Recently, a mentor was asking me some questions about life:
- What is going well for you?
- What areas seem to be a struggle for you?
- What is something you have learned lately?
Eventually, he asked me a question I wasn’t expecting:
- What do you need right now?
The question caught me entirely off guard. But almost immediately, I was surprised by both its simplicity and its depth.
Before going any further, I’d like you to answer the question for yourself: What do you need right now?
Go ahead, take your time, I didn’t have a quick answer either, I’ll wait… What do you need right now?
As I considered the question and weighed my response, I was struck by the blessed reality that this was not an easy question for me to answer.
I assume, if my most basic needs were not being met, this would be an easier question to answer: I need food, I need shelter, I need a warmer jacket, I need money for my overdue rent, I need a cure for my illness… The fact that none of these statements immediately surfaced in my mind is a reality that I did not want to overlook in that moment.
Equally so, my mind did not race to a vacuum in my relationships. I did not immediately declare: I need a spouse, a loving dad, an engaged father for my children, or my child to begin making wiser decisions with the direction of his life. Again, I will count my blessings in this regard.
Through this question, I was confronted with the important reality that when it comes to the most essential needs of safety and belonging, I have what I need. Matters of faith and spirituality did not arise either as I feel content that my needs are being met in that arena as well.
What then, do I need right now?
As I continued to contemplate an answer, I was struck by a second realization. When asked, what do I need in life right now? There was little thought of physical possessions. Needing another physical thing in my life couldn’t have been further from my mind.
I was not drawn to answer: I need a nicer car, a bigger television, a newer phone, or that new style of shirt with holes where shoulders are supposed to be. Literally nothing of a physical sort came to my mind.
My answer centered on far more important goals and ideals which I hope to accomplish with my life. I need help keeping balance. I need help being a more loving husband and father. I need a healthier and more consistent habit of meditation and solitude and prayer in my life. These are the things I need right now.
That is why I wanted you to answer the question for yourself. (It’s also why I patiently waited—if you remember). Because how we answer that question is important. Equally important, it is essential to evaluate how we are living in response to it.
My guess is that most of us, when asked “What do you need right now?” would not answer with anything that comes from a department store or retail website. We have far more significant needs in our lives. Far more important pursuits that we wish to accomplish.
An important follow-up question to the original one, might be, “How much time and energy are you putting into seeing those needs met?” vs. “How much time and energy are you wasting pursuing things you don’t actually need and don’t actually matter?”
One of the greatest benefits of owning less I have discovered is that my most limited resources have been freed up in significant ways. When I waste less time and money shopping or caring for physical possessions, I discover more time and money and energy to pursue those things I actually need to live a heathy, fulfilled, and accomplished life.
I don’t know what comes into your mind when you ask yourself the question, “What do I need right now?”
If the answer centers on shelter or warmth, I hope you find it soon. If the answer centers on love and relationships, again, I hope you find it.
But if those most basic needs have already been met in your life, and what you need right now centers more on pursuits of significance, I hope and pray you will find the strength and the will to direct your resources toward it. Reject the foolish pursuit of physical possessions—that is not what you need most in your life right now.
You need something bigger, more important, and more significant. May you find freedom in your life to pursue it.
Vikram Deo says
Thank you for giving me what I needed the message is read loud and clear!
Essel Rocky says
thanks for this, it really did help me realize something I didn’t and admit to something I didn’t. And through this article I think I can come to a decision and take the right step.❤
Ginny Fisher says
This is one of my favorite articles you have ever written and I have read most of them including your books. I wish I could back 20 years with the knowledge I have now and apply it to my life then. Better late than never.
Steph Williams-Tinkler says
Great article, thanks for writing it.
I need to overcome procrastination, although I have no clue how. I’m beginning to realise that it is the source of much of the stress in my life. I also need help finishing many of the building/renovation projects my late husband started, and in decluttering the mess.
As a new reader of this blog, I’m hoping I can find some of the answers here. I long for minimalism. I need to learn how to achieve it.
Desires can never be accomplished. The thing we need now may not be the priority after few minutes. It is very hard to figure out what we need at the very instance. But I am sure mental peace and self satisfaction is the requirement of every time.
More coffee ;)
laura ann says
I am out of bananas and oranges for smoothies, also need to get some collards and blackeyed peas at Zacks diner tomorrow. Got everything else I need unless something breaks like my 20 plus yr old washer or fridge. We have downsized extensively past year, and donated to several group homes in the community. Don’t miss a thing now gone. Ready to get moved in two bedroom apt for retirees soon.
The thing I need most now is focus and motivation. I am turning 56 this year. I have a wonderful family and I am slowly moving forward in decluttering. I see and read so many things that I would like to do regarding excercise, crafting, journaling, gardening and what happens is… nothing. Too much choice and because of that, no accomplishment at the end of the day. I tend to start, but hardly ever finish or continue things and I am feeling very dissatisfied with myself. So this, Joshua, is a very good question…
Curious how this is a reiteration of a post I just reposted from 2016. This is not letting me avoid it quietly. It is time to dive in with courage and take the time to really consider. Thank you for being obedient and sharing this in such a timely fashion.
I love the shirt without shoulders comment you made lol! I actually like those shirts! I wouldn’t consider it a need, although there was a time I would have. I just want to say there is so much more peace, time to do fun things, and more quality relationships in our life when we give up the pursuit of things or social levels in society. I’m not saying it’s wrong to have money, just wrong to make that our only major pursuit of life. I don’t think anyone can be truly satisfied with money and things, we will always want more. But loving relationships, health, and peace within your heart and mind (because we are good to others and ourselves) will give us back the happy life we’re searching for. Even if we’re not perfectly healthy we can have this fulfillment because we realize the other important things we can focus on.
Another good mentoring question is, “What’s bothering you right now?”
Joshua, you just hit me over the head with this. The things I need are not material possessions.
Right now I need good health both physically and mentally. I’ve been suffering from depression for what seems like all my life & have been on medication on & off.
Physically, I’m suffering from an array of issues that I’ve been trying to take care of with medication, diet and exercise.
I would also like to be at peace with myself and accept myself for who I am.
I’m thinking too hard to find an answer to the question: “what do I need in my life right now.” I suppose, to be lighthearted, a good night’s sleep would sure be nice on a regular basis but as I get older, that seems harder and harder to get.
As I continue to move forward with adopting a minimalist mindset, I find I am simply content and satisfied and full of gratitude for where God has me situated in life right now.
Great question, and the longer I think about it the better it gets!
What do I need right now?
I need the self discipline to reduce my social media and iPad game playing habit. I feel like everything that stresses me, hinges on this. I fall asleep late playing games. Therefore I am grumpier in the morning which makes it a harder morning for the school run. I wake up later cause I am tired because I played games or scrolled mindlessly.
I don’t prioritise meditation or sleep over technology use, which I feel is very necessary for me right now, but I just haven’t given these two things the right weight. Yet. But I am determined.
I feel a bit disconnected from hubby in the evenings, as we sit on the couch together…brains a bit fried from work and parenting. Instead of being connected in that space together, I am using my iPad.
It’s time to make a change. That’s what I need right now.
I will pray for you as you “ruthlessly eliminate what is not contributing to the life you want” for yourself and your family.
Steph Williams-Tinkler says
That sounds just like me and my husband. He worked until late, and when he got home we would sit on the sofa, he on his phone, me on my iPad. Then he got sick, and he died last June. What I wouldn’t give to have that time back again and spend it meaningfully connecting with each other. Time is our most precious commodity and it’s not until we no longer have it that we then realise we should have spent it wisely. The iPad can wait. Time spent with your husband cannot.
Nicci Marquart says
Really enjoyed reading this. well written, thank you for sharing !
Think many of us can benefit from this post.
What a wonderful question. It really does help you reflect on how blessed we are. :)
Thank you, Joshua, for these good words. I’m grateful to quietly be on the journey with you through your blog and books. I continue to move forward more freely and wonderfully step by step, and you are an important part of that.
I guess this will be the question of my day. Thanks for something to think about.
joan mckniff says
I need a heart that works better, that will keep me alive.
For how much longer? Do I dare hope through all of 2018, at least? I don’t dare not to hope that.
I so needed to read this today, it really helped me define the source of my malaise and anxiety. Thank you.
I’ve just read an article on “Swedish death cleaning”
That is, cleaning out your belongings and minimalising your life before you die , so your family don’t have to
My mum recently died and had done this over the past few years, seems she was on trend without knowing it
It all makes so much sense
I was at the shops with my son this week and we were both bored as there was nothing we needed
I find all the above though quite confronting to my own sense of mortality
I know live with less enables you to live more, but I feel like I’m admitting I’m getting old
I know I am but who wants to say it!
Slowly I am cleaning out the unnecessary items from my life
And I love your articles
Just need to keep reminding myself “it’s not all over yet”
It sounds to me like you’re seeking (needing?) a purpose in life that transcends you. As you see the end of life approaching you want to have made a difference in the world. Right? At least I find that is true for me.
Thanks, Joshua, for giving us the opportunity to think about these things!
The fact that this entire post reads like a prayer resonates with me, Joshua. I’m grateful for that spirit in the way you wrote this. May it benefit you and all those who read it. Amen.
In prayers and peace,
Beautifully written. Thank you for the generosity offered for others who read this.
What is most needed is a purpose considered greater; a personal quest. This can be simplified into a sense of community and involvement. A supportive group of friends and/or family is what is severely lacking for many people and that leads to dispair, anxiety. Stress and boredom is the bedrock of social problems as well as health issues. Answers are never of a material nature, basic needs being met.
What a wonderful article. It was affirming as my thoughts were led to how sweet and simple my life is becoming. What I want right now is more of this. More of my own companionship and intimacy. More inner focused. Thank you Joshua.
These are great questions!!!! I will ask some that I know this when the time is right. I can fortunately say I need nothing at this time. Have been working on myself quite a bit the past few months in many areas. One thing I have learned is I say out loud each day things that I am grateful for. The things that many take for granite. This has helped me have more of an inner calm, which I lost for a while, and glad to say I am regaining that calm. I will pose these questions to some I know that complain constantly. Maybe they will see what they have. I had to distance myself from some because the complaining caused me to feel anxious. Thanks for your messages.
Dads Dollars Debts says
In the last week we have found all we need. A home to live in, a balance regained in our lives with our son, and time for each other (my spouse and I). For me, this year is going to be one of not buying anything new. This will be an interesting experiment but one I am happy to pursue. So for now, what I need is better discipline to work out, stretch, and focus on my physical health as my mental health is much improved.
Jill A Miller says
This is a wonderful article. And the fact that nothing in particular came to my mind immediately as I read the question tells me that I am very blessed.
Upon reflection, my ‘needs’ tend to be things I want to accomplish yet in my life; I’m 60 and it turns out that I’m not getting any younger…lol. I finished my Bachelor’s degree in March of 2017. I have the stereotypical list of learning to swim, becoming more proficient on the piano, etc. But I also have the more important list of having more discipline (in a variety of areas), building more, better, stronger relationships, and building a stronger spiritual bond with my Father in heaven.
I am incredibly fortunate that my needs at this point in my life are more ‘wants’.
Joshua… you hit the mark with this one! Thank You!!!
Natalie Clark says
Jill, I will turn 60 this year and am singing the same song here! Thanks for the encouragement!
Praise God indeed!
Needs are very simply to me something that you require or you will die, after that everything else is optional and gets put into categories of “I want…” “I like…” “My goal is to…”, etc. I think we can still accomplish our goals and desires without calling them needs.
What a profound question. One of which I would think most can answer with a need for nothing right now. What a beautiful question for thought.
Time. I need more time
My need is time away from a responsibility I have right now. Maybe if I take time away – I will come back refreshed to go back to it for a lot longer. Otherwise, burn out is on the horizon. This article spoke volumes to me today.
Donna Lewis says
You won’t believe this —- I knew immediately what I needed most (after reading the article). I wrote it above in vague terms because I was embarrassed to tell details. I wrote on scrap paper what I needed, “Time away from responsibility for my mother.” She is presently in a nursing home. I have the SOLE responsibility for her house …which has been impossible to sell for the past ten years. — Yesterday, we Sold it. It was unbelievably simple with a Quit Deed. I didn’t make money – I didn’t want to make money – I needed it gone. This is a responsibility that needed to be lifted, and it happened less than a week after reading this article. Praise God!
Perfect timing for this question! I have been thinking of quitting my job for several months now & I keep floundering back & forth. I realize how much my ego pipes up with reasons to not quit. A lot of it being concerned with what others might think. I need self confidence, strength of heart & mind, & faith in myself that I can do anything & that good things will come to me. I need the discipline to make a decision & stick to my guns.
Great question… thank you!
April, I don’t know you but I send you blessings and I think you should go for it. Life is way too short to stay in a situation because of what other people think. Sending you positive thoughts in whatever you decide.
Thank you for sharing this, I loved it. The timing is perfect for me, it’s exactly what I needed to help channel my energies in 2018 – on the things I need.
The first question forced me to reflect on what I’m grateful for. My ‘what is going well for you’ list is really long, what a beautiful reminder of how blessed I am!
What I need right now is more discipline to do the things I want to do. To make time for meditation in the morning. To wake up at the right time and pace my mornings better so I don’t rush my kids when we get ready for school. To use my lunch hour better, reading or listening to things that feed my spirit. I need more discipline to live a more mindful life.
On point! Luv it.
Cynthia Millen says
What a wonderful essay.
In my middle school (Catholic) classroom, we talk frequently about being poor in spirit (Beatitudes). We realize that the correct definition of “rich” does not mean having everything you want but having everything you need. Then we define what we really need. We understand that the person who “needs” the least is really the “richest” person in the world. This is what being poor in spirit means: needing less and less (and trusting that God will provide.)
Enrique Fiallo says
Awesome. Hit me as hard as it did you when your mentor asked. Perhaps this is a question we ought to ask ourselves periodically?
I believe people should be asked this question much more often. Not just being asked but also ask – ask themselves and ask others – friends, family or even a stranger? This is the reality we now live in – when we have met all the basic needs in our life (shelter, food, etc.) we don’t focus on reaching out for something more significant. We start ‘needing’ things that are irrelevant. We stay in our comfort zone of needs being met and we feel like that’s the place we want to be in – because what else to expect? So then we just fill our lives with things – because we’re comfortable with this life. But how long is it going to last for? How long are we going to be content with trying to fulfil a need we can’t even specify? If we only ask ourselves this question and actually try to dig deeper – I believe we would find the answer and get out of the comfort zone to achieve more and meet out more significant needs. This is a very important post – thank you.
Amy | More Time Than Money says
I too am fortunate to have all my basic needs covered. What I need right now is a stronger connection to my local community. I’ve set community as my guiding word.
In on holiday at the moment, and staying in a neighbourhood more affluent than my own. We were swimming at the local community pool yesterday and notice how everyone else had new flash stuff – from the beach towels, sunglasses, swimsuits, beach bags and pool toys. The other swimmers all live in million dollar houses. My husband and I couldn’t help but notice all this. Rather than feel envious, it made me realise how happy I am with what I have. All that flash stuff is just superficial.