I have a dog. I have two cats. I have a lovely wife. I have an Ex-Lax Porcelain Thermometer. I have a storage rack for my 20+ pairs of Converse All-Stars. All of these drive to a simple question. “Do I really need that?”

I recently wrote a 4th of July column for a client, and started reflecting back on our national history. If not for the founders, I’d be missing a lot of the things I truly need. I need the ability to laugh at people higher than me in the food chain. I need the opportunity to find ways to grow my business. I need my family. But as I survey the landscape of my new (downsized) home, I come to the realization that I have a lot of things that I don’t really need. The fourth snow shovel? Nope. The back-up light pull that may or may not fit in any of the lamps in the house? No.

The short answer on many of the things that I own is “no.” I love having them. But they are not needs. I often throw around the word “need” like it means something. I have resolved moving forward to minimize its use. When we deploy the word “need”, we should use it for the things that truly matter–Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. The last one is crucial to me. I NEED to be able to pursue happiness. Note that that’s not the same as being happy. I don’t always need to be happy. But I DO need to be able to pursue it.

As we head into the dog days of summer, ask yourself each day, “What do I need today?” It’s a wonderful and powerful question if asked properly. And your answers may surprise you.