Wanting and liking: never forget the difference

Wanting something is different from liking something. It's an important distinction we should never forget.

Liking, as Dan Gilbert and Timothy Wilson put it in their terrific (and important) paper Miswanting, relates to "how a thing makes us feel".

Wanting, on the other hand, is "a prediction of [how a thing will make us feel]". 

One of the biggest challenges in modern life is to distinguish between the things that we like, from the things we want.

Maybe in the distant past there was a reliable connection between the two.

But now, there are many things we want but don't particularly like. And there are many things we like but don't always want. 

In other words, we can be terrible at forecasting what we'll like. But most of our behaviour is driven by wanting. Or "seeking" - which is largely fuelled by the neurotransmitter dopamine, one of the great engines of human motivation (not satisfaction). 

We live in a world where billion dollar companies (such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Youtube) hire the best and brightest to encourage us to "engage" with their streams. Other companies, such as Apple, are masterful at making us feel a physical pang for their new products. (Guilty as charged.) 

Wanting v liking.jpg

But these things, and many of the things we want, are not necessarily the things that we actually like. 

I don't mean "like" in the Facebook sense of the world. Spending time on electronic pages that never end, like Facebook's Newsfeed. Versus actually spending time, in physical space, with our closest friends and family members.

Buying the latest gadget versus an experience that we can share with our partner - or even having the money in the bank, knowing it's there for a rainy day or to provide us with more flexibility and autonomy in our day-to-day life. 

There are so many things in life that we want. What we need to remember is what we like.

Wanting and liking: never forget the difference.

Sonnie Bailey

Sonnie is the founder and principal of Fairhaven Wealth.

Before founding Fairhaven Wealth, Sonnie worked in the legal and financial services industries for over a decade.

Sonnie first became involved with financial advice as a specialist financial services lawyer. For many years, he was an “adviser of advisers”, reviewing thousands of advice files prepared by hundreds of financial advisers, and providing feedback in relation to the quality and appropriateness of advice; industry best practice; risk management; and regulatory compliance. He has published work in industry publications and spoken at various financial advice conferences.

Sonnie has also worked with banks, investment management firms, insurers, and derivatives providers.

Sonnie has worked as a private client lawyer, focusing on succession, estate planning and trusts. He ran his own legal firm in Australia before relocating to New Zealand. He has also acted in independent trustee and company director positions.

Sonnie is passionate about helping people achieve their goals and manage the risks to which they are exposed.

He has written extensively on his blog, New Zealand Wealth and Risk, which can be found at www.wealthandrisk.nz.

Sonnie is married to his wonderful wife Chrissy, and has two young children, Ben and Anna.