What Do You Want…to Have?
We begin with what most people think of when they’re simply asked “what do you want?” and why that question is worth thinking into a bit more.
The question “what do you want?” could be incomplete. Going forward we’ll explore the answers to complete questions like “what do you want to do?”, “what do you want to be?”, “what do you want to see happen?” and many more. Today, we begin with what most people think of when they’re simply asked “what do you want?” and why that question is worth thinking into a bit more.
Your answer to the question, “what do you want?” really depends upon the context in which it is asked.
If you’re at a restaurant and one of your companions asks the question, you know they’re asking what you want to have for dinner. If you’re being presented with a selection of items and asked “what do you want?” you take it as asking which of the items you want to have. If you’re negotiating with a criminal at a bank robbery you will often reach the point where you ask, “what do you want?” you’re asking the crook what they want to have in return for letting their hostages go.
When we hear the question asked as simply, “what do you want?” we take it mean “what do you want to have?”
Beware What You Wish For
Perhaps it would be better to say, “think carefully about what you want to have.”
Many times, you may respond quickly with something that is closer to what you think you should want. For example, if the child of a doctor or other professional were asked what they want to have for their education or their career, their immediate reaction might be to follow in the footsteps of their parent.
But that may not be consistent with the true desires they’ve harbored for quite some time. They may find great fulfillment in being an artist, or a chef, or another profession. They have been encouraged all their lives to follow in their parent’s footsteps. Often, by the time they realize their misconception, they’re already deeply involved in that parent’s profession or industry and come to realize how miserable they are.
A woman might find a particular man to be very attractive. Tall, muscular, handsome, with a great voice and excellent manners. It’s only after she has pursued him and created a relationship that she realizes it’s all a façade, and underneath he’s an abusive monster. Similarly, a man might court a woman who turns out to be vicious and nasty. Beauty, wonderful appearance, is constantly promoted to us as the ultimate goal in life. We want to have personal beauty. We want to have a mate with personal beauty. And beauty may, indeed, only be skin deep.
The List is Long
In a lifetime you may have many answers to this question. You may want to have a great deal of money. You may want incredible business success. You may want to have a big house, a sleek car, a boat, or any of many, many other physical things. Many of these things have a pretty short shelf life. You’ll continuously find yourself wanting new things, and that’s fine. May you have everything your heart desires.
Physical items may retain great sentimental value for us over time. A parent’s wristwatch. A coffee mug we used at our first job. Many, many things will come into our lives and pass from our lives. How much they each matter will vary, and usually be quite transient.
The Key is to Ask Why
It is all too easy to fall into self-deception. You say you want a drink. But that may be because everyone around you is drinking and you want to be part of the crowd. In fact, you may not enjoy alcohol, or the subsequent effects it may have. But you still say you want a drink.
You may think you want a job that becomes available while you are unemployed. It may not be a matter of wanting that particular job. You may simply want a job as quickly as possible.
We often mistake what we need for what we want. You really want a job that’s more aligned to your education, your experience, and your interests. But right now you need to generate income.
You may say you want to marry the most popular person in your graduating class, or the most attractive. There may be another person who is far more aligned with you and your values, and would be far more supportive and far more fulfilling in the long run.
In each of these cases, and many more you’re probably already thinking about, there’s one simple way to solve the challenge that they all have in common!
Why do you think you want to have what you think you want to have? Are you being honest with yourself? Or are you succumbing to peer pressure, societal messaging, or other influences?
Ask yourself why before you answer what you want to have. All too often you may only have one opportunity to have that particular thing, or a similar thing that would actually be better for you if you thought about it.
It is altogether possible to have too much. Things you wanted to have at one time may no longer be desirable or useful to you anymore. You may keep them anyway, for many reasons most of which are fabricated by you to justify keeping things in your life. Several religions suggest that the key to happiness is to “let things go.”
Once again, the tool you need is the question, “why?” Why do you need to keep any particular article. You may hoard clothing that hasn’t fit you for ages. Why? Because you fantasize about being that size again. You may hoard publications that you’ve already read, rationalizing that you may want to refer to them again someday, even though you know you can now access them online anytime.
More critically, you may stay too long in a relationship you once thought you wanted, but has long ago proven itself dissatisfying. Worse, that relationship may produce children. You find yourself inextricable from what you once thought you wanted.
Once again you turn to the power of “why.” Why are you staying in that relationship? What you really want to have is a mate who will truly be your life partner. Or not. What you want to have may be a relationship that is purely physical. Friends with benefits. There’s nothing intrinsically “wrong” with that. Society may frown upon it (or not…), and the values you were raised with may run counter to it, but if it’s “right” for you and “right” for your partner, it may work well in your life.
Ultimately, “right” and “wrong” are relative, unless you’re sincerely evaluating them in the context of yourself. What’s “right” or “wrong” for you may not be what “right” and “wrong” are for anyone or everyone else. It’s your life. It’s based on your own personal belief system.
The course of your life is determined by the choices you make. The choice of what you want for dinner may not dramatically change the course of your life, but the choice of who you want for a spouse absolutely does. The choice of which pair of shoes you want to have may affect some people’s opinion of your taste in shoes. But the decision to have cosmetic surgery will have more far-reaching impact.
The good news is that all these choices are yours. Some choices may “cost” you more interpersonally or financially or otherwise. Some may be incredibly difficult to make. Others may be challenged by those who are influential in your life.
Remember that the responsibility for the choices you make rests only with you. That means the right to make those decisions rests with you, too.
What do YOU want to have?