Do You Really Need It? - from A Book in Time

Published on 17 May 2024 at 10:09

Do I want it or really need it?  Or do I need it because I want it?

Do You Really Need It?

Jill Fandrich, PharmD, CRPh


How do you define a need versus a want? Are they interchangeable, distinctly different, or is there some gray matter between them? Merriam-Webster describes a need as “a physiological or psychological requirement for the well-being of an organism; a condition requiring supply or relief.” And want is described as “to have a strong desire for.” Simply put, a need and want can be viewed as a requirement versus a desire.


Life is filled with opportunities to make decisions regarding needs and wants. How do you choose between the two, and the relevance of each? Many times, the choices are minor and harmless. But how do you decide when there is more at stake? What determines the importance of considering this question in certain situations strongly? What questions do you ask yourself to guide you in making the best decision?


Critical thinking is vital to deciphering information's validity and making wise decisions. Think of a scenario where you were faced, or will be, with a decision between a need and a want. Perhaps at the office, you are working on a project that needs to be completed by the next day. You have been anticipating a fun event for weeks that you want to attend, which happens to be the night before the project is due. You could either stay late at work and finish the project by the given deadline, or you could leave at the bell and attend the event that had been planned, which you know will last long into the evening. You certainly have the “right” to leave when your shift ends, but is it the right thing to do?


Maybe the decision is more of a personal battle of whether or not to eat the donut! Or maybe the issue has an ethical undertone, such as being told to hide some pertinent information from someone, which is vital to them physically, mentally, financially, etc. Where do you begin to rationalize? How do you balance a need compared to a want? Which has more weight to you? Is it circumstantial? Or do you always decide while aligning with your values?


First, identify clearly the dilemma by asking yourself, What is the situation? Who is involved? What are your options? It is important to know who will be affected by your choices. There are likely a variety of ways to handle each situation. By critically thinking each time, you will better identify situations in advance that need special consideration, which may allow for even more options for potential favorable solutions. Practicing these skills daily in decision-making will lead to more consistent logical outcomes.


How many options did you come up with regarding possible solutions? How many will potentially work? What are the pros and cons of each? In each case, who will be affected by your decision? How will you or they be affected? Will anyone get hurt in the process? If so, what type of “hurt” will this be? A few more pounds or inches? Losing a job? Losing a friend? Disappointing someone? A financial implication?


What decision can you make that you will be proud of? How will your decision shape your reputation or future? How could the decision grow you as a person? What are the potential consequences of each alternative you can think of? Make a list of all possible choices and potential outcomes. What is the right thing to do? Do you know what the right thing is? What makes it right? What is wrong with the opposing choice? How about the other alternatives?


What obstacles might be clouding your judgment? In what ways are they obstructing it? What are your thoughts about the challenges? Can anything be done about them? What option will lead to the best possible outcome? How do you know this? Make a list of the benefits of making this selection. How can you highlight and remind yourself of the benefits of this choice? Is it a decision that is repeatable in similar circumstances? Can you make a habit of reaching the best possible decision? How hard was it to come to this realization? How did you reach your final decision?


Be objective as you work through the questions. Consider numerous questions based on logic and sound reasoning without prejudice and discover the best possible answer. What did you discover? How many potential solutions did you come up with? After asking the series of logical questions, did you decide you really “need” it? Or is it something you want? Are you in a situation where no one, including yourself, will be harmed, no matter your decision? If no consequences are involved, have fun making the most enjoyable decision possible. Relish the process.


Consider using critical thinking skills when there is something or someone at stake. It will help you separate fact from emotion and lead you to use logic and reason to make sound decisions. Critical thinking will help you build a reputation for doing the right thing, even in a difficult situation. Continually practicing this process could lead to a habit of repeatedly making wise decisions with little effort. Decisions made from emotion could lead to regrettable knee-jerk reactions. However, well-thought-out decisions can prevent unwarranted anxiety and lead to consistently fruitful outcomes.



  1. Challenge yourself to ask the questions mentioned previously in each decision you make today. Has your thinking process changed? How do you feel about your choices?
  2. Pick a sensitive decision to be made in your future. Analyze each possible choice and compare the consequences involved through alternate decisions. What do you notice?
  3. Name someone you know who consistently uses critical thinking skills to rationalize decisions.
  4. Think of a past example when you faced a difficult choice between a need and a want. What decision did you make? What was the outcome? What would you do differently?
  5. What have you already been doing “right” regarding critical thinking?
  6. Who will you share this with?

What are your thoughts about a need versus a want?


You can find more information on critical thinking in:

Who Connects Your Dots?

Medically Speaking, Who Connects Your Dots?

Students: Who Connects Your Dots?


Knowing the difference between what you need and what you want is the key to finding true contentment and fulfillment in life. Wants may be endless, but needs are essential for well-being and growth. Choose wisely, for your decisions today shape your future tomorrow.

Dr. Jill

Who will you share this with?

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