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The Difference Between Wants, Needs and Fantasies

By Anne Hartley

Sep 03 2018

Mindfulness, NEWS & BLOG




Every now and then I dream of living a radically different life, this usually occurs when I feel overwhelmed, disconnected from others, or stressed. On those occasions I may do some research, but I’ve never taken any action towards turning those dreams into reality because they are fantasies, a way of escaping from reality.

Wants on the other hand usually come from our intellect, or the left hemisphere of the brain and it’s very easy to mistakes wants and needs. Generally, wants are based on logic and reason. Let’s say you want to feel secure, your mind works out that if you earned a certain income, in a secure job, then you will feel that way. The mind then goes searching for a way to achieve that goal. On the surface it appears to make sense but wants can take us away from our calling, while needs take us towards our calling.

Wants and needs can appear to be very similar and the way to differentiate between the two is to be aware of how they make you feel and this is where being mindful can really help. Choices made using logic and reason always come from the left hemisphere of the brain, when we spend too much time in the left hemisphere of the brain we turn on the sympathetic nervous system which initiates the ‘fight or flight’ response. When this happens we get a rush of adrenaline, our focus improves, our heart rate rises and our muscles are primed to respond quickly. That may sound good but when you live that way constantly you live in the stress zone.

Needs come from the right hemisphere of the brain because they are about feelings. This hemisphere enables us to be more creative, to use our imagination and access our intuition. This hemisphere of the brain turns on our parasympathetic nervous system which enables us to rest, digest, repair and reduce stress levels.

Our needs always represent feelings that make us happy. Meeting our real needs can transform our lives. Our needs have a very definite purpose, they guide us to the choices and a life that will support us to grow to our full potential. When we meet our needs we live in balance and use our whole brain, which is the way we are meant to live. Our needs come from our heart and soul. Our heart speaks to us through positive emotions, our soul speaks to us through intuition, feelings and/or signs that guide us to the life that makes us happiest. Signs can come in the form of obstacles, problems, opportunities, insights and dreams, they always support us to face our fears so that we can grow and evolve.

The Institute of HeartMath, a non-profit organisation, based in California, provides scientifically validated methods devoted to harnessing the power of the heart and brain. Scientists have found that the signals that come from the heart have a greater effect on brain functioning and cognitive ability. According to HeartMath the brain responds to signals sent from the heart and those signals influence attention, memory, perception skills and problem solving abilities.

It’s easy to misunderstand what heart’s desires really are because we have been so conditioned by corporate giants and the media to want more, more, more. Our heart’s desires are more about feelings than things or achievement. You only have to look at your life to see if you following a fantasy, a want, or a need because your emotions clearly show you when you are on the right path.


Being mindful helps you connect with your heart and soul


So how do you connect with your heart and soul when you have been disconnected for a long time? You take time to be still and to listen. By taking 10 minutes a day to begin with to go within and meditate you access the right hemisphere of the brain. This won’t radically change your life, it’s like walking for a kilometre a day, it’s a start. Ideally, you need to meditate for 20 – 30 minutes a day on a regular basis. Over time this practice will change the structure of your brain and your response to stress, it will also increase your tolerance to stress.

IMMA blog woman in forest

You also need to be mindful so that you can recognise the choices and reactions that take you away from fulfilling your needs. This is where mindfulness can help. Being mindful means focusing on the present moment, not the past or future, for 10 minutes three times a day. This simple habit decreases stress.

You may wonder how these practices can help you fulfil your needs and that’s a very valid question. Relaxing and trusting life to show you how to achieve a goal is scary because we are not used to living that way, remember most of us have been conditioned to use logic and reason. To create a different reality, we need to trust our inner guidance system to show us how to achieve our goals, this means detaching but it does not mean doing nothing.

Trust is a very proactive process. It means asking for guidance, listening, then acting on the guidance you receive. Last year my inner voice told me to give away my car. That idea scared me, but my inner voice was very clear, I wasn’t to sell my car, I definitely had to give it to someone who needed it. I am still not sure why at this stage but I have a very deep knowing that this is what I was meant to do.

Tell your mind what you need and it will look for a way to bring it into your life because your brain was designed to support you. The RAS (reticular activating system) is a portion of the brain which decides if information coming in goes to the conscious area of your mind, or the unconscious. When your brain receives constant reminders it knows what is important to you and brings any information on that subject to your conscious awareness. We tell our brain what’s important by repetition, so saying affirmations, visualising, looking at pictures on a vision board are all ways we can remind our brain of the opportunities we want brought to our conscious attention.

Your brain is working for you every waking minute of the day.  Meditation will help you to be still and receive guidance. Being mindful will help you recognise how often you focus on your worries, fears or what you don’t want. Develop habits that support your needs and remember that the more repetition and emotion associated with those needs, the easier it becomes to attract them into your life.

Anne Hartley is the owner of Hart Life Academy, an online training school which trains mindfulness and meditation teachers.



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