If you’re regularly exposed to adverts or anything offering lifestyle advice, you’ll be used to being told what to want. We are encouraged to want consumables, objects, the latest, newest thing because it’s faster and shiner than the things we already have. As though emotional needs can be answered by spending money. As though identity and self can be best explored and expressed through the brands we chose.
Who are you, and what do you want? *
What do you want in your life from day to day? What do you want to do with your time? What matters to you? What do you need in order to express yourself? What do you want from life? How do you want to live? What inspires you? What makes you happy? What do you find meaningful and rewarding?
Given time and quiet to explore these questions, my guess is that most people would not make a list of products by way of answers.
Some years ago when I started exploring this in earnest, a person I knew told me that I was just kidding myself. My growing investment in local landscape and walking was, he said, just making a virtue out of necessity. If I could afford better I’d let myself want better. If I had the money, I’d want the same kind of exotic foreign holidays he went on. I could afford to do that now. I find it isn’t what I want at all. My desire is not for fleeting thrills in distant lands. My desire is for deep connection with the landscape I live in.
For anyone who is all about the money, my life must look rather small and shabby. But it is increasingly a life driven by my passions and desires. I know what I want, and what I need, and increasingly, I know how to find those things. I know what uplifts and enriches me. I know what sort of thing I find meaningful and fulfilling. I’ve also got a good deal better at going after the things I want. Having taken some months to think about my options, this week I went after two things I had worked out that I wanted. One of them was an instant ‘yes’, and the other was always going to take more time. I am making the life I want, piece by piece.
Adverts teach us to be dissatisfied with the lives we have and to try and answer that need through spending money. It’s only by really exploring what we want that we can change this. Satisfaction and contentment have much more to do with how we live than what we own. Once our basic needs are met, happiness is not found in stuff. Where it is found, is part of the mystery of who we are, part of the adventure that is ours alone to undertake. Part of the possibility in our own lives that’s been hidden from us by a story that tells us to want things that can never satisfy us.
Do something radical. Ask yourself what you really want.
*yes, I have seen Babylon 5.