Why You Don’t Have What You Want
You can have anything you want — as long as you actually want it.
People tell me about their desires. Many of these big-hearted humans say they want to re-invent themselves in their careers, write a book (or start writing something), have more fun and lightness in daily life, create better connections with people, stop taking everything so seriously.
If the things we say we want are true, why don’t we have them?
Let’s roll back the bedcovers of our Wants and have a good look at what’s going on.
Sometimes a Want languishes because: Where do I start? This happens all the time, and it’s often the reason I seek coaching. For example, someone who wants to write a book often needs to simply begin writing— any jumble of words until she’s collected pages of a topic that’s obsessing her, and amassing material that can eventually make a book. In the process she’s learned more about what she wants to write, how to write and if she even wants to write.
People who are unhappy at work have created a pattern of conditioned thinking that they have to start to see in order to break cycles and create new experiences.
Sometimes we gnaw on what we think we should want rather than what we really want. I first saw this distinction during an awakening in my mid-30s, when I was metaphorically returning people’s Wants to them so I could see my own more clearly. The yearning to join a fancy tennis club was someone else’s; I was happy lifting weights and taking spin classes at a downtown gym. The goal to have a magazine-cover living room definitely didn’t jive with the minimalist, yet lived-in feel I had settled in to. The more I got real with myself, the more relaxed, and happier, I felt.
Sometimes what we want runs deeper and is buried beneath the real Want. A burnt out professional who wants to change careers might actually be looking for less stress and more ease, which might be about creating a richer life outside of her career. It takes some exploring to get there, and then: kaboom, a new world opens up. The path curves and has all sorts of goodies hiding in the bushes.
Sometimes we just don’t really want what we say we want.
“I want to stop eating sugar,” I told my husband one night as I lapped up a bowl of ice cream and berries. No sugar would calm my nervous system, help me sleep better, and reduce some chronic pain. And yet — ice cream, night after night.
What it came down to was: I liked the idea of eating less sugar. Yet despite any improvements in my sleep and state-of-being, what I really I wanted to do was to eat ice cream. I knew this, because night after night I filled that damn bowl up with Talenti gelato. I was so happy with my ice cream, until I started thinking about what I should be doing, a Want that was rooted in judgment, not desire or a calling. Judgment is such a joy kill.
No matter how much we wrestle with the book or blog we want to write that we haven’t started yet; no matter how loudly we proclaim that this time, we really will quit the job, start a business, exercise more, stop taking things so personally or eating Talenti every night, in the end: we always do what we want to do. The main difference is this: you can eat the bowl of ice cream peacefully, or eat it with the resistance raging in your head.
When you really want something, the “how” doesn’t matter
Have you ever noticed that the times in your life when you had a precise and even sudden focus of vision — SHAZAM, THAT! — and you knew as much as you’ve ever known anything you were going to make it happen?
I’ve had that kind of determination a few times in my life. One, in the early-to-mid-90s when I caught whiff of this incoming industry that would present new opportunities for writers (it was the Internet). I knew I was going to be part of it, and I had no idea how. There was no language to talk about this world, no job listings and no experts in the field. When I signed up for an authoring class, it had to do with coding, not writing. There was no ruminating or hand ringing, no timelines or written out goals; I moved through my days fully engaged, curious, talking to anyone and everyone, and taking every opportunity that presented itself, until I landed a job across the country while visiting a boyfriend (talk about unplanned), and rode the web content wave for a couple of amazing decades.
When I wanted to get back to my own creative writing after a couple years break, I knew I needed to tap back into a community to get going again. Miraculously, friends started inviting me to classes, telling me about retreats and writing groups. I said Yes to everything. Over time I had my own writer’s group, some fabulous writing mentors and coaches and I wrote and wrote and wrote — with varying degrees of productivity let me tell you — until I finished my first memoir.
You see, we know what to do when we want something. We are so resourceful, it’s crazy what we know to do.
If you really, really want something, the “how” becomes irrelevant. This is the magic created by actually wanting something.
I’m sure you had your moment too, when you wanted something in a way that only required being resourceful enough to create it, no plan or map needed. You found your way, you made it happen.
When you really, really want something, the how doesn’t matter. You’ll get the help, find the coach, take the class, run into the person at a random coffee shop, ask the question on a Zoom call. The universe conspires to assist you, if you’re willing to play with it — and more importantly, be in it.
This doesn’t mean you have to have a fire of certainty burning in your heart. Most of the time it’s a gentle curiosity or a “what’s-over-there,” and we go exploring around that bend. Just remember: If you really, truly want something, you’ll do it, no matter what — whether it’s eating ice cream nightly, creating a new business, living with less stress, or writing a book.
When you’re ready to go down the path, let it take as long as it takes. And then, go after it with all your heart.