September 27, 2020

Getting clear on what you want - not just what you don’t

Imagine going to a boutique restaurant. Your server hands you a small single page menu. On the menu are four appetizers, six  mains, and three desert options. You enjoy a wonderful glass of wine and the server come around ask asks "What would you like to eat this evening?" (better said "what do you want?"). You remember looking at the menu but can't quite remember what all was on it but you definitely know you don't want the fish. "I don't want the fish" you reply to the server. They say sure thing and walk away to begin your order of "not the fish".

With almost every area of life we are really good at saying what we don't want. I don't want to be stuck in a job I hate. I don't want to be in debt. I don't want my home to be in disrepair. I don't want..... Most of us can list for hours, days even about what we don't want and get crystal clear on it. Getting clear on what you don't want doesn't get you any clearer to what you do.

The server bings you your meal, a lovely sage butter pork-chop with fresh greens and tender and crisp veggies. Smells great but, you forgot to tell the server you didn't want pork either. Or the chicken. Or the risotto. Or the steak. Wait do you even want to be at this restaurant?

Think about the simple tasks we try and accomplish with our spouses, friends, work colleges that require everyone voicing their wants and opinions. "What do you want to eat for lunch?" is a common one I hear in my circles. "Oh, I'm fine with whatever" (a blatant lie). "Great, there's a great sushi place down the street". "Oh I don't want sushi". "How about a burger?". "I don't want that either." The list goes on until we discover they want to make food at home or run to a grocery store for a salad kit or want kimchi from their favorite food truck. This lack of "want" comes from two (probably many more but I can only think of two at the moment) reasons.

Risky wants

The first reason we don't communicate our wants - it's risky. Communicating our wants is something personal. I want... is spoken from deeper down than I think we realize. When I was working on tug boats in Alaska, I made pizza bagels for myself on a somewhat regular basis. I kept thinking why do I want these so bad? They are only marginally decent. I had a realization that they reminded me deeper down of making them as a kid at home on rainy days in the winter. They brought me joy as a kid and when I was feeling homesick on a boat, I wanted something that made me feel comforted at my core. Communicating wants means that were communicating a deeper desire in our hearts. I don't want to be on a beach because I just like the beach. I want to be on a beach because I desire an escape from where I am right now.

It's risky to tell others your wants, whether they come from deeper down or not. When you tell someone else what you want, they have the option to reject and deny that. I know personally, I am terrified of being told my wants aren't important or what someone else wants. That's why I default to "I'm good with anything, you pick!" so often when asked what I want to do or eat to see.

The other big risk in communicating our want is disappointing ourselves. If we try and get clear on our wants and then they either don't live up to our expectations or we can't accomplish or attain our want, we're disappointed. Personally, this is the biggest reason I never say what I want. I don't want to find disappointment (funny how that one works).

Getting clear on our wants

The second reason, we aren't clear on our wants. We're really good at getting clear on our dislikes and don't wants though. Think about friends for a moment, the easiest type of friend to make are those where you both disagree on or dislike something together - think work or politics. I have had numerous friendships that stemmed from work - where the basis of the friendship was how much we didn't like work or thought something was ridiculous, the list goes on.

The inverse of a don't want isn't the real want

I am guilty of this all the time. I don't want to breathe so heavy going up the stairs turns into I want to go up the stairs without breathing heavy. This is an inverse of "I don't want" which is really just a trickier way to say "I don't want".

One of the big ones is addiction. There are many different people giving their opinions or steps and yes admitting you have a problem is the first step, but there is no real change that occurs to break out of the addiction until there is a clear image of what they truly want. I want to be free of my phone addiction, as an example, comes in may different phrases like: "I want to spend less time on my phone", "I want to be able to ...... The addiction is broken when you go to a deeper why that bypasses the symptom and hits at the core: "I want to be present and engaged in my spouses life". That kind of a "I want" requires the phone addiction to disappear as a part of a deeper desire and want.

The point I'm trying to make, I want to lose weight isn't enough of a want to get you to take action. I want to be healthy enough to enjoy my grandchildren growing up is closer to the real desire that will motivate you to lose weight. The inverse of don't is a sneaky way of saying I don't want.