July 21, 2013

You Don't Need It

Feeling motivated to go shopping? Chances are you don't need to go anywhere. Maybe just stay home and play a game with the kids. Or teach them the most effective words to protect them from the futility of a life trapped in the work/spend/debt cycle.

"You don't need it." These four simple words have the power to change the way you see the world and your life. Since we have become infected with the values of consumerism like greed, selfishness, and the accumulation of material goods, the words, "you don't need it" can be liberating.

So what does one really need?

Strictly speaking a person could get by with food, clothing (if the climate requires clothes at all), shelter, clean air and water. While these would ensure survival they may not allow one to make progress in life in order to experience their full potential.

Someone may have the ability to become a great thinker or builder or artist, but if they are caught in a struggle to meet their basic physiological needs, they may never have the opportunity to develop their gifts.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow said as much when he created his pyramid of human needs while thinking about what motivates human behaviour. At the base of his pyramid you will find the basic survival needs. But they are only the base from which we continue to work upwards when these conditions are met.

This is what you really need according to
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

According to Maslow and other thinkers, we have a natural drive, or motivation, to progress all the way up the levels to Self-Actualization. As we self-actualize we become everything that we can possibly be, bringing the best we have to offer to the current situation in the present moment.

Some pyramids add a level above Self-Actualization called Transcendence in which one helps others to self-actualize and achieve their full potential.

Consumerism takes advantage of our natural drives, misdirects us, and presents distractions and roadblocks on our way toward furthering our personal development and enjoyment of life. When we see how we are being blocked we can say to ourselves, "You don't need it".

Instead, we can focus on what we actually need - basic survival requirements, safety, love, and feeling good about ourselves. This is what we need to achieve our potential, then help others do the same.

Maslow found that self-actualizers share certain characteristics. Whether famous or not, educated or not, rich or poor, self-actualizers roughly fit the following profile.

Characteristics of Self-Actualized People
  • Self-Acceptance and Democratic World View
Self-actualized people tend to accept themselves and others as they are. They tend to lack inhibition and are able to enjoy themselves and their lives free of guilt.
  • Realistic
Rather than being fearful of things that are different or unknown, the self-actualized individual is able to view things logically and rationally.
  • Problem-Centered
Self-actualized individuals enjoy applying their problem-solving skills to real-world situations and like helping other people improve their own lives.
  • Peak Experiences
According to Maslow, peak experiences are, "Feelings of limitless horizons opening up to the vision, the feeling of being simultaneously more powerful and also more helpless than one ever was before, the feeling of ecstasy and wonder and awe, the loss of placement in time and space with, finally, the conviction that something extremely important and valuable had happened, so that the subject was to some extent transformed and strengthened even in his daily life by such experiences."
  • Autonomy
Does not conform to other people's ideas of happiness or contentment. This original perspective allows the individual to live in the moment and appreciate the beauty of each experience.
  • Solitude and Privacy
Self-actualized people value their privacy and enjoy solitude. While they also love the company of others, taking time to themselves is essential for personal discovery and cultivating potential.
  • Philosophical Sense of Humour
The actualized generally have a thoughtful sense of humour. They are able to enjoy the humour in situations and laugh at themselves, but they do not ridicule or make fun at the expense of another person's feelings.
  • Spontaneity
There is a tendency to be open, unconventional and spontaneous. While these people are able to follow generally accepted social expectations, they do not feel confined by these norms in their thoughts or behaviours.
  • Enjoy the Journey
Self-actualized people have concrete goals, but they do not see things as simply a means to an end. The journey toward achieving a goal is just as important and enjoyable as actually accomplishing the goal.

Now, there is a shopping list I can get behind! To me it looks a lot like a simple living checklist as simple living allows the time and head space for such pursuits.

Contrary to popular belief, this shopping list can be largely filled with little to no money. You can't buy friends and love, and most of the other things above the basic survival needs. You can't buy your way to the top of personal development.

Our system believes that we are motivated by engaging in our role as consumers, but I believe that is wrong. Maslow and many, many others throughout history, have pointed out that when it comes to becoming everything we can be, you don't need much more than the motivation and intention to do good and be free.

Our true motivation lies in becoming the best individuals that we can possibly be in this moment in time given the gifts and talents that we possess right now.


  1. great post! I've finally come to realize that when I say "I need to buy ____" I usually mean, "I need something that makes me feel ___." Usually I'm looking to be soothed in some way. Dealing with the feelings instead of using stuff to cope really is living in the moment!

    1. Zoe Tucker, That is an awesome realization to come to, and one that has a tendency to lead to free thinking, liberation, and being here, now!

      Congratulations on figuring it out. Now your task is to help others do the same.

      Thanks for sharing your good news.


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