I hear a lot of people say that they want to do things they’re not doing.
I say they don’t really want to do those things. They only think they want to.
Like, you might say, “I’d really want to write a book” or “I’d love to be a long-distance runner” but if you don’t write and you don’t run, you don’t really want to.
I hear all the arguments. You really do want to write, you just don’t have the time, or you’re too tired, or you don’t have the right materials. Or you really do want to run, you just don’t know where to start, or you’re scared, or you’re not cleared by your doctor.
I’d say that if you really and truly want to write or run, you do it. You find a way and you just do it. It’s not effort. It’s not hard. It’s just what you do. Like when you get up with your crying baby in the middle of the night. You’re exhausted and the excuses not to get up are many, but you don’t even bother generating excuses. Your legs just start walking toward the baby’s room with or without your consent.
So if you’re not doing something, you may think you want to, but you don’t really want to.
If you’re standing in front of the refrigerator and you have to ask, “Am I hungry?” you’re not. If you were hungry you’d eat. If you’re only thinking about being hungry, you ask.
Writing and running are no different.
And to look at the reverse, it’s also true that whatever you’re doing right now, you want to be doing.
That’s a tough one, I know. I have clients who swear up and down that they don’t want to be in the job or the city or the financial situation they’re in. They serve on the PTO and they say they hate the PTO.
But if you don’t want to be doing it, why are you? No one’s holding a gun to your head.
There are consequences to every choice we make and they complicate things. We say we want a better financial situation, but the truth of the matter is that we don’t want to work the crappy job more than we do want money. We say we want to quit the PTO but the truth is we want to feel needed more than we want to quit.
So, I get it. Sometimes it’s not fair and we really want two things that are conflicting and we can’t get them both. But make no mistake—you’re always choosing the one you want more. When money becomes more important than working a crappy job, you’ll have money. When running becomes more important than being nervous or uninformed, you’ll be a runner.
There are no right or wrong choices here, either. I’d totally rather be a non-runner and (many days) a non-writer. The reason I know that is because I am.
Even though I think I’d like to run and write, it’s crystal clear to me that I don’t really want to all that much because I’m not.
And the whole reason for pointing this out is just so that you know for sure—you’re choosing the life you have. That means you can always (always, always, always) choose differently.
When you really want to.
Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.
[…] You’re doing exactly what you want to do […]
While I fully agree with the concept when talking about people who are living pretty well, the idea tends to break down when talking about people who are barely managing to survive. And then there’s everyone in between.
If I really wanted to run, but both legs are ruined from diabetic neuropathies, and I used to run when my legs were healthy, then my options have been limited.
If I really wanted to move out of the war-torn country I presently lived in, but I was turned down for a visa, repeatedly, then continuing to live in that country isn’t just about not really wanting to move out.
However, for most adults living in Western countries, who aren’t at war, who have access to medical care, who are in reasonably decent physical shape, the article *does* bring up an important issue. We often use excuses to avoid doing something, especially if what we want is an outcome that requires interim steps we *don’t* like taking. So, I might truly want to buy nicer clothes, but I may not want to work more hours (if that is the only way to get there).
Therefore, the problem is often not that we don’t really know what we want, but that we want to skip the tough parts in order to jump right to the final reward we seek.
People all over the world have this problem. We somehow feel that doing the boring, difficult, obnoxious parts are “unfair” and therefore, we “shouldn’t have to” do those parts. This leaves us feeling like life isn’t fair, and like we don’t get what we want. As is well described in the article above. So, if we want the final goal, but we avoid the steps to getting there, then we are not doing ourselves any favors. And fairness has little to do with it.
Thank you for writing this article. Some truths I need reminding of, here.
I totally agree. I write for the “majority” in those typical situations and you’re right, this doesn’t completely and literally apply in every single situation known to man. But I believe it’s a huge, powerful message for “most” people.
Um, I’m going to disagree. Nah, I’m waving the “Voice of Privilege” flag. I know plenty of people who actually do want to eat, but have no money. Who do want to work, but have few skills or live in an area where there just aren’t any jobs. Plenty of people who would love to quit their soul-stealing jobs, but paying rent and buying enough food so their kid doesn’t starve is more important. Woman who were pressed into prostitution, wives who are terrified of leaving their abusive spouse. People who’d like to go to a doctor but have no insurance and no money.
Crap like this is a blame the victim mentality, where those with privilege can sit back and ignore those who are struggling with the claim that they must want to be there.
And I have a friend who’d love to run a marathon, but his broken back won’t let him, no matter how much he wants it.
Yes, yes, if you have the physical, financial, and mental abilty with no other extenuating circumstances then, yes, you probably could run that marathon if you wanted it bad enough. But much of our lives run on sheer luck: our financial status at birth, our race and gender, our mental capabilities, much of our personality…to imply that everyone could be an opera singer if they just tried hard enough…or a gymnast, or a pro-golfer, or whatever, discounts genetics and background and talents and ability to learn and the quality of schools and the racism or sexism one has faced and the environment one lives in and another hundred or so random factors that play a role in our lives.
I’m not going to sneer at the single mom who works two jobs to survive because she’s to tired to go run a quick 15 miles to train for a marathon. It isn’t about her wanting it bad enough, it’s about having a life that has no room for what she wants. And that isn’t just on her. Or him.
Thanks for your comment, Darlene.
I think much of what you’re saying is in agreement with my view—there are always trade-offs we may not be willing to make for what we want. If paying rent is more important than quitting a soul-stealing job (as it is for most people), then we won’t quit the job. That doesn’t mean we can’t. That doesn’t mean there may not be other jobs out there. It just means for the present moment, we’d rather be in the soul-stealing job than not pay rent. My point is that it’s still a choice. I don’t believe the universe forces us into many corners in life. Our options may be limited but in most normal circumstances, we have some sort of choice we can make. The prostitute you say was forced into prostitution wasn’t really forced. She may have seen no other way out—that’s absolutely true. She may have FELT forced in her own mind, but she wasn’t literally forced into the choice. She made the choice.
And to Becca’s and your point—you’re right, your friend with a broken back may not be able to RUN a marathon no matter how badly he wants to. But he has the option of COMPLETING a marathon, or any number of other sporting competitions, if he wants to. People walk marathons, crawl marathons, and get pushed over the finish line in wheelchairs every day.
When the universe hands us stuff we don’t want and feel like we can’t control (like cancer or a broken back), we sometimes have to revise our desires a little. Not abandon them, just tweak them. Instead of running a marathon we complete a marathon. Instead of becoming physically impregnated by our spouse, we choose to become a parent instead.
Again, just my viewpoint and I appreciate opposing ones!
It’s a good sentiment, and I’m all about realizing you are choosing things. In fact, I don’t believe in making New Years Resolutions because if you really wanted those things, you’d be doing them. But:
My cousin is a quadriplegic; he wants to walk. My aunt has a back injury; she wants a job, but she can barely move. My son has Tourrette’s; he wants to say a whole sentence smoothly, without a tic, and he wants the other 10 year olds not think he’s stupid just because he takes a long time to say what he wants to say. My sister’s husband had testicular cancer and is infertile; she wants to get pregnant.
There are things in life we want that have nothing to do with choices.
I do think that health conditions are the one major exception to this to some extent.
BUT, even though we can’t wave a magic wand and change our health status we have an ENORMOUS range of power and influence within those parameters that we often don’t realize.
For the person who can barely move but wants a job, I’d say there are jobs that don’t require movement. If what that person wants is A JOB, I believe they can likely get it. If what they want is to be a waitress or a construction worker then no, they probably can’t. But a job could be possible.
For the person who wants to be pregnant but her husband has testicular cancer, she can be pregnant. She can be a parent if that’s what she decides she wants. But if the requirements are that she become physically pregnant from her husband then no, she probably can’t.
You’re absolutely right that we don’t always get exactly what we want in the precise way we want and expect it to look. But we often see challenges as dead ends when they aren’t. Sometimes it helps to think of the BIG PICTURE of what we want and find a way to get that if we aren’t able to control the details.
Just my viewpoint 🙂 Thanks for sharing yours!
I really wanna skip jury duty tomorrow….really. Sigh. But guess I want to be a responsible person who does the right thing more.
But just a little bit more.
a teeeeeensy tiiiiiinesy bit more…
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