The Key to Happiness

The Key to Happiness: Wants vs. Needs

“The key to happiness is knowing the difference between wants and needs.”
— Susan French

“Content(ment) makes poor men rich; discontentment makes rich men poor.”
— Benjamin Franklin

And then there’s comedian George Burns’ take on the subject:
“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”
— George Burns



It’s easy to be confused about what constitutes “needs” vs “wants.”   To begin with, I divide needs into first tier and second tier.  First tier needs are physical survival needs: air, water, food, sleep, safety.

Second tier needs are more tied in with emotional survival.  When second tier needs are not fulfilled,  we feel unhappy or unsatisfied.  We don’t die from lack of second tier needs, at least not right away.

But be very aware: when emotional needs are not attended to, we turn to any kind of compulsive and/or addictive behaviors in an effort to hide from the discomfort.

Physical needs are immediate. If we are deprived of air, water, food, sleep, safety, the consequences are immediate and if not addressed will  result in death.

Emotional needs are more subtle, more ambiguous, easier to ignore.  Clinical research suggests that it is usually unfulfilled emotional needs that drive us into self-destructive behaviors such as addictions, compulsive behaviors.  This  nagging inner discontent also drive the physically self-destructive behaviors like cutting, nail biting, skin picking, hair picking, even eating disorders.

Will you die from unfulfilled emotional needs?  Yes, eventually. The death certificates never say “he died from excessive heartache” but they should.

You might think for a moment of people who are homeless,  who live in poverty or places under the daily siege of war at their front doors.  You might think  Congo, Darfur, Rwanda or those who have survived concentration camps of all stripes, live in chronic pain, living on subsistence wages and being hungry all the time, or being sick and having no access to health care.  Dismal and disheartening.

There are also very ordinary but necessary emotional needs that, if neglected,  make life seem not WORTH living.  What’s worse, we can spend our lifetime trying figure out why we’re unhappy, asking ourselves again and again: what’s missing?

I was most fortunate to read the book “Human Givens,” by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell, esteemed research psychologists from the UK.  It was through the ideas presented in “Human Givens” that I began to realize that unfulfilled emotional needs are just as deadly as unfulfilled physical needs: it just takes longer to die.

Griffin and  Tyrrell list the areas of our lives which must be somewhat fulfilled to experience even a meager level of that which we call “happiness” or “contentment.  The book makes some wonderful observations and is well worth the read.

These Human Givens are the  “quality of life” needs that are so often missed.  Their lists include things like relative safety and security, shelter from the elements, connection, feeling of purpose in life, enough challenge to make us reach and grow, giving and receiving affection and attention, being above subsistence existence and so on.

Check them out if your life seems basically fine to you but you feel something lacking.  Perhaps you have more than  your share of transient anxiety or depression.  Or vague feelings  of discontent.   Feelings that something is missing but you can’t put your finger on it.  And what could that something be?

Part 2 to follow: The Missing Pieces that call your name and how to fulfill them.   Don’t miss it.

To your success always,Susan French


Sign up to receive our blog:

For more information, book a free consultation and let’s chat:

  1. Hair Growth Tonic
    Hair Growth Tonic10-16-2010

    Hey this is really a great forum. Thanks in advance.

  2. Hair Growth Tonic
    Hair Growth Tonic10-17-2010

    After reading you blog, I thought your articles is great! I am very like your articles. I bookmarked your blog! I trust you will behave better from now on.

  3. Dung Benage
    Dung Benage10-29-2010

    What I dont comprehend is how youre not even a lot more popular than you might be now. Youre just so intelligent. You know so significantly about this topic, created me consider it from so many diverse angles. Its like men and women arent interested unless it has some thing to accomplish with Lady Gaga! Your stuffs great. Continue to keep it up!

  4. Rosalee Tietjens
    Rosalee Tietjens11-11-2010

    This is some really great stuff. I’m overwhelmed by the quality of your site

  5. Link Building Services
    Link Building Services11-12-2010

    Great blog!! You should start many more. I love all the info provided. I will stay tuned :)

  6. Mohammed Kivioja
    Mohammed Kivioja11-13-2010

    You can definitely see your enthusiasm in the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren?¯t afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

  7. Brittani Ellard
    Brittani Ellard11-13-2010

    Simply want to say your article is as tonishing. The clearness in your post is simply spectacular and i can assume you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grab your rss feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please keep up the gratifying work.

  8. Prostate Cancer Symptoms
    Prostate Cancer Symptoms11-13-2010

    Beneficial info and excellent design you got here! I want to thank you for sharing your ideas and putting the time into the stuff you publish! Great work!

  9. Dell Cambra
    Dell Cambra11-13-2010

    Okay article. I just became aware of your blog and desired to say I have really enjoyed reading your opinions. Any way I’ll be subscribing in your feed and Lets hope you post again soon.

  10. Sportster Exhaust
    Sportster Exhaust11-28-2010

    Hey this post is nice and interesting. I’ll use it for my blog :). Can you reply me some related articles that I can read too? – Sportster exhaust

  11. Venice Wettlaufer
    Venice Wettlaufer11-28-2010

    hey great information your site contains will return when I have time to read more.

  12. Ignacia Stars
    Ignacia Stars11-28-2010

    Resources like the one you mentioned here will be very useful to me! I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will find that very useful.

  13. Carlena Koral
    Carlena Koral11-29-2010

    I have been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will be much more useful than ever before.

  14. Tamatha Porat
    Tamatha Porat11-30-2010

    You built some beneficial details there. I did a look for within the matter and observed most folks will consent with your webpage.

  15. Lannie Ciganek
    Lannie Ciganek12-01-2010

    You can definitely see your enthusiasm in the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren?¯t afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

  16. Javier Creten
    Javier Creten12-02-2010

    Thank you for another great article. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such information.

  17. oyun oyna
    oyun oyna12-02-2010

    I can see that you are an expert at your field! I am starting a website soon, and your information will be very useful for me.. Thanks for all your help and wishing you all the success in your business.

  18. suzyqq

    Hi. If anyone wants to contact me via my email, I’ll be happy to share anything I can about blogging.

  19. suzyqq

    Thank you so much for your kind words.

  20. Alton Levien
    Alton Levien12-04-2010

    I have been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will be much more useful than ever before.

  21. lic india
    lic india12-05-2010

    This is the good info. Thanks

  22. 行銷

    Tremendous! This particular is all I can think pertaining to a blog post like this excellent. This kind of is literally a notably explanatory article post on the blog. You just need to know a lot about this amazing

  23. maria andros
    maria andros12-08-2010

    Thanks for the post, keep posting stuff

  24. kızoyunlarıoyna

    Greatwonderfully article! I am starting out with my blog, google and I decided to learn about readership tthank you so so so much for this article 3d oyunlar


    Lately I have been constantly looking on Yahoo for sites with articles on the topic of happiness and ran into Thank you for writing this valuable entry.
    I just want to write thanks – this post was definitely what I wanted.

  26. April Saltonstall
    April Saltonstall11-13-2014

    hello!,I love your writing very so much! proportion we keep up a correspondence extra approximately your post on AOL? I need a specialist in this area to resolve my problem. Maybe that’s you! Taking a look ahead to look you.

  27. scaffolding london
    scaffolding london01-06-2015

    I am genuinely thankful to the holder of this web page who has shared this impressive post at here.|

  28. Reyna Sorells
    Reyna Sorells01-17-2015

    An interesting dialogue is worth comment. I think that you need to write extra on this matter, it might not be a taboo subject however generally individuals are not enough to talk on such topics. To the next. Cheers

  29. zabor ilenta
    zabor ilenta01-23-2015

    Please let me know if you’re looking for a writer for your weblog. You have some really great articles and I believe I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d love to write some articles for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please shoot me an email if interested. Cheers!

  30. Coralee Ackies
    Coralee Ackies01-24-2015

    Your place is valueble for me. Thanks!…

Leave a Reply