Is that even possible? In this consumerism-obsessed, materialism-driven age of time? Is it possible to make a complete mental transition from being obsessed with what we want to being content with the simplicity of what we actually need? Can a person truly turn their needs into their wants and make their needs few?
I am here to tell you that yes, it is possible and far easier than you might think. My family and I have been in the throes of making this transition over the past few years, and we are amazed when we compare our mindset today with what it was when we began this journey. We are learning what it means to be satisfied with what we need, and it is a beautiful thing to find that the things we want and the things we need are harmoniously one and the same.
There is enormous freedom to be found, if you just know where to look.
Identify Your Greatest Need
What is it that you really need? For the moment, let’s lay aside the necessities of food, shelter, clothing, and good health, and let’s talk about the internal part of you. What is that one need that when left unmet throws every other part of your life out of balance? Identifying this is of utmost importance because no matter how much stuff you accumulate, how many avenues you explore, or to what extremes you go, you will never be fully happy until you identify and fill that one, basic, greatest need.
One of the first necessary steps to uncover this is to reconnect to your childhood self. Remember that person? For me, it is a little brown-haired girl with ponytails, hazel-green eyes, and a heart full of hope that learned early on to rely heavily upon prayer and a connection to God that was authentic and integral. I personally found that my most pressing need was and continues to be a spiritual one. One of my earliest childhood memories is kneeling beside my bed to pray and finding a rare sense of comfort and deep-seated peace. That basic, deepest need as a three-year-old is still my greatest need at age 52. So simple, yet so profound.
Identify Your Second Greatest Need
For me, it is to live in peace and spend as much time as possible with the ones I love. The older I get the more I see the brevity of life and feel a deep need to make the most of every precious moment. I find that I cannot function well when I am at odds with anyone in my inner circle, and it is important to me to keep communication lines open and do whatever it takes to make them a priority.
Identify Subsequent Needs
Perhaps you feel an intense longing to serve others, create, travel, explore, learn, or teach. Think about what fulfills you and makes you feel complete and identify what is preventing you from doing these things. What stands in your way?
As you are identifying your greatest needs, are you seeing a pattern? Are you noticing that true needs are not “things” at all? Authentic needs are matters of the heart, the inside of you. As your thought process is transformed to focus on what is internal, you realize that to fill those needs you will find it necessary to eliminate much that is external.
Just a few years ago, my family and I “owned” a 4 bedroom, 3 bath home, with an oversized 2-car garage on 2 acres of land. Our house, garage, attic, closets, cupboards, and drawers were stuffed to the brim, we were up to our eyeballs in debt, the continual upkeep and maintenance of physical possessions robbed time and energy needed to nurture our spirituality, and our lifestyle required my husband to keep his nose to the grindstone bound to a job he detested.
My husband felt a deep sense of nagging guilt over watching our only son grow up too quickly and not being able to spend enough time with him. We didn’t need much of what we wanted, and our wants were preventing the filling of our heart needs. Our epiphany happened when our identity was stolen, and we were forced to face the reality of all we owed and the toll we were allowing excess to take on our lives.
We sold our home, released about 90% of what we owned, became 100% debt-free, and moved to the mountains. We switched from the fast lane to a slow-moving pace that is conducive to the nourishing of our souls, and instead of going back into debt, we made the choice to rent a small, furnished home that someone else is responsible for and owns.
Several months after our move, my husband’s job was outsourced, and he is taking time off to finish our 13-year homeschool journey. There was a time we would have been devastated and lost everything we “owned” because of the unexpected job loss but making our needs our wants and our needs very few ahead of time enabled us to be able to rejoice over being set free from such bondage. My husband is now completely involved and the hands-on father he has always wanted to be, and we are free to explore and do things together that we could never have experienced before. This is our journey from a life of abundance to a more abundant life, and we have never been happier or more free.
Life has a way of blurring the lines and injecting unwanted, uninvited distraction to the filling of our deepest needs. It may take some hard work, intense soul-searching, and deep digging to find what your greatest needs are, but there is great wisdom in finding your true self. It is there, probably buried under a heap of cheap substitutes, insufficient fillers, and the inadequacy of excess physical possessions.
It all comes down to what matters most and the choices you are willing to make.
Cheryl Smith is the author of the blogs Biblical Minimalism where she writes about minimalism from a Biblical perspective and Homespun Devotions where she writes devotionals and conducts “Inner Views.”
This story was originally published on the No Side Bar Blog.