It’s a common refrain from motivational, self-help gurus: believe in yourself and you can have your dream life. How can this possibly be true for everyone? But it actually is possible, as long as you understand the difference between what you want, and what you want to be.
First, the bad news: It’s not true that we can all have whatever we want. I don’t think any motivational program can actually guarantee that if you want a fast boat, a billion dollars and a hot spouse, their system can generate that for you. Wants are manifested as goals, and it’s all too easy to miss our goals, not because of a lack of effort on our part, but because the external world, including other people, random events and the laws of physics, get in the way.
So how can you have your dream life if you can’t have everything you want? Because what is achievable is being whoever you want. You have the power to demonstrate personality characteristics that you desire, regardless of what physical objects/events/ people are in your life. As a bonus, if you do demonstrate these characteristics, you have the best chance of reaching your goals (but it’s not guaranteed). Confused? Take a look at what you want, and work out why you want that. The why will tell you what kind of person you’re aiming to be, and it’s that way of being that is actually satisfying, not the goal itself. So a fast boat might represent thrill seeking; a billion dollars a love of luxury items; and a hot spouse might be about being the type of person who is desirable to others. Looked at this way, you don’t need those particular assets (boat, money, hottie) in order to be the type of person that would have those assets. You can cliff dive, buy quality and work on your body, jokes and handmade valentine’s items today. As you do so, you develop the relationships, habits, skills and opportunities that improve your odds of reaching your goals.
Setting goals is important, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting more than you have. But you need to know that it’s not the reaching of the goal/ getting the stuff you want that matters. The goal/ stuff itself won’t actually make you happy. What you will be enjoying is the different person you’ve become as a result of reaching that goal. And if you don’t want to be that kind of person, reaching the goal won’t feel good. It’ll be miserable.
To reach any goal/ get what you want, you must start to change your behaviour to more closely match the behaviour of the type of person who can reach that goal/ get that stuff. If you think you’d like to run a marathon, to meet that goal you’ll need to become the type of person who eats well, has physical and mental discipline, who makes extensive time in their schedule for exercise and who can withstand a fair amount of pain. Still want to run a marathon? It applies to anything. If you want a cleaner and tidier house, you need to be prepared to be the type of person who spends either more time or more money on cleaning and tidying, at the sacrifice of giving time/ money to other things. Can you commit to that?
When looked at this way, it reveals a common problem with goals: we often set goals that don’t really match with who we are, or even who we’d like to be. Take a moment to think about what you’d like more of in your life. Are you prepared to make the changes to who you are and how you spend your time in order to get it? If the answer is yes, get cracking! You will be happier when you start to be the person you want to be, and that will kick in as soon as you start to make the changes, long before you even get to the goal. But maybe it turns out the answer is no. Maybe it turns out you don’t really want to be the type of person who runs marathons, or make the investment required to have a cleaner house. It might turn out that, given the alternatives, you discover you already have the life you desire.
Lana Hall, Psychologist. Helping you to live your best life, using the power of psychology.