Merriam-Webster defines necessity as “the quality or state of being necessary,” but that doesn’t capture its essence. Better is the definition from the original 1828 Webster’s dictionary: “irresistible power; compulsive force, physical or moral.”

The word comes from the Old French term necessité, which meant “need, necessity; privation, poverty; distress, torment; obligation, duty,” and can be traced back to the Latin necessitatem, meaning “compulsion, need for attention, unavoidableness, destiny.”

Necessity isn’t mere “desire” or even “passion.” It’s obsession, relentlessness, and inevitability. When you approach something with necessity, you give your whole self over to it and embody an extreme level of intensity and focus, an almost all-consuming singlemindedness.

With necessity, your perspective shifts away from what’s “possible” or “realistic”—or worse, “comfortable”—and toward whatever it takes to make it. With necessity comes courage and energy and the desperate urge to succeed at any cost. And that’s exactly what it takes to create anything worthwhile, whether a body, career, or relationship. As Oscar Wilde said, “Nothing succeeds like excess.” Or as Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice in Wonderland:

My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.

So, before embarking on an endeavor, any endeavor, get answers to the following questions:

  1. What does a win look like here, exactly?
  2. What will that cost in terms of time, money, energy, and effort?
  3. Am I ready to pay that price? And double or triple that, if needed?

And don’t begin until you’ve got your arms fully around numbers one and two and got your stomach fully through number three. This is how you avoid the languor of vague, unquantified, lukewarm commitments. This is the recipe for necessity.