Dreams, Needs and Wants

Everyone of us has encountered situations in one way or another that made decision-making process very difficult and challenging, especially when it applies to our dreams, needs and wants. This is because making an order of prioritization is more complicated as it seems. There are theories on how we deal with our basic needs, but there are no discussions on how to differentiate and prioritize needs over our wants and dreams.

The only rule of thumb that exists is that everyone must fulfill first his or her basic needs before anything else for self-survival. These includes all physiologic needs, safety and belongingness needs. These form the lower level needs every human being must possess. However, the question remains on where and how do we deal with wants in the context of our needs. Does it mean we all have to delay our wants and dreams until all our needs are met? Or, what seems to be intrinsic quality of wants and dreams that makes it unique from our needs? These are the questions that are discussed on this article.

Firstly, the concepts wants, needs and dreams can be differentiated according to how voluntary they have been initiated. Technically speaking, needs and wants are desires resulting from an individual's voluntary awareness of something lacking or essential. On the other hand, dreams are quite different because these are visions accumulated voluntary and involuntary, which could shape one's desires, aspirations and goals in life. In addition, dreams are symbols of what is important to and values of one person. Hence, dreams are broader in scope than both needs and wants.

For example, a person is thinking of buying a house. Having shelter is a need if that person does not have an adequate and comfortable place to stay. However, should the person desires to buy a house though he or she has an existing house, then the need becomes a want. Moreover, overtime when a person envisions of living in a house with some specific criteria for a valuable purpose, regardless of whether the person has or no existing abode; then the desire becomes a dream. By saying criteria, these pertain to objectives that facilitates one to actualize a particular life purpose or fulfillment. These may include a good resting place for retirement, a warm cozy house for the family to enjoy gatherings. Hence, what separates dreams from both needs and wants are the intangible, encompassing non-survival-related goals intertwined with it.

The most usual question would be how to separate needs and wants in the simplest way. The difference lies on urgency and its salience. To explain futher, there are several reasons for urgency. These could be survival, risk for acquiring diseases, or resolution of crises and conflicts within the immediate environment. On the other hand, salience refers to how a person perceives the urgency of the problem. A desire  maybe unanimously agreed by everyone to be a need, but not for the person experiencing it.

Say for example, a nurse working in a ward with patients having communicable disease. Judging from the situation, people would outwrightly pinpoint the "need" to keep away from the area to avoid contracting the disease. But for a nurse, given his or her physical resistance and immunity together with adequate knowledge on disease prevention and mitigation; the situation no longer calls for an urgent action. This diminishes the so-called need for self-protection to a mere want.

So, how we deal with decision-making in the light of needs, wants and dreams? The answer lies on identifying the problem to be decided at hand. Is the problem associated with a short-term or long-term event? Should the problem concerns with something important for a long period of time, dreams should be prioritized over both needs and wants. This relates to having a grit personality, when one delays gratification of immediate needs for the benefit of a higher goal and aspiration.

However, the key consideration is that these aspirations must be valued strong and high enough to warrant such actions. This means if the person perceives buying a retirement house does not constitute high personal significance in a number of dreams, then that certain dream must be underprioritized than needs and wants.

Furthermore, should the problem connotes a short-term desire; it must be treated as a need or want. Needs as mentioned must be prioritized first over wants. However, there is some exception to this. The easier access it is to meet needs, the more important wants become for a person. This shows that wants could be prioritized over needs, when a person perceives needs can easily be met a fulfilled with minimal effort and energy. Say for example, a teenager living with and supported by parents. Since most of the teenager's needs are taken cared by his or her guardians, wants take over needs as perceived by the person concerned.

Lastly, there is no formula in decision-making and prioritization that guarantees success. What is important is that the person must be clear and objective enough to sort out what he or she desires and aspires. The ambiguity in thoughts results to poor ability in evaluating and considering several aspects crucial for decision-making process.


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