I need a job. I want a career. They sound similar, but they’re not. We all have needs and wants. Sometimes, we confuse the two, resulting in faulty thinking and actions. Let’s take a closer look to understand the differences and how it helps your next job or career decision.

Wants v Needs

Many of you will be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The psychologist’s premise is that people must meet their primary physical needs (food, shelter, safety) before they can satisfy their higher order psychological needs (motivation, satisfaction, realising potential). For example, survival drives your needs when you’re homeless, in poverty, unable to work or not in work. Where will I sleep tonight? How will I pay the bills? How will I feed and clothe my children?


When your basic needs are met, the focus shifts to thriving and what that means for each of us. Then, the questions change and become more about choices. What level of income do I want? Where would I like to live? What work will satisfy me?


Often, these higher order needs change to become wants. Who do I want to be? What do I want to do? What work will give me meaning and purposeYet, for many in today’s fragmented world, these wants remain unmet. Some people stay in their comfort zones because satisfying their lower-order needs is enough. Some reason that the price of failure to meet their higher order needs is one not worth paying if it could lead to losing what they already have. So, they stay where they are, unfulfilled and safe (until change without choice happens like a restructure or redundancy).


Reframe your wants


How do you escape from inertia? Reframe your higher order wants into compelling needs. Because you commit to doing something when you really need it. Action then builds momentum. Be alert to wants becoming like a soft-focus wish list. Instead, see your higher order needs as more like a hard-edge to-do list (what do you really need?) and not-to-do list (what don’t you need?). Have the same urgency and motivation as for your primary physical needs. But avoid overplaying your hand as it will come across as neediness. Instead, thrust your energy towards a compelling future. Leave behind anxiety, existential angst, and a dull life. Learn to leap.

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do. JW Von Goethe

Clarity about your needs rather than wants provides a platform for you to act your way into a different way of thinking and being. It gives you a better chance to make the right job and career decisions for you.

What one thing will you let go of now? What one thing will you do now?