Q & A with Dr. B. – What is the difference between wants and needs?

Dr. Larry Berkelhammer

Dr. Larry Berkelhammer

The purpose of this website, my book, and the Community Education course I teach at the College of Marin, is to teach people how to live a vibrant, meaningful life through the cultivation of self-empowerment and self-efficacy. In this weekly Q&A column, I post questions from students and from people who attend my presentations along with my answers.

Here is this week’s question:

QUESTION: What is the difference between wants and needs?

ANSWER: Throughout life, the mind and body can work in partnership to optimize behavioral choices. The quality and mutuality of that partnership profoundly influences health and wellbeing. The body has needs; the mind has wants. The mind’s wants are often orthogonal to the body’s needs. For example, the body needs nutrient-dense foods but the mind often wants junk or fast food. The body needs considerable daily physical activity, but the mind often wants the body to be sedentary. For most people, the mind views the body as just an inert machine rather than a loving partner.  A loving partnership, based on mindful, loving self-care, means adopting the practice of observing the mind’s wants, while making conscious, courageous choices to do whatever necessary to meet the needs of the body.


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