. 

It’s so liberating to realize we actually get by quite brilliantly without the things we thought we needed most. 

What comes to mind…being a child and relying completely on my parents for learning, wellbeing, my training wheels for life. A romantic relationship on which I once placed the weight of the world. Comfort foods that didn’t serve my body but gave me immediate gratification. Addictive coping mechanisms that numbed the very visceral fear of change and all that is unknown. Fixed routines that provide a false sense of control. I could go on and on. I’m sure you could as well.

What about our perceived “needs” in order to achieve and live in happiness? Certain weather, a particular day of the week (sunshine and weekend dependent happiness, anyone?), a relationship, a job, the right clothes, a certain body type, youth, money, success…

As human beings in this day and age, the above list could likely go on and on, depending on the individual. But think about it, in essence…are any of us less lovely, intelligent, capable, happy or purposeful on a Wednesday versus a Sunday? In the sunshine versus a rainstorm? In Lululemon versus Target yoga pants? 

No. The answer is no. We are unaffected by these surface level details. These perceived “needs.” Conditions we falsely believe we need in order to be happy, good enough, successful, fill in the blank. In my experience, actually, the less “needs” we perceive ourselves to have, the happier we are. I firmly believe less is more. Choosing to see these circumstances as outside of ourselves, as pleasant to experience but conditions on which our happiness depends, that is power. 

I’m not saying we can’t enjoy these earthly events and state of affairs. I’m not saying we should omit the word “need” from our vocabulary unless referring to basic human survival necessities. I’m simply saying we could benefit from taking note of what we really do and don’t need, in actuality. Because, I assure you, it’s a practice that will lead directly to gratitude. Do I need this book sitting beside me? No. I could live and breathe just fine without it. But there’s a beautiful story on its pages that I’m so thankful to get to enjoy. Do I need my sunglasses? No, I could survive without them, but they shade my eyes and give me comfort while I enjoy the sun. You see? Blessings in abundance, just by investigating and bringing consciousness into an otherwise oblivious statement.

We are inherently happy. That happiness is sabotaged by our own minds and our own minds alone. We are in control of our own joy. We have the power to set the stage to our lives and it can be gloriously bright or achingly dark. It can also rest somewhere in the middle, which it does for many of us, and that ebb and flow is natural. But never forget the power you possess. Right now, yesterday, tomorrow, in every single moment. The power to realize your own true nature. The power to bring the purest, most unadulterated happiness into your very being and radiate it outward. The power to see, truly, you already have everything you need.

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