We are about to enter the festive season where our appetites for fun, the nice things of life, feasting and just having a great time, goes into overdrive. Given the hectic demands of our working life throughout the year, it is justifiable to wind down a bit, replenish our energy levels and as one of my friends put it so nicely the other day, to simply have a chilla! This is also a season where shops are competing very intensely for our disposable income with high powered sales talk and relentless persuasion. The shopping malls are decorated in such a manner to grab our attention to get something as if we will seriously lose out if we don’t get hold of it now.

I am sure you will agree with me, that on a daily basis we are forever in a conflict between our needs and our wants. My simple understanding is that a need is something of necessity; a basic requirement for an optimal state to be maintained. A want however, is a desire to possess or a wish for something. If you can’t make a rational and informed distinction between the two, you will chase after things that are not really a priority or add any value to your life at that given point in time.

We are living in a very powerful consumer driven society. On a daily basis you and me virtually have to process thousands of pictures, sounds and words that appeal to our senses, luring us to acquire something. To a large extent this powerful media monster, creates artificial wants for us. These wants are of symbolic value and not based on primary necessity. Take for example clothing. The primary need of clothing is to protect our human bodies from the various environmental conditions. This presupposes that in my case a basic trouser, shirt, socks, underwear, shoes, belt and perhaps a jacket or jersey in colder circumstances will suffice. There has however been a host of other artificial wants created for me where the clothing must be of a specific label and worn with specific accessories, to give a symbolic value of status and whatever. 

I still have a vivid picture in my mind of a time when I just paid off the last instalment on my car. No sooner had I celebrate the thought of being debt free on this front then I new model of my car was launched. The new model had all manner of new gadgets and enhancements that made my car looks so like yesterday. I even went for a test drive with the new model and when I got into my car again, all of a sudden I became aware of cracks and sounds that never used to bother me in the past. As I went to bed that night, the smell of new leather car seats were still very much active in my nostrils. The sales agent worked out a very appealing deal, totally within my affordability range, yet something simply did not feel right about it. On closer reflection notwithstanding the strong urge towards wanting this new car, I ultimately came to the realization that there was simply no compelling need for it at that time. My car was still in excellent condition so why this unsolicited want. I am still driving the same car for the last ten years without any major problem at all and was able to spend the money more meaningfully on other priorities. The sad part of it is that some people who are driven by artificial wants, spend their money on the wrong priorities leading even to unwarranted indebtedness. As someone once said – most South Africans buy stuff that they don’t need, with money that they don’t have, to impress people they don’t even like!

During the festive season, especially in this tough and uncertain economic times in which we live, let’s be careful to make a rational and informed distinction between our wants and our needs. We all have what I call a ‘’comfort barometer”. It is that inbuilt mechanism that cause us to have peace of mind and joy resulting from a rational decision. It instinctively also triggers something in us if we cross the line whereby our objectivity is clouded and rationality sometimes flies out of the window. If you feel pressurized and uncomfortable about something, don’t feel rushed just to buy it. On countless occasions, I had to pay a hefty premium for impulsive buying…. you know that I want it and I want it now kind of attitude? Also interrogate your motives – is it about being seen, heard or acknowledged, to proof a point through unwarranted opulence, to fulfill a deep-seated need for acceptance and validation or is it based on the proverbial keeping up with the Jones’.  

At this point in time of my life, I have a deep need for love and acceptance; operating in an environment where I am valued and appreciated for who I am as well as the necessary support systems to help me overcome my shortcomings in life. Family is one of my primary focus areas in this regard. Given my advanced age, I also have a need for stability; not to embark on overly adventurous and unnecessarily risky stuff but being settled in life. Self-actualization is also one of my biggest needs; living out my Godly passion in an empowering way and being the best possible me. Lastly at this stage of my life, my mind is pre-occupied with issues about legacy. Living for a cause much bigger than myself and pursuing significance in response to this critical question – what will Martin Kuscus be remembered for? I am not going to allow my wants to have precedence over my real needs. I will not allow external agendas to derail me from those things that bring meaning and a sense of fulfillment in my life.

The holiday season also gives us an opportunity to reflect on and recalibrate our priorities in life. Let’s not just be swept away in the frenzy of our wants but also zoom into our deepest needs moving forward. We have been placed on this earth for a specific assignment by our Creator. Unless our desires are in line with His desires for our lives and His priorities become our priorities in life, we might experience a temporary thrill of excitement feeding our wants, but not any lasting or enduring fulfillment. I trust that you will set aside quality time during the holiday season to earnestly ask Him for a wise and discerning mind. This will safeguard you from being merely driven by artificial wants created by the outside world and be directed by a deeper need to stay on course for your assignment in life.

What are your deepest needs?

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