With blossoms on the trees and spring in the air, this time of year brings feelings of reflection and rebirth. I find that I set a lot of goals for myself in this season. And what often tags alongside goal-setting?
Expectations. We often set our sights on wishes, wants, and “should”s.
“I wish I had a job I’m passionate about.”
“I want a partner that treats me with respect.”
“I should eat healthier.”
While it’s important to know your ideals, the real question is this:
Keeping on the travel theme from earlier this month, this is another post from my time motorbiking through Vietnam. I learned a lot of lessons in those two months–especially in the realm of wants versus needs.
You want time and energy to pursue personal desires. But you also need to deal with responsibilities and obligations.
You know that there’s a difference between surviving and thriving. Here’s how to manage both sides of the spectrum.
Reflections from the road
Having spent the last two months motorbiking around Vietnam, I’ve had an abundance of time for self-reflection (which, to me, is the first step in growth).
We began our trip on the relaxing beaches of Cat Ba island, where we gradually learned currency conversions and basic Vietnamese phrases (like “thank you” and the always shocking “vegetarian”).
We’ve also learned how to transition out of the need to constantly be doing. Being in a different country, we don’t always need to plan our day, work on a project, or chip away at a professional goal.
It’s been… strange.
I often feel like I’m forgetting something or am not doing enough. Instead of pouring my energy into work or writing my book, I invest it in communicating in Vietnamese, surviving windy mountain highways on my motorbike, or searching for restaurants that don’t have Old MacDonald’s entire farm pictured on the front.
What do I need to do today?
– Eat food
– Drink water
– Find a bed
– Don’t get hit by trucks passing on corners
At the end of the day, that’s all I really need to do: survive (which is good news, because sometimes that takes a lot of energy!).
Through the struggle and the strangeness, I’ve learned the value of simplicity and the difference between needs and wants. But why is that a good thing?
Well, I need to know my needs because they’re what keep me alive (again, we’re talking food, water, shelter, and not getting hit by oncoming vehicles).
On the other hand, my wants are the things that keep me living fully: I want to connect to the local culture around me; I want to practice self-awareness and grow from my experiences; I want to define personal growth for myself (this is a huge one for me given the endless blog and social media posts on self-care, happiness, success, etc.).
Recognizing these as wants means I approach them with less obligation and more enthusiasm. I don’t feel guilty when the needs outweigh the wants, because I will die if my needs aren’t met. I won’t die if I forget to write in my journal or miss a street market because I’m in bed with a cold.
Don’t get me wrong here–the wants are important. But it’s up to me to decide just how important they are. I determine my needs. I rank my wants. And the same is true for you.
We live in a culture of “should” and “must do” in order to reach a certain spot on the spectrum of happiness or success, but we’re not all starting from the same place or going in the same direction.
Maybe this is the rebel in me talking, but…
“Should” is a faraway idea. It only becomes valuable when you personalize it (i.e. when it leads to a want or a need). What you need to do to keep yourself (and those around you) alive and well? Aside from that, what do you want to do?
It may not always seem so clearcut, but when the lines are blurred and there’s too much you need to do, this is a great place to start.
Act on this:
Write down everything you feel you need (in no particular order). This could be anything from basic human needs to personal growth, relationships, etc.
Sort each item into one of two simple and practical lists: needs and wants.
For the next week, make sure everything on your Needs List is covered.
If you’ve consistently met your needs, spend the next week incorporating one or two items from the Wants List.
Take things slow and be patient with yourself. Observe and experiment without guilt or judgment. What you “should” do is up to you.