Reality Check: What We Want and What We Control

One of the structured processes used in Reality Therapy is known as WDEP, where the W stands for Wants. That is, the first step in the process is—Figure out what you want! You’d think that would be simple, wouldn’t you?
Some people have their wants perfectly clear in their minds. They can even find ways to go about achieving them. For others, it’s not always so straightforward. Why not?
We probably want more than one thing, and those wants don’t come with a guarantee that they are possible to achieve. For example, we may have wants for ourselves, such as “I want to be respected by my family,” or “I want to have a home of my own,” Or “I want to run a marathon.”
We might also have wants for other people, such as “I want my friend to be healed,” or “I want my son to find his true love” or “I want X and Y to get along better.”
Wants can reflect grand visions, such as, “I want peace on earth.” Or they may be less lofty, “I just want to be left alone.”
Do you know what you want? Maybe you do, but you might not want to admit what you want for fear of criticism or mockery. Perhaps your wants don’t line up with what you believe you “should” want. Maybe they don’t agree with the current fashion—what our culture says are the correct wants.
Yet even if we never tell a single person what we want, being clear in our own minds can still be helpful. It can guide us as we choose our actions. “Will this action lead me closer to what I want? Or take me further away?” These helpful questions are only effective if “what we want” is known to us.
Clarity can also help us uncover a potential issue that often gets in our way. It’s old news but it bears repeating—there are only some things we can control. Others we can’t. They can be surprisingly difficult to tell apart.
Take the previous example, “I want to be respected by my family.” It puts control of your satisfaction into the hands of your family. No matter what praiseworthy things you do, you can’t control whether they respect you or not. Ultimately, it’s up to them.
A more effective want may be, “I want to be the kind of person I respect.” This isn’t the same as the original sentiment; however, this want is within your control. Envision someone you respect. Work toward becoming a person like that by acting as they would act. Do this consistently. You will become a person worthy of respect.
Does that suggest that wants over which we have no control are futile? No, I don’t think so. For example, we can want “my friend to be healed” with the realization that whether healing happens or not is out of our hands. If we think harder though, perhaps the want is, “I want my friend to have the best life possible.” Perceiving it this way opens the door to things you can control—actions you can take to make a positive difference in your friend’s life.
If you feel unsure of your direction, flailing about on your path through life, taking some time to examine, “What do I want?” may be time well spent.
What do you want?

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