So many of us have been, at one point or another, dissatisfied with some aspect of our lives—whether it be our job, some part of our family life, our health, or our financial situation. And probably the first thought that comes to mind, when we feel pain related to a particular dissatisfaction, is “I don’t want this.”
When the pain is sharp enough, maybe the thought even sounds like,
“I GOTTA GET OUTTA HERE!!”
In this first part of this multi-part series, I’ll talk about why it’s important to focus on what you want, not just on what you don’t, and how it’s not just a matter of semantics.
When we’re dissatisfied, our first thought can often be “I don’t want this“
Think back to a situation where you were dissatisfied and had the initial “I don’t want this” or “I gotta get outta here” thought. While it’s cerainly good awareness to know where your pain is coming from (i.e., what you don’t want), it’s even better awareness to think more specifically about what you DO want.
But why is that better?
One could argue that it’s semantics. Isn’t what you want just the opposite of what you don’t? Does it really matter whether you say to yourself “I don’t want to be inside today” or “I want to be outside today”?
I guess it depends on your options. If your only options are to be inside your house, or outside sitting on the porch, I suppose it doesn’t matter too much. But don’t we usually have more than just two options?
Think of a circle (see Figure 1). Your curent situation is you inside the circle, dissatisfied with your here and now. All you know is that you don’t want to be in the circle . Very binary, black-white type of thinking. And very limiting. When you only focus on what you don’t want, you’ve essentially given yourself two options: your current situation or anything else.
Next-level thinking helps you see more options in your future
Consider instead a more nuanced, next-level way of thinking (see Figure 2). Think of yourself as a sphere positioned at one point within the 3-dimensional universe that represents all the posible paths and destinations that you could experience in the aspect of your life with which your dissatisfied. Today you happen to be wherever you are in that universe, but you have so many options moving forward.
Destination: You could choose to head toward Point A or Point C
Path: You could choose the path you want to take to get to Point B. It could be windy, or it could be a straight line. It could be in any direction in 3-D space.
Pace: You have the option to travel to Point D, quickly or slowly, at whatever pace suits you
Revisiting: You can visit a destination more than once, if you’d like. It’s up to you. You make the rules in your universe.
Sometimes just asking “What do I want?” is a great start
Understanding that a natural first reaction to a dissatisfying life situation can be to think “I gotta get outta here!”, it’s helpful to ask ourselves the question: What do I want? Even if we’re not clear on what we want quite yet, just knowing that options exist can be extremely helpful in getting us moving toward the answer.
The concept of the “sphere in the universe of options” isn’t meant to be a definitive model of everything that happens in your life, or in your mind. It is, however, meant to remind you that when you’re in the throes of a situation with which you’re truly dissatisfied, it can be helpful to look at it from a different point of view. Particularly, one that provides you with many more options than you feel you may have, and empowers you to take control of your next steps.
What do you think? Does this resonate with you? Have you found it helpful to focus on what you want, instead of on what you don’t?