With many of my clients, we get to an impasse when we try to figure out what they really want. The challenge with simply asking the question is that I almost always get a Knower/Judger, politically correct, react-rather-than-respond answer. And frequently the answer refers more to a need (which is K/J-based, egocentric, and satisfying) than a want (which is Learner/Researcher-based, present, and happiness-oriented). Here’s how I figure out what I want.
“I want to net $1 million.”
“I just want more time to myself.”
Simply stated, if the aspiration will satisfy me, it’s probably a need (we satisfy needs, after all). If the aspiration will make me happy, then there’s a high likelihood that it’s a want.
Peeling back the layers of the onion, then, I have to know the difference between being satisfied and being happy. On the surface, they appear to be interchangeable. I don’t see them as interchangeable.
We’ve dived into this before on this blog. Most situations in which we become “satisfied” are metric in nature. “I earned six figures.” “I finally broke 80 on the golf course.” “I made vice president.” Usually satisfaction comes from achieving a goal we set for ourselves or that someone set for us.
What causes the feeling of happiness, I’ve discovered, is a little more elusive. What makes me happy? I’ve found that the answer is also the answer to the question “What do I want?”
Whoa, Kim…you’re going in circles. I want what makes me happy and what makes me happy is what I want?
I can easily say, “Making a million dollars will make me happy, so that’s what I want.”
Let’s chop that up into components.
“Making a million dollars.” How do I make that? What’s the process? Does the process make me happy or only the result? And what would I do with that million dollars…mattress stuffing? It’s clearly not the million dollars that makes me happy. It could be what I can do with a million dollars. What would that be?
See how peeling back the layers of the onion gets me thinking about what (if any) part of this will really make me happy and thus qualifies as a want?
So skip the million bucks…and bypass the part about what I have to do to get that amount of money. The valuable part of the exercise is determining why I think I want that amount. Buy cars? Houses? Vacation property? Pay off credit card debt…or start a charity to feed and house battered women and their kids…or buy books for inner-city libraries…or establish scholarships for special-needs students?
See how one set of outcomes fulfills the “satisfying” part…and the other the “happy” part?
I’ve chosen extremes here. Surely getting and staying out of credit card debt contributes to my not being unhappy. It’s a metric. Like cars and houses, it’s a measurement of my cultural success or failure. It does not, in my estimation, automatically allow me to make the choice to be happy.
Which brings me to my theme. If happiness is, as I believe, a choice, then it behooves me to set up my world so the metrics (satisfied vs. unsatisfied) do not overshadow my ability to choose to be happy…in any circumstance.
It’s sometimes taken six months for clients to comb through this exercise, reach into parts of their history and psyche, and figure out how they can set up their world so “happy” is the de facto condition. Then they know what they want. All the other stuff is merely part of the process of getting there.