Wants vs needs — understanding ourselves better

A quadrant based prioritization approach

Prateek Vasisht
Thoughts And Ideas
Published in
4 min readMay 16, 2017


Wants and needs are two different words whose meanings are both well understood and also conveniently interchanged — depending on our desires and motivations. Deconstructing the interplay between these words is key to better understanding ourselves.


A quick Google search of the definitions of ‘want’ and ‘need’ show the following as the first result:

Want — have a desire to possess or do (something); wish for.

Need — require (something) because it is essential or very important rather than just desirable.

The definitions reflect how we commonly distinguish between these terms. The distinction centers on one quality — ‘essential’. Of course, how we define ‘essential’ is subjective!

When we are the sole decision maker, then we are the sole determiner of what is essential. When we are deciding within a group, there are often some formal frameworks that help us prioritize. A popular model is the MoSCoW which represents Must have, Should have, Could have or Won’t have. It is often used to prioritize requirements for systems development, but can be readily applied to many…