Reality Check: The Quest For What You Want

What do you want? Is that a question worth thinking about? Some believe it’s selfish to think about what we want. Others see it as futile; if you believe you can’t get what you want, why bother asking?
Yet “wants” play an important role in our lives. In the Reality Therapy process called WDEP, that very first letter, W, stands for wants. What we want is connected to what we value, including the people and principles we care about. Wants are not just about things.
Does what we want matter? If we want to live a reasonably satisfied life, then yes. When we perceive that we have what we want, we’re pretty satisfied. What about when we don’t? I suspect that all of us, at some point, have become familiar with how life is when things are not as we’d like them to be.
How do we decide what we want?
Maria has always loved spy movies. She loves the intrigue, the secrecy, the adventure. So when she learned that there was a possibility that her family history included someone who may have contributed to “interesting” events in the past, she definitely wanted to learn more.
Maria’s curiosity began to dominate her thoughts. It was all she could think about, but she couldn’t get anywhere. Her frustration grew, enhanced by the fact that her friends and family didn’t care. They looked at this family history with mild curiosity; Maria saw it as fundamental to her identity.
As Maria ruminated in frustration, her endless discussions became tedious. Friends drifted away. More isolation contributed more dissatisfaction for Maria.
Before she’d had any inkling of this fascinating story, Maria was perfectly fine with her identity, activity, friends, and life in general. Now, not so much. She believes she needs to know.
It can be surprisingly difficult to tell the difference between a want that is impossible to satisfy versus a want that we could satisfy if we are persistent. We’ve all heard the slogans: “You can do anything; the possibilities are endless!” Much motivational literature is focused on encouraging people to do what might seem to be the impossible.
But there are some wants that we simply cannot satisfy, and we don’t necessarily know at the outset whether this is one of them! Realistically, Maria may never find out what really happened. Then again, maybe she will.
If you are distressed by a want that you can’t seem to shake, then here’s a suggestion:
Take charge of your attitude toward your quest. I’ve used the word “quest” deliberately, as it brings to mind the idea of an adventure. A quest is difficult. A quest requires creativity, risk, and spirit. A quest might end in success, but it might not. Either way, a quest is more fun than an obsession, isn’t it?
Then, self-assess as you go. Are you making progress? Is your quest increasing or decreasing your frustration? Is this still a burning want? Does it still matter?
We do have some control over our wants. We can ask, “Do I really want this if it brings me misery?” If we do, then we can also choose to treat the pursuit as a happy adventure rather than an entitlement. It might not get us closer to success, but the journey will be more fun.
Are there things you want that you know or suspect cannot be satisfied? How do you deal with that?

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