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As a human, we all have instincts that give us information before we can pinpoint where the information is coming from. My mother and my sister have always told me that I have good instincts and, generally, they are correct. I get feelings about people and about situations. I’m pretty good at knowing within a few moments if someone is the kind of person I want in my life, or the kind of person I don’t want. But, that is where it gets tricky…

Wanting something is different from needing something. I’m not talking about wanting versus needing a new pair of $300 shoes. Nor am I talking about wanting a new apartment versus needing a new apartment. When we want someone, or a certain type of someone, in our lives it is because we have actively imagined ourselves living a type of life, doing certain things, being a certain way. Want, I think, is something that comes 75% from the brain and 25% from the heart. We, intelligent creatures that we are, are able to rationalize and think ourselves into holes where we decide what it is we want and go after it. This is true especially for types of people.

Needing, on the other hand, is a less conscious act. When we need something, we may not always know why. It is also possible that we may not even know that we need it. In fact, I would say that usually when we want something it’s because we’ve misdiagnosed a need for something else. The want is louder and more present in our brain where the need is more visceral, or more naturally occurring.

The problem we face is that we go after what it is we want, not really questioning why we want something or someone, only to find that the need goes without being fulfilled. Then, if we achieve what it is we want, the need gets buried deeper but becomes more pressing. Ultimately, who or whatever ends up hurting us because they were unable to fill the need. The solution did not fit the problem. The tool did not fit the job. I’m sure there’s another metaphor for this phenomenon but, you get the point.

When we go after what we want and end up hurt from it, the common tendency is to question our instincts. I think this is especially true for women, but it might also be true for men as well. We look back, with the dreaded 20/20 hindsight, and see all the reasons why what we wanted was not what we needed, yet something drove us to go after the want anyway. I am learning that in these situations it’s not that my instincts were off, it’s that I chose to ignore them.

Of course like everything in the universe, there is an opposite yet equal phenomenon to this situation. Sometimes, you tell yourself that you don’t want someone or something, yet you are drawn to them/it. You instruct yourself to pull away and retreat, but you find yourself accelerating toward it. You think you logically understand why what you are doing is a terrible idea, yet you do it anyway. Is this ignoring your instincts again? I say no. I believe that in this situation, your subconscious is propelling you forward towards something you need, whether you are aware that you need it or not. In these situations, I preach that the best thing to do is to ride out the wave until you land on the beach. There is a reason you are drawn to the situation despite it seeming to contradict what you think you want.

Now, the hard part is this: How can you differentiate between trusting your instincts against what you want and ignoring them against what you need? How can you tell the difference between a want and a need?

There is no easy answer to this. None that I’ve found yet, anyway. So far, from this little life I’ve had until now, I can say that I’ve learned that if I am trying to go after something or someone and I keep hitting brick walls, it’s likely a want. Maybe it’s a type of job I think I’m perfect for, maybe it’s an annual salary range, maybe it’s a man, maybe it’s a potential friend. If I keep trying and trying and not getting anywhere, it’s not something that is meant for me. Occasionally when you do succeed at this only to get smacked in the face with it, it’s the universe saying “Now are you ready to listen to me???”

On the other hand there is when you fight against something yet it keeps happening. You ignore someone and they keep popping up in your life in unexpected ways; you push them away only to find them returning like a boomerang; you think you’re not interested in a career but similar positions just keep falling into your lap. There is obviously a need that is about to be fulfilled, if you would only let it happen.

So is the solution to go around hitting brick walls metaphorically or fighting against the current all the time? Obviously, no. But we, as people, need to learn to be more in tune with what is being brought into our lives and handed to us. What are we unwittingly keeping close despite thinking that we want something else and actively looking for that something else? We must try to be as open as possible to the ebbs and flows of life as it brings some things and some people into our lives while washing away others out to sea. Only then, I think, can we live without unnecessary self-inflicted stress. We just need to learn to listen. **

**a big thank you goes out to Ben for inspiring today’s blog entry after an enlightening phone conversation this evening.