Reality Check: For a fresh start, write your “wants”

Any time is an opportunity for a fresh start. We could work on improving our lives and relationships continuously, all year long. Just because we could, though, doesn’t mean that we do!

However, when a new year rolls around, it seems natural to get motivated and start doing things differently.

Why make changes? Choice Theory uses the metaphor of a scale to explain behaviour. Think of a teeter-totter—one end holds pictures of what you want; the other end holds your perceptions of what you have.

Do the ends match?

If they do, then your personal teeter-totter is balanced and you feel generally satisfied and positive.

If, however, what you want and what you perceive that you have are quite different, then your teeter-totter won’t balance. You’ll have generally painful, negative, dissatisfied feelings—not a happy place.

Wants may be material things, but wants don’t end there. We want love, security, fun, relationships, and more. We may also want to perceive ourselves in certain ways, such as generous, smart, funny, or even feared.

Even if a person’s “wants” and “haves” are generally matched, the teeter-totter won’t stay balanced all the time. As we go through life, situations and relationships change. We change what we want; we change what we have; and we may change our perceptions of both.

When the teeter-totter is not balanced, we get an urge to behave. That urge may be brief, sort of an internally-generated swift kick in the pants that says, “Do something! Get that teeter-totter back on an even keel.”

We respond to that “kick” by behaving; it’s our response to a “want” that we perceive as not being satisfied.

As you well know, sometimes we choose behaviours that are very effective at building relationships and satisfying our needs. Other times, well…our choices aren’t so effective. Either way, we choose a behaviour that seems like a good idea at the time.

My new year’s suggestion is to devote a few minutes to think about what you want and how you perceive what you have. It’s helpful to be clear (at least within yourself.) Then write it down.

Writing helps to counteract the forgetfulness that’s prevalent for some of us as the years go flying by. More importantly, writing also serves as a “reality check.”

You see, that gap between what we want and what we have tends to shift. What used to be perfectly satisfying might seem terribly inadequate now!

For example, last year Johnny was driving a five-year-old car and fishing in the backyard lake. He had what he wanted; his internal teeter-totter was balanced. This year, Johnny craves a new car and a Labrador fishing trip. His previously-balanced teeter-totter is now signaling pain and frustration, even though he’s still satisfying last year’s wants.

Do you remember what satisfaction meant to you last year? 10 years ago? Perhaps it was freedom, self-sufficiency, respect, love. Does satisfaction mean the same to you now?

Keeping a written reminder of what you want at different points in your life can help maintain perspective. As you satisfy your wants, do other wants pop up?

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