A lot of people divide our motivations into two categories: wants, and needs. For instance, I want to rule the world, but I need to crush my enemies first. People often view wants as something negative. Most of the time they are quoting some Buddhist text they didn’t really understand (because even the Buddhists want things, like enlightenment, peace, and to totally bump fists with the Dalai Lama someday). Focus only on what you need, they say, like food, water, and a steady internet connection. You know, the essentials.
But the longer I’ve been alive (sitting on 29.5 years right now) I’ve found that you will live a much happier, healthier life by not putting everything into need vs. want, but rather what you have to do and what you get to do.
I have to eat to survive. I have to drink water to survive. I have to stay alive in order to survive. It’s simple. But it’s not just the basic things that I have to do. See, I have to go to bed at a decent time. I have to take out the trash on Tuesday nights. I have to take a shower like, yikes, really soon. Are these things I want or need to do? Perhaps, a little of both.
But I don’t need to get a decent night’s sleep (shut up, sleep scientists, I’m sick of your lobbying!) and in a way, I don’t want to go to bed at a decent time. I’d much rather stay up all night playing video games or looking at pretty girls on the internet in various states of undress. However, those things, like playing video games, looking at boobies, showering, having my trash picked up by someone else, are all things that I get to do. And that is the distinction.
See, I’m a fortunate guy. I’d take it that many of you out there are fortunate too, if you’re able to read this online. First off, you have steady internet, a basic necessity. Also, you can read. And finally, you probably have a nice shiny device that allows you to access the internet from, like, your toilet. That’s pretty rad.
You get to do these things, and likely it is because you have to do something else. You have to work a job to make money so you can get to have an internet connection. You have to work hard in order to make more money so you can get to have that nice, new device. But it’s not just about money. Okay, well, it usually is. However…
If you want to get to the next level of your fitness, you have to work out. If you want to learn the guitar, you have to practice every day. If you want to meet someone, you have to get out there and talk to people. See, there’s that want word again. But look at it another way: you have to work out, because then you get to have a better body, you get to have more strength, you get to the level of fitness you wanted. Have to leads to get to.
You have to learn how to be yourself, how to talk to those you’re interested in, and how to be honest and caring and open, because then you get to have a happy, wonderful relationship with someone you love. See, it’s not about want or need; it’s about the amazing things that we get to enjoy because of the things we knew we had to accomplish in order to get to that place. On a basic level, it’s a matter of what you put in, is what you get out. But it’s not all about effort and reward.
Most of us don’t even realize how fortunate we are in other regards. For instance, being able to read. Congrats! You’re probably in the world minority (I’m too lazy to look up the stats, so sue me). How about walking. Did you walk at all today? Well, some people don’t get to. Sleeping in a bed. Yeah, you get to do that. Go on vacation. Drive a car. Eat when you’re hungry. Drink when you’re thirsty. Do you see how fortunate you are?
You get to do these things and others don’t, which is why you have to give back. You have to be empathetic, sympathetic, and helpful. You have to understand how fortunate you are and not take it for granted, but you don’t have to let it take away from what you get to do. Just know that others don’t get to do the things you do, and sometimes that means you have to make sacrifices. Donate your time to the less fortunate. Help those who can’t help themselves. You have to do these things, because then you get to see what your help can provide to someone less fortunate.
HAVE TO, GET TO
Do yourself a favor and look at everything in your life. Put it into two categories: HAVE TO and GET TO. Then think about what you want to be able to get to do, and write down (or just think about it, don’t let me tell you what to do!) what you have to do in order to get there. I’ll give you an example:
I want to get to see my published book on store shelves. That would be super rad to be that fortunate. In order to get there, I have to finish revising my book, then revise it again, then seek an agent or publisher, then continue to persist even if I am rejected, and continue to write more and more and try harder and harder until I can get to the point where my book is finished, published, and up on the shelves.
Simple, right? Hell no it’s not! But that’s the truth of it. As my father says all the time: the hard working people have all the luck. But it’s because hard working people know what they have to do. And they know that they have to give back what they take in. Pretty hard to find a successful, hard-working businessman or woman who doesn’t give back in some way.
This is just what I have found in my life, and I hope that it might help you, as it has me. It makes the menial stuff much easier to deal with: washing clothes, making dinner, going for a run instead of drinking ten beers. Knowing you have to do it in order to get to do the things you want and need, well, then it doesn’t feel so much like a chore, and instead more of a responsibility. A privilege.
Because the things we have to do, are also the things we get to do.