What do you want? From a toddler demanding Mine! to an adult deciding what kind of clothes to buy, the question is important. In fact, it is one of the most powerful and life-changing questions you can ask yourself. The answers provide important clues to who we are and what we want out of life. (My caveat for this idea is that we have to be in the present and accept our lives as they are while at the same time acknowledging there is more we want, but that’s another blog.)
Being aware of desires and preferences provides clues to how to express our unique self. What kind of music do we like? What’s our favorite food? How do we spend our free time? What kind of work is fulfilling? Answering these questions not only gives us a picture of our likes and dislikes, it can lead to recognizing our deeply held values. I like good food, cooking, and eating with people. The value those things relate to for me is sharing meals with family and friends. That’s important to me. Identifying those values helps me decide I’d rather spend the afternoon cooking an Italian meal for friends than ironing sheets and pillowcases. We can go from knowing what we like to understanding the values we use to make more fulfilling choices.
Many of us have trouble knowing what we really want except at the most superficial levels. Someone will usually start with the most common of things – a new house or car, an exciting vacation, and then maybe move on to helping relatives and friends. After we have the basics of American life, what we really want is the feeling we think we’ll get from having more things – feeling okay, worthwhile, secure, carefree, loved
A 2010 study by Princeton economist Angus Deaton and psychologist Daniel Kahneman found that after people earn $75,000 a year (see my post for February, 2011, titled You’ve Won the Lottery), more money has no measurable effect on day-to-day contentment. Up to that amount, as people earn more, day-to-day happiness rises. But once they hit $75,000, it is just more stuff, with no gain in happiness.
Identifying our desires can help us to better understand our values. That in turn helps us to make better choices for our lives. Knowing what we want, and then understanding what is really our heart’s desire, can lead to the life of our dreams.