How to figure out what we really want?
As we build our lives and our future, we are constantly running through our heads: “I want to build a country cottage”, “I need to learn how to drive”, “I want a successful business”, “I wish I finally had a baby”… We think we know what we want, and we even make some effort to achieve what we want. But how do we know if these are really our goals, or if they came from somewhere else?
Wishes, aspirations, intentions, dreams, desires, daydreams… How many different words there are for the projected future! And each has its own semantic connotation. Some of the imaginary images are destined to forever remain unfulfilled, while others are destined to become plans and goals that, when achieved, will change reality and ourselves.
A dream can exist at the level of ideas, concepts, and fantasies, and it is not for nothing that they say it is “beautiful”, “unattainable”. Desire has a higher potential for realism. But it may not come true if we do not particularly need it, we just heard that it is necessary. But if the desire is born from within, it has every chance to come true.
Although sometimes desires become a response to external events, helping us adapt to new circumstances. Below we will tell you some real life stories of how wishes came true and how it happened.
At my behest, at my will
“For a long time I didn’t dare to take my license, although I fantasized about driving myself one day. I had a car, but my husband drove it,” Mary, 42, recalls. – And after my son was born, I realized that I couldn’t go anywhere without a car: the kindergarten was just a few bus stops away. My instructor and I drove the baby to the day care every morning in the training car.
It was a double stress for me – I was already in a sweat from fear of the road, and there was also my son behind me. But thanks to my driving I became much freer, I have been driving for almost 15 years, I travel all over the country and rent a car abroad. And I really enjoy it. Thanks to my son – if it weren’t for his kindergarten, I would still be a pedestrian”.
We suppose many readers here have the question: “What if?” and “Why do some dreams come true and others don’t?” We asked these questions to an experienced psychologist and received the following answer:
A strong desire becomes a prototype of the future if it is transformed into a goal. We fantasize about all sorts of things: about things and skills, about ourselves, about what we could be. But in order for all this to become reality, we need to want it very intensely. Then we need a plan of action, the motivation to implement this plan, and the necessary resources.
If it is all there and we achieve what we want, it is natural to expect that we, like Mary, change things for the better and feel satisfied. More often than not, we do. But not always.
For example, the modern fashion for “achieving” makes many people set goals, get results, but one day, most often during a midlife crisis, some find that they have everything: wife, business, career, children, wealth, but no sense of happiness. One of the reasons for this is that we have channeled our magical “wanting” in the wrong direction. Not for nothing in the offices of psychotherapists often hear the phrase: “I feel as if I am not living my life”.
An inherited dream
“We were very friendly with my father,” says Tim, 41. – We often went on vacation out of town, where there were a lot of forest rivers. We fished, lived in a tent, burned fires, and sometimes stayed with his acquaintances in village houses. My father said that one day we would have our own house on the bank of the river.
When I was 19 years old, my father died. I vowed then that I would buy a country house. Five years ago I finally got one. Even though it’s a long way from my town, and I work a lot and am very tired, I try to come there as soon as I can, to tinker, to mow the grass.
And recently I caught myself thinking that I don’t want to wind kilometers and I would love to go somewhere else. But the hut needs care, it “calls”. I think that when I was nineteen, the idea of fulfilling my father’s dream was an attempt not to let him go, to be with him. But now I’m an adult and I understand that you can’t bring my father back, and the dream of the house was his, not mine”.
According to psychologists, other people’s dreams often prevent people from becoming happy. And this is most often encountered by children who, without resistance, do the will of their parents. Today the destinies of many children are determined before they are able to understand what they really want. There are families of hereditary military, doctors, politicians, businessmen. Living from childhood in such an environment, a child sees and understands how important and dear to his or her family a profession handed down from generation to generation. Following tradition allows you to be part of the family system.
The need for acceptance by society and family dictates that we strive (not always realized) to be “our own people”. Only in this way can we be sure that we will be supported in every way. Opposition to imposed values can result in one becoming an outcast.
We are social creatures, and in order to survive in society, we not only need to do what we want, but also to respond to the needs of others. This is inherent in nature.
So how do we not become a hostage to other people’s goals and ambitions? It’s not hard. The main task – to find a balance between the realization of own desires and participation in the execution of the desires of others. Each person has its own balance. You need to learn to recognize your needs and prioritize what to do first, what to do next.
What we want: A tough choice
According to psychologists the humans, as biological beings, are incapable of living without desires and dreams. We have physiological needs that are primarily related to survival and reproduction. These are internal programs that accompany us all our lives and determine many of our actions.
But we don’t just want what nature has in store for us! Culture and modern civilization expand the range of our possibilities almost to infinity! We can want all kinds of entertainment and ways to spend our time. Often these desires are unrelated to biological needs and even conflict with them: they threaten survival as well as the ability to bear children. The abundance of offerings is disorienting.
For the first time in history, we live in such abundance that we have not learned to sort through it. And if in past times, as one grew older, one became more aware of one’s desires and learned how to satisfy them, now age does not guarantee greater clarity and understanding!
How to make sense of own desires? How to understand what is really important and valuable? The main key to understanding is our feelings. But if we don’t understand them, we have no criterion for choosing.
Modern environment is designed to confuse what people really want. All the media, advertising, and social networks are targeted to increase the number of our desires. Here are a few examples:
- Are you sexy enough? Can you be as beautiful as these people on Instagram?
- Have you made more money this month/year?
- Is your car good enough?
- Is your house good enough?
- Would a new phone/gadget/clothes make you happier?
- Are you overweight? Isn’t it time to take up yoga and sports?
- Have you definitely experienced this and this in your life?
There’s so much to try, to learn, to experience! But no matter what we choose, something else we have to sacrifice. And even realizing that there are objective limitations, we often suffer from the fact that we can’t have everything at once.
If a person really doesn’t know what he wants, he becomes a hostage to advertising and starts buying up everything in a row, taking more and more loans, driving himself into serious debt. Rational thinking at this point shuts down, because there are more and more desires, and it becomes more and more difficult to satisfy them.
There are also reverse situations, when people simply wander around the stores, “hanging out” in front of the windows, just not knowing what else they want to buy more. One of the most common forms of addiction to imposed consumption is the disease of shopaholism, when people cannot live without shopping several times a week. Girls most often suffer from this disease, although this addiction occurs in men as well.
Some people deliberately set themselves so that by buying this or that thing their life will be better. This, of course, is self-deception.
According to psychologists, addiction to shopping is not difficult to cure. Much more difficult to rid people of the dependence of the desire to fulfill the will of loved ones: parents, spouses.
In a relationship, there are almost always certain difficulties, but if partners can openly declare their desires, not requiring the other to guess about them, and are sensitive to the desires of the partner, the chances for the future of such a couple are greater. On the other hand, sometimes we want things that contradict the desires of the other or his moral values. In this case, all that is left to consider is that desires have limitations.
One of the founding fathers of cognitive therapy, Albert Ellis, said that a healthy person is a healthy egoist who is aware that he lives surrounded by other healthy egoists. It is important not only to strive to achieve what we want, but also to realize that we are surrounded by people who have their own desires, not just those capable of satisfying ours.
So how to find the balance?
There is a saying: “There is no harm in dreaming”. We all love to dream. However, it is important to understand that the process of achieving our dreams and the desires of others has the following nature:
- It is an energy-consuming process that requires time and effort. And often a huge lot of it;
- In pursuing our dreams and our desires, we always have to sacrifice something. Therefore it is important to understand for ourselves: “What will I lose if?”, “Is it worth it?”;
- Always ask yourself: “Is this really what I want? Or is this what someone else wants?”;
- Don’t forget that dreams and desires tend to “burn out” with age. For example, as a child, children want a puppy or a bicycle, but in adulthood this purchase will no longer bring the same joy. Another example: many young guys dream of buying a sports car, but when they become over 40 this purchase no longer makes sense (because of family, children, household) and it is better to buy a minivan or a large SUV;
- And of course, do not forget about how your dream will affect the people closest to you. Selfishness is good, but in moderation. It is ideal that your goals benefit not only you, but also your family, friends and other loved ones.
If these tips have not helped you and you don’t know what to dream about, psychologists advise to relax and enjoy what you have already achieved, and don’t want anything more. Do not force yourself, give yourself and your brain time to rest until you have new strength and ideas.