Needs vs. Wants or My Mom Thinks I’m Crazy or How To Be Congruent

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I’ll be the first to admit I’ve bought a lot of stupid things I thought I needed over the years.

I thought I needed a BMW. So I bought one. I thought I needed a 2,500 square foot house. So I bought one. (I’m single with no children*, what did I think I needed 4 bedrooms for?!)

I didn’t see a problem writing a check for a luxury car (I may have been stupid, but at least I bought used and didn’t finance it), but I’d eat horrible, cheap, unhealthy boxed mac & cheese or WalMart pasta every day.

Gross.

Spending $3 per pound for apples or oranges seemed outrageous to me.

Do you see the disconnect?

I didn’t at the time.

Cars, big houses, things, they’re all wants.

Quality, nutritious, food is a need.

A couple years ago (the beginning of my Drastic Life Change, which I’m still trying to put down into coherent words) it finally hit me:

Wants are dictated by outside influences.

TV, friends, family, books, magazines, Web sites, and countless other inputs.

Needs are dictated by biology.

Food, water, shelter. I’ll also throw in creative pursuits and exercise because eating, drinking, and sitting in a house all day isn’t healthy. Yes, I know from experience.

Be Congruent

In other words, do what you want based on what you need.

I understand needing a car to get around. But an extravagant car won’t make you happier than a car that runs well.

BMWs are great cars, but mine provided no more happiness than my old 1989 Grand Prix I got as a hand me down from my Brother (thanks man!).

I let myself be conditioned to believe that since I was making a decent amount of money I should drive a really nice car. My personality is more low key than that.

I wasn’t being congruent.

It’s not about cheap vs expensive.

I bought a really nice Gibson SG Standard guitar a few years ago for about $1,200. I’d wanted this guitar since I started playing 15 years ago. Playing guitar isn’t just a sometimes hobby for me. If I don’t play regularly I don’t feel right. (Which means I never pass up a guitar shop while on the road!)

A quality guitar plays better and sounds better than a cheaply made guitar (usually). My happiness was legitimately improved by playing a higher quality instrument.

Buying a quality guitar was congruent to my personality and, as a result, brought me happiness day in and day out. But I’m mindful of dependency (that dirty word dependency) and sold my SG before embarking on my travels. It’s of no use to me sitting in storage.

Do you notice any of these patterns in your own life? You buy something you think you need, but after the initial elation is over you don’t feel any different?

So let’s try something different.

Instead of keeping up with the Joneses why not keep up with ourselves?

“Don’t compare yourself to others. Compare yourself to yourself.” – Henry Rollins

How To Break The Cycle

Getting out of this constant cycle of doing what we think we’re supposed to do and buying what we think we’re supposed to buy is simple.

1) Figure out what is congruent for you.

and

2) Stick to your convictions in the face of society’s pressures.

You will get unsolicited opinions and advice, but nobody can tell you what is right for you but you.

You can even disregard everything I’ve written because it’s my opinion and advice.

Challenge everything and everyone.

If you think living your life the way others choose for you is fine then who am I to tell you otherwise?

But based on the fact that you’re a Ridiculously Extraordinary Reader you probably don’t want to be like everybody else, do you? Thank you for that. :)

How To Be Congruent

Enough talk. Let’s get down to it.

If people around you know you’re serious about your convictions it helps keep them off your back.

For example, when I stopped eating animals my Mom said I was crazy. Every time I’d speak with her she’d ask if I was still being crazy. After a few months she realized it wasn’t a diet, but a lifestyle.

Diets don’t last. Lifestyle changes do. Now she doesn’t ask, she knows.

1) Be Clear About Your Convictions

When someone questions why you’re doing something, be succint and direct. This is not a time to be wishy-washy. Stake your claim and hold to it.

When people used to ask me why I ate a vegan diet I’d babble a long and unconvincingly boring string of sentences.

So I changed it to: “Out of respect for animals.”

Which I more recently updated to: “Out of respect for animals and my health.”

No room for interpretation there. 8 words. 2 seconds. They understand it’s not up for debate.

2) There Is No Step 2.

Being congruent is about being your true self, figuring out what you need, no matter what.

—-

* No known children anyway. BOOYA! I kid, I kid. ;) I just ruined this whole article with that, didn’t I? Ssssssshhhhhhhiiiiiiiitttttttttt…

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{ 33 comments }

Kelly

The biggest thing for most people, myself included – is to stop trying to be the person you think you should be – the person that is influenced by the media and even well intentioned friends and family. Finding your true self takes courage because hding behind your stuff is so much easier.

Karol

Thanks Kelly! I agree with you wholeheartedly. Especially this: “Finding your true self takes courage because hiding behind your stuff is so much easier.”

Tom

Awesome article – I really like the ‘be clear about your convictions’ example. Someone asked me the same question on Saturday night and it turned into an hour-long defense of my vegan lifestyle.

As for spending too much on the car – I wasted a lot of money on a ‘chick-magnet’ once – it didn’t work…

Karol

Hey Tom,

Thanks for commenting! I don’t mind getting into a discussion about it if people ask me questions. It’s just the reason why I’m doing it is clear up front and people know they can’t influence or change it. Not many people have the balls to say “Animals suck, why respect them? You should stop that and just eat them. And who cares about health? We’re all gonna die?” :)

Thanks again!
Karol

Mike Long

“And who cares about health? We’re all gonna die?”

Ooooooh, I’d love to see this blown up into a full article. It’s one I’ve really been struggling with over the past 2-3 years.

Karol

Oops, “We’re all gonna die” was supposed to be a statement not a question. ;)

Thanks for the article idea Mike! I think will add that to my 4,000 word (as of right now, need to EDIT!) “Why Vegan?” post tentatively scheduled for December 8.

Mike Long

No sweat Karol!

I’ve got a good 20-30 philosophical dilemmas I’ve been kicking around for awhile now (to the detriment of my own IM business). If you ever run low of material, just give me a holler….lol.

Possibly more fodder for you vegan article….what do you do when you know you need to find a healthier way to eat, but the smell, taste and texture of almost all vegetables and fruits literally makes you nauseous?

(I can smell lettuce from 50 feet away. No lie. My family has tested me.) ;)

Karol

What do you do? Unless you’re the exception (there are always exceptions) you get horrible diseases as you age. So I guess what you do is make your future health worth learning to love fruits/vegetables in the present.

Here is something I’ve found: as I’ve cut out poisonous foods from my diet (candy/soda/animals/milk/cheese) my taste buds have opened up and I now enjoy foods I never liked. Mushrooms are a great example: used to hate them, now I crave them.

It’s really up to you to find a way. I know you can do it, it’s just a matter of if you want to do it.

And I’ll end with a quote I’ve used before: “Never try, either do it or don’t waste your time.” – Phil Anselmo

Let me know how it goes!

Paul

I dig the Henry Rollins quote.

Karol

I have pages of a notebook filled with them. HR rules. :)

Cris

Great post. Reminds me of this post: http://adventuresinvoluntarysimplicity.blogspot.com/2009/07/reflections-2-fuck-post.html
And remember, only dead fish flows with the stream.

Karol

Cris, thanks for linking to this! Never heard of this site and I love it (after only 60 seconds)!

Caleb

Every time I read one of your articles I think I couldn’t have said it better myself.

I really like the bit you said about sticking to your convictions. I too am making some big changes in my life that not everyone understands. People are baffled when they hear that I wake up much earlier than they do every day. I too am probably guilty of rambling on about why I do certain things. Great advice about keeping it simple. I’m going to give it a try.

I would like to hear more about your Drastic Life Change.

Karol

Hi Caleb,

That means a lot, thank you so much.

Big changes are a part of life, and nobody has to understand them but you. Actually, you don’t have to understand them either as long as you don’t get in the way of them happening. :)

This whole site is actually a culmination of the Drastic Life Change, but specific info about it will come eventually. ;)

Thanks again!
Karol

Marko

Yeah, it’s weird how people try to hold you back and challenge your motives and convictions. But only if you let them. :-)

I’ve also experienced that the less I talk about (even drastic) life changes, the better.

Karol

Thanks for sharing Marko! Exactly. People can try holding you back (and they WILL try), but they will only succeed if you give in.

Mike

Great post !

Made me want to drive my Escalade to the nearest Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and devour a medium-rare t-bone and then come back home to my 5 BR 5 Bath Cape Cod with indoor lap pool and sauna!

;-)

Karol

oh shit! ;) (if your indoor lap pool is saline instead of chlorine I am stopping in next time I head through Kentucky!)

Adam

I like the idea of a simple but strong conviction. Recently I decided to quit drinking alcohol for one month. This came across as absurd to most people, especially considering I’m backpacking across New Zealand and staying in a hostel. When people asked why (and believe me, a lot of people did) instead of blabbering on about how I just felt like a break from drinking, don’t enjoy hangovers, want to save money etc, it would have been easier for me to just say “because I value my health”. If you’re honest with other people it makes it far easier on yourself. And be stubborn about it, because for whatever reason(s) people will try and challenge your choices.

Oh and I did complete the month sober!

Karol

Hey Adam,

Congrats on completing the month sober! That rules!

And…that is so weird! Next Tuesday’s article is about why I quit drinking. Although that’s not the end of the story. (And I might push that article back and use a different article I’m still working on.)

In any case, like you said: simple but strong. Otherwise the words just get muddied in obscurity.

Thanks for sharing man!
Karol

James NomadRip

You realize this revelation, if brought forth to the masses, will bring down all of society? :-) A regular discussion with an ex used to be, “how come they can afford (insert shiny expensive thing) and we can’t?” The answer was most often, “They can’t either.”

Karol

I think maybe the revelation DID bring down society. Or at least the economy. :)

As far as shiny new things: I think a lot of people can afford them. The question to ponder, if you want the shiny new thing (which is perfectly OK), is not “Why can’t I afford that?” but “How can I afford that?” I mentioned that in this article: http://www.ridiculouslyextraordinary.com/on-achieving-goals-or-just-fucking-write/

Thanks for sharing James!

Ivan

Really like the “Be clear about your convictions” part. I always try to explain my situation with complex arguments, and speak like people were attacking me. Clarify everything in 1-2 small sentences is just the right way to present a decision you’ve made in your life, well done. Will try to apply it.

Funny to see like nobody take you seriously when you are apart from the mass, and you’ve to convince them through repetition / great accomplishment, like your vegan story.

Karol

Thank you Ivan! And you just made me realize that clarifying everything to a short sentence or two is the minimalist way. Long arguments are the complex way: the way of the masses. :) Thanks for that!

paurullan

Great post, you really make something inside me!
I do not feel like adding nothing more to the conversation that you are doing a great work.

Karol

Thanks Pau! I appreciate that!

Michel D.

To my view, “Out of respect for animals” is just too aggressive. Because when you say something like that, you imply that people who eat meat have no respect for animals. Different people have different perspectives on life. Animals are not killed only for food. Some people think that killing or using animals for any reason at all is wrong, so they don’t use computers, don’t take medicine that is obtained via research with animals, etc. To them, they do it “out of respect for animals”.
If a child (only a child would do it) asked someone why they are a Christian (Jew, Buddhist, whatever), it wouldn’t be appropriate to say “Out of respect for God”, even if deep inside people might think that way.
I am not questioning your beliefs, you are entitled to them, and you certainly don’t have to make any excuses for thinking this way. However, one should avoid statements that imply superiority to the interlocutor, let alone a superiority on moral grounds.

(Sorry for the English, I am not a native speaker).

Karol

(I got the Windows Blue Screen of Death and my original response was lost.)

Hi Michel,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Your whole argument implies a superiority to animals and similar arguments are regularly used as an excuse, a cop out, to eat meat. Using your own words: “one should avoid statements that imply superiority to the interlocutor (EDIT: OK, technically this word doesn’t fit since animals can’t participate in conversation), let alone a superiority on moral grounds.”

If a human supports the slaughter of billions of other humans would you say they have no respect for human life?

If a human supports the slaughter of billions of animals would you say they do have respect for animal life?

Thanks,
Karol

P.S. Now I’m nitpicking, but Buddhism has no deity. No god. And, as far as I have researched, Buddhists don’t eat meat because they respect animals. ;)

Michel D.

I understand your point.
As I said, you are entitled to have your moral standards.
But, the way you put it, you make it the only acceptable one.
That’s is the only problem with this post to me. A great one at that. I should have focused on the 90% that I agree with. I will do better next time.

Jeanie

You have a jackhammer “voice” you know?

Or perhaps it feels that way because my mindset is so fertile for change as it is.
You and your lifestyle give me hope that my dreams aren’t so far fetched.

Purveyors of hope are rare in today’s world, so thank you.

Karol

Thanks Jeanie. I started this blog because I wanted it used as a beacon of hope. :)

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