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Sunday, 17 December 2017

Do You Really Need That New Device or Do You Just Want It?

I have always been a devotee of music in the widest sense raging from Mozart and the baroque composers through 1930s/40s big bands, flamenco, New Orleans jazz and the Rolling Stones. If I weren’t Jewish you might call it catholic taste.

I heard a Stones track the other day and actually listened to the lyrics for a change. It encompasses for me a great philosophy for  today’s living.

“You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try you  might find you get what you need”

Some years ago at a presentation by top Vistage speaker, Nigel Risner, we went into buddy mode and asked each other “What do you want?”  Nothing else, just “What do you want?

I heard the pair next to us going through the usual “Ferrari and a boat in the South of France” routine and half an hour later one of them was crying.

The issue is that we can easily interchange want and need especially when we are seduced by marketing glitz and glamour. Fashion is a fickle friend and how many of us have in the wardrobe fashionable clothes that we have never worn.

We wanted them for some unaccountable emotional reason but we certainly didn’t need them.  Before I am accused of preaching I confess to being an impulse shopper so you can imagine some of the rubbish that I have accumulated over the years.

Once again Dr Steve Peters comes to our aid. The crux of the matter is that Want is essentially driven by our emotions while Need tens to be driven more on rational criteria.  Not always of course because over the years  the availability and popularity of a mass of products has encouraged us to look upon them as essential and therefore are a need rather than a want.

The mobile phone is a classic case in point.  My first venture involved a brick shaped article which had to be plumbed into the car with a vast transmitter/receiver in the boot (trunk for anyone in the US).

It operated solely as a telephone and overall was pretty good.  Its disadvantages were its clumsy design and the fact that it could only be used in the car. Nowadays using a mobile in the car can be a criminal offence!

In a comparatively short space of time we now have the smart phone in all its glory with a multitude of available facilities that we don’t use.

Indeed an assistant at a mobile phone emporium once complained to me that he was being expected to sell cameras that could also make telephone calls.

Remember that range of Nokia mobiles?  They were exclusively telephones and the battery lasted week.  The question is: do we really need all those amazing facilities or are we just being slaves to fashion?

A hermit who had been in a cave for fifty years eventually emerged and talked to the first person he met about what had changed.  The man said:

In my pocket I have a device that can give me access to all the knowledge in the world

The hermit was duly astonished and asked his companion what he used it for.

He said: “Mainly for looking at pictures of dogs and cats and having violent arguments with complete strangers”.

It seems that as we become more mature our wants decrease as long as our needs are satisfied: food, clothing, a roof over our heads and relationships are some of the needs we crave.  Most everything else is probably in the category of wants and while it is pleasant to indulge ourselves from time to time there are more things in life that really matter.

It is interesting to hear people on TV antiques auction programmes when asked why are they selling the reply is invariably “We are downsizing and decluttering”.

Satisfying our basic needs as far as possible is essential and satisfying those wants can be a pleasant if ephemeral experience.  Getting them into balance is the trick as long as we understand that the balance changes over the years.

PS: You may like to take a look at an article that The Guardian published last week:

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