Believe it or not, most people do not know what they really want. I have asked my clients many times what it is that would make them happy and more often than not, they have no answer. Why is this? Surely we should all know ourselves inside and out? It would seem that the reality is that we bumble along not entirely sure of our direction.
Depending on which research you accept, a 25-year-old is between three and 10 times more likely to suffer from depression than someone of that age in the 1950’s. Why are so many of us are more depressed and less satisfied than 50 years ago considering that we all have more choices and social mobility than before?
People are so busy making a living that they forget to get a life. Sociologists say it’s because we have raised our expectations. We want more and we’re demanding more of ourselves. We were happier 50 years ago because we had fewer choices, fewer opportunities and more restrictions. That sounds paradoxical but too much choice can lead to stress, indecision and a feeling that you are missing out. Nowadays, figuring out what you want when you’re surrounded by other people’s ideas can be bewildering. Buy this product, choose that car to show others how successful you are. Buying into all the media hype isn’t a choice but opting out of it is. We are conditioned to believe that success means wealth, power and status. Often these clash with our inner values but we chase them anyway and end up feeling empty. Are you so busy keeping up and trying to make a living that you might be missing out? Missing out on what truly makes you happy? Your happiness may be dependent on far more simple options than you think. Your ‘conditioning’ (from your parents and the media etc) might be obscuring what you really need.
If you are dissatisfied it’s because you know there’s more to life. Most of us intuitively know what we want although over time that association may become eroded. It may not be clear now or it may lurk under the surface but it’s there. Occasionally people will feel an overwhelming sense that they are living the wrong life for them, that they took a wrong turn at some point. People live in denial. Why? When we face up to things, we acknowledge their existence and this can be frightening. Once we confront our dissatisfaction there is no going back. Once you acknowledge you have to do something about it – if you deny, you can live your life as it is and not deal with the underlying unhappiness. You either move forwards or feel even more dissatisfied than before.
Sometimes it’s not about wanting more but about needing less. The secret of a happy life is to do more of what you enjoy. Activities that nurture your values act as a natural anti-depressant. From that comes all the energy, talent, ideas and actions to achieve success. We are never good at anything we don’t really enjoy. Find something you want, something you enjoy and throw yourself into it.
What to do about what you want
To help figure out what you want, ask yourself what you don’t want. List five things you definitely don’t want. Ask yourself what you have given up on that really matters? One of the saddest things is to change what you want rather than what you do, to accept things that you never set out to get in the first place. Whether it’s a lifestyle, a standard of living, and income, the lack of a social or love life, or having no time with your family. Do you compromise things that really matter to you rather than learning new ways to go about things? Admit that it’s important and don’t give up on it.
The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Constant craving makes you a good consumer but it won’t lead to that inner fulfilment. More things, holidays-there is nothing wrong with wanting the best but realise that you don’t need these things to be happy. What is really great in your life right now that you don’t appreciate?
Be more selective of the media messages that you buy into. Select your methods of conditioning and watch what you’re filling your head with. The glossy magazines that show perfect people are often the same perfect people that are the most tormented with self-loathing, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse. Don’t buy into the illusion that they have it all. You don’t need to be an observer watching others have a good life. You have the ability to live a life that is lin line with your values and this will allow you to feel your life has meaning and purpose.