Goals, Wants and Needs; Hopes, Wishes and Dreams
Posted by Stephane Gaskin PhD on Jan 8, 2016
“I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be”.
What is a Goal?
A goal is a want or a need for which you plan to take steps towards fulfilling.
Wants and Needs
A want is something that would be nice to have but that you can do without. For example, you may want a new car. It would be fun to drive and more comfortable than the one you already have. However, the car you presently own does just fine. It gets you where you want without fail. Maybe you are just bored with it.
A need is something that you have to have. It is something that is very difficult to do without. Many psychologists have theorized about the fundamental needs that have to be met for you to be happy. Probably the most famous of these psychologists is Abraham Maslow who proposed a hierarchy of needs. Maslow ranked human needs from the most fundamental such as food, water and sleep to higher needs such as security, employment, family and health. Maslow also believed that as humans we have a need for friendship and intimacy as well as a need for self-esteem, confidence and achievement. The outcome of having all of one’s need fulfilled results in self-actualization, where an individual’s potentials are fully realized. These needs are often contained into what is often called the pyramid of needs (Figure 1.1).
Wants and Needs Are Easily Confused
People often confuse wants and needs which leads them purchase things or invest money or time in ventures, to soon realize that they easily could have done without. You may think that you need something, like a new computer or I-pad but soon realize that you could have kept your savings in your bank account and used it for something you really needed when came time to pay for your rent, bills or tuition. Set goals that fulfill your needs before goals that fulfill your wants. You will be making a much greater contribution to your happiness by fulfilling your needs before your wants.
This is difficult. After all, we are constantly pressured to acquire goods that provide immediate pleasures. There is nothing wrong with a lot of these products themselves. The problem is that the pleasure they provide is often ephemeral. How long the pleasure of your brand new I-phone last before you get use to it? Maybe the first I-phone you got satisfied a need. But did you really have to spend your money on the new one when it came out? I am not saying that you cannot satisfy wants but that if that money could have satisfied a need, the long-term payoff would have been higher.
Wants and Needs Are Not Goals
People also confuse wants and needs with goals. Wants and needs only become goals when you decide to take the necessary steps towards satisfying them.
Hopes, Wishes and Dreams
People express hope in different ways. You may try your best at something and “hope for the best,” when you feel you have no control over what will happen next. This kind of hope follows a specific action. For example, the first time you baked a cake you threw in all the ingredients put the cake in the oven and hoped that it turned out right. You may also have studied for an exam at the last minute and hoped what was going to be on the test was what you studied.
Another kind of hope is when you have not performed any action to obtain something but have the positive feeling that what you want or need will somehow be delivered to you. This kind of hope is related to faith, the belief that some higher power, thing or person will deliver the goods.
A wish is a request made to someone, something or some higher being. There are different ways in which a wish can be expressed. In “The Book of One Thousand and One Nights” Aladdin expresses his wish to become rich and powerful to a genie that comes out of a lamp. You have learned to make a wish before blowing out the candles on your birthday cake. You also express your wishes to someone you think will provide. When you wish for something. You are requesting to obtain something with little or none of your own effort. People also express not being satisfied with a part of themselves, or situations, as wishes, such as “I wish I were smarter” or I wish I was taller” or “I wish things were different” etc.
A dream is a desire that you perceive as being so outrageous and impossible that you perceived the possibility of its fulfillment as being extremely remote. In popular language, we refer to such desires as “only in your dreams” or “not in my wildest dreams” or “this is only a dream.”
Why are Hopes, Wishes and Dreams Important?
Hopes, wishes and dreams are important because they serve as powerful guides to help you set goals. Like wants and needs, hopes, wishes and dreams are not goals but they become goals with the realization that, contrary to what was previously believed, that you can take concrete steps towards fulfilling them.
Perceived Attainability and Control
Hopes, Wishes and Dreams are Different Kinds of Wants or Needs.
They differ from wants and needs in their levels of perceived attainability of some coveted object and perceived control over obtaining it by one’s own efforts.
Perceived attainability and control over obtaining something by one’s own efforts is relative to the individual. For example, what is a simple want to one person is a dream for another. Your simple want of steak is a dream to a poor starving person. What you perceive as being “only a dream today” can become attainable and under your control of achieving in the future. Things only hoped for can become perfectly under your control of obtaining in the future, and what is presently only something you can only wish for could become something that you could obtain by your own effort in the future.
You Can Turn Hopes, Wishes and Dreams Into Goals
Hopes, wishes and dreams become goals if you make the conscious decision to plan the necessary steps to move towards them. This has extremely important implications. It means that wishes, hopes and dreams become goals by changing your perception about how your own efforts can put them within your reach.
I am not saying that anything is possible. That is foolishness. At 44, my dream of winning the 100-meter dash at the next Olympics will remain a dream. It is nice to dream about but I don’t think I am exaggerating in viewing this possibility as extremely remote. Sometimes we exaggerate the extent to which something is “only a dream.” Therefore, before giving up on a dream you must be certain that this is really about something that is unattainable and out of your control of obtaining.
Stephane Gaskin PhD
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Category: Goal Setting