Getting What We Want

We humans are blessed with something no other creature has been privileged to possess, our own ultimate personal problem solving machine known as our brain. We survived and thrived through millions of years of evolution, rising to the top of the food chain for one reason and one reason only, our ability to think abstractly about any problem we faced and figure out a solution.

Furthermore, we even developed the ability to look into the future and make realistic predictions about how our solutions to those problems would play out. We then tweaked those solutions to improve the results before ever applying them.


Have we lost the ability to figure out the solutions to our problems? Have our problems become so difficult and or advanced that our problem solving abilities haven’t been able to keep up? Quite the opposite. Our problems have become a lot easier to solve, generally speaking. The problem is, we have lost the ability to truly assess what the “problem” really is.



Getting What We Need
What our ancestors were actually really good at was figuring out how to get what they needed. What they needed just happened to also be what they wanted. Their wants and needs were simple, harmonious, and generally in alignment with Abraham Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy (food, shelter, love, self-esteem, maybe even self-actualization).

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Fast forward to today, and I think humans are still really good at getting what they need, but not very good at getting what we want. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but I think the main reason is that we are not always very clear on just what it is that we want. What we want is really just what we think we want, and when we attain what we think we want, the gratification that we feel is usually short-lived and in need of a replacement want to strive for.

Since what we want in life is only what we think we want and not what we really need, our drive to attain that thing is not very strong and about as short-lived as the feeling that it brings us. This puts us on the Instant Gratification Treadmill of Life (trademark pending). And this is what keeps us from digging deeper and finding out what it is that we really want in our lives.

“Success is having what we want, happiness is wanting what we have.”

So, when we get what we really want in life it’s because it is the one thing we truly desire, and that's the only thing that will hold our focus and determination for very long. Focus and determination are the foundation of persistence, which by all accounts is the key to reaching a goal of any significance.

The Price of Getting What We Want
To get what we really want in life, we have to be willing to pay the price for it. Nothing worth having in life is free or even cheap. The more we want something, the more we are willing to pay, and if we aren’t willing to pay the price, then odds are, we really don’t want it. The price that we are unwilling to pay is not necessarily money, but something more valuable to us, our time, or even more valuable, our energy.

So the question we really need to ask ourselves is not - "how do I get what I want?", but “why am I not getting what I want?” With enough time and thought, we should be able to come up with the answer, but if not, I will have some suggestions in an upcoming post (What Do We Really Want?).

Take care and see you out there!
Jim

Here's a link to my notes from Abraham Maslow’s book Motivation and Personality. Or better yet, here’s a link to the book (Amazon).