Reality Check: When Wants Collide

When our wants collide with the wants of others, conflict can occur. However, you don’t necessarily need two people for a conflict! How about when your wants collide?

Jane wants many things. She wants time to spend with her children and to appreciate her elderly relatives.

She also wants money. She wants a good paycheque, benefits, and pension to reduce her anxiety about the future.

She also wants achievement, to know that she is the absolute best she can be.

She also wants involvement and contribution, to know she’s fulfiling her role in society.

And Jane wants fun. She wants to replace her feelings of drudgery and disappointment with feelings of success and abundance.

That’s not asking too much, is it?

Jane sees her life as a series of false starts. She has started jobs with hope. She has started educational endeavours with enthusiasm. She leapt into a volunteering initiative with vigour. She eagerly created a new life as a stay-at-home mom.

Each start ended in frustration. Why?

Jane’s approach has been to throw herself wholeheartedly into whatever is pressing at the time, ignoring her other needs. Then, she begins to see the downsides. When she is working, she has no time. When she is in school, she has no money. When she is raising her children, she feels she’s not achieving her potential. Jane is running in circles and not getting much satisfaction.

Ultimately, she interprets that frustration to mean that the path she is on must be wrong. She throws it out and starts anew.

It will be helpful if Jane steps back from her frantic starts to quietly consider her big picture. Some of her wants collide. For example, if she satisfies her want for professional achievement, she cannot also satisfy her want for free time.

Perhaps you can have it all, but Jane has found that she can’t have it all at the same time. What is most important right now? Here are two suggestions to help Jane define priorities.

  • Are any of her wants time-sensitive? If Jane’s picture of family time includes engaging with her children while they are young, then those years don’t last forever. Likewise, opportunities with her elderly relatives are time-limited as well. When choosing priorities, consider whether some will disappear unless they are grasped now.
  • Define a timeframe and persist. If Jane starts an educational program, finish it. If she takes a new job, decide how many years to stay. Then move on in a planned fashion.
  • Become clear on what accomplishment looks like for her to feel fulfilled, how much contribution she needs to feel satisfied, how much fun she needs! If all that time comes to more than 24 hours every day, then she’ll need to choose between them.

If the idea, “I can do everything if I just learn to multitask” works for you, that’s great. Lesser mortals like me, however, need to choose priorities and do a few things at a time.

Starting with, “What is most important?” can help you ensure that you do first things first.

How do you set priorities?

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