It occurred to me recently that for most of my life, I have misunderstood “want”.
The word “want”, in my experience, has referred mainly to thoughts or feelings that express a desire for something. ‘Something’ may be an item, a relationship, a job, a lifestyle, state of health or fitness, etc.
It occurred to me that wants expressed only as thoughts or feelings are largely pointless. In fact, I have found it to be toxic and painful. How many times have we wanted and wanted and wanted something but never obtained it because we never turned our thoughts and feelings into action? Or our thought/emotional wants were simply unrealistic for us. What good then is all of our wanting?
What if we redefined “want” to only those physical or behavioural expressions that effectively moved us closer to obtaining our desires? In other words, what if we chose only to “want” with our actions?
And furthermore, we only committed actions to desires we could realistically achieve, and set all day-dream desires aside?
What if we all but did away with conventional thought/feeling-wanting? What if we shut this unproductive form of want off? Would we not waste less emotional energy and time? Would we not then have far less disappointment, resentment, and envy in our lives?
The longer I live, the more I experience and observe people (self included) thinking, feeling, and saying they want one thing, yet creating with their actions something completely different. We think we want something, we feel we want something, we even say we want something, but we don’t receive it because we are not wanting it with our actions.
I’ve also known many people who appear to be stuck in, or even addicted to, the habit of mentally and/or emotionally wanting, only to face disappointment of never having.
For example, how many people do any of us know who say they want a particular type of love relationship, but are completely unrealistic in what it takes to obtain it? Recently, I have had conversations with a few of men who “want” a fit, attractive, desirable woman in their lives, but they are not engaging the actions to make themselves eligible for such a relationship. Instead, they eat poorly, dress poorly, smoke, don’t exercise, and don’t act like gentlemen. You may be thinking, “duh”, but don’t we all know guys like this? Their wants are just empty noise. Their real wants, expressed by their behaviours, are to remain unattractive an ineligible for the relationships their thought/feeling-wants are expressing.
Or people who want jobs or lifestyles of some description yet engage the actions and behaviours to keep them in the jobs and lifestyles they are currently in.
Or those who want physical, emotional, or mental health but continue to feed themselves with unhealthy foods, thoughts, relationships, dialogues, entertainment, and environments?
What if we all but stopped the whole wishing and pipe dreaming forms of want, or at least kept them to very finite and strategic periods in our lives, and only engaged wants that we could express in productive actions and behaviours toward obtainable goals? And were we couldn’t express a want with actions, we set it aside, at least for a time.
Anyone who has found recovery from alcohol, drugs, or other compulsive behaviours has learned, at least in the context of overcoming our vices that dreams and wishes won’t get us clean, sober, or free. And that it was the actions and behaviours of recovery that saved our lives and turned us around. What if we transferred this same understanding was applied to all areas of our lives? Is this not what the 12th step refers to when it says, “…. practiced these principles in all of our affairs”?
The distinction between thought/emotion-want and action/behaviour-want has become vividly clear to me lately. I have been practicing and developing the habits of reducing the former and increasing the latter. The results have been greater freedom from preoccupation, disappointment and envy, and growth in meaningful areas of my life that can be changed and improved.