Your Needs Are Only Ever States of Being
Figuring out what those needs are and meeting them in new ways can unlock a world of satisfaction
There is a common misconception that it is possible to need a specific thing.
When I say thing, I mean the kind of thing your mind can easily conceptualize in images, names, and ideas. It’s only natural for the mind to imagine our needs this way, because this the only way the mind can imagine, and imagining is a uniquely vital human skill that allows us to plan, understand and act.
The concepts we can imagine come from our past experiences, and the intricate ways the mind can combine experiences into imaginations of things we’ve never experienced. If I say, “A dog reciting Shakespeare while riding a tricycle,” this is likely something you’ve never experienced, but you can imagine the idea of it all the same.
You know what a dog is. Even if the breed is unspecified in your mind, there’s a general concept of “dog” that comes up. You can picture a large tome of Shakespearean plays and sonnets, perhaps. You’ve seen a tricycle, maybe one from your childhood, and while specifics might be vague or vary from person to person — what color is the tricycle? How big is the dog? Is the dog pedaling or just sitting on the seat? Is the dog reciting from Hamlet or A Midsummer Night’s Dream? — your mind is miraculously capable of conjuring some image of a dog reading from Shakespeare on a tricycle.
The mind is amazing like this. Our ability to imagine and conceptualize is an incredible evolutionary adaptation, one that allows us to reach into the past to conjure a new future.
At the same time, this ability can also trip us up when it comes to finding joy and satisfaction in life.
Satisfaction is a sensation. We have meanings attached to the word, but understanding the word “satisfaction” is not the same as the experience of being satisfied. When you think on your own experiences of authentic satisfaction — go ahead, think of them! — a feeling starts coming to mind. It may come mentally attached to past events, calling up images of a happy day with loved ones or a success in work, but there is a feeling beneath the images that your body and mind recognize.