Saturday, October 10, 2009

What Do You Want

(News-Herald, October 8) It seems like the easiest thing in the world to know what you want. And yet the world is filled with people who aren’t certain, don’t know, can’t decide. Even when we tell ourselves that we know what we want, our actions can suggest that we don’t really know what we’re talking about.
The grown-up dating world, for instance, is filled with people who “really want to be in a relationship.” Except that if you watch their behavior, their choices, the way they spend their time, it becomes obvious there are a hundred things more important to them than finding a mate.
Or parents who say that they want their children to grow up strong and independent, but who don’t allow their children five minutes of independent thought or action in a week.
Sometimes people grab what they don’t want and hold tight, because if their hands were free, they would have to risk reaching for what they do want. They might fail. They might drop it. Full hands keep their hearts safe.
Successful people say they want something and then behave as if they actually mean it. The Secret of Success isn’t much more complicated than that. Most of the people who are muddled and just getting by have missed some part of that formula.
They may “want” something only because they think they are supposed to. Shortly after college graduation the landscape is littered with couples getting married because they’re pretty sure that’s what they’re supposed to do next. It does not occur to them that they may not WANT to get married. Or rather, it doesn’t occur to them at that point—it often comes up later.
Some people discover that behaving as if they actually want what they want is hard. It may require hard work. It may require giving up things that, supposedly, one wants less than the Big Goal. Goals cost, and if you want them you have to pay. “I want a Lexus and I want to pay $1.50,” is no use. “I want this person as long as I don’t have to give up these others,” doesn’t buy you a functional relationship.
Some people are way too vague about what they want. “I want a better life” doesn’t really give you direction. It could mean a higher paying job or better hair.
Sometimes people want things they can’t have. It’s positively un-American to say, but people have limits and those limits affect what they can accomplish. If your IQ is 50 and you want to become the world’s top rocket scientist, you are destined for disappointment. A shlumpy, middle-aged guy will never become an NBA starter.
Some people want things that can’t go together. Then they have to decide which they want most. This can lead to whiplash-inducing waffling. It’s not just confusion; met needs do not motivate. You can be really driven by hunger, until you eat. You’re at the beach and you want to sunbathe and you want to swim in the water. While you’re in the water, you’ll really want to go lie on the sand. While you’re lying on the sand, you’ll really want to go dash into the waves.
Sometimes what you want comes in an unexpected package; if you’re not clear and alert, you may miss it. You may even reject it because you don’t like the wrapper. That’s why you need to know what you want—so that you can recognize it no matter what shape it comes in. “I want chocolate,” you declare. But if you only recognize chocolate when it’s bar-shaped, you’ll miss a tasty chocolate bunny while gnawing on a chocolate-colored bar of soap.
In Venangoland, we find lots of people who say they want economic resurgence. And yet. Some of them don’t want it badly enough to actually do anything about it. Some of them want it to happen by a rebirth of industries that aren’t going to be reborn here or anywhere else. Some want the region to somehow get “better.” Some want the region to get what it needs as long as they don’t have to sacrifice anything they want.
Too many people are more concerned about the package and not the actual economic improvement. Pushing economic development around here would work better if folks really wanted it—without a long list of Only If’s attached. The rule for regional success is no different than that for personal success. Know what you want, and then act like you really want it.

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