Doesn’t it seem that we are trained from the very beginning that it is almost wrong to want? Why is that? I understand that there are people in China who are starving. I understand that children in Africa struggle to survive and are denied even the basics of health, education, and human rights. It would seem that these things are taught to us when we are children to give us perspective; teach us to know gratitude. But the unbalanced interpretation of this teaching can make us feel that all of our wants are petty and vain. We are taught that we should be grateful for what we have, and not worry about what we do not have. Children should not be spoiled, but we also need to instill a healthy belief that dreams are good, goals are vital, and that it is O.K. to have desire. Nothing is truly accomplished by those who have no passion, no ‘want to’ in life. Besides, who is going to help the people in Africa if nobody gets and education and dares to move?
Gratitude for what we have and who we are is very important. But I think we get it twisted when we deny ourselves the healthy side of want. But that is what we do. “I would love a new car, but …some people don’t have any transportation at all, I should just be happy with what I have”. It’s actually a combination of a self-imposed guilt trip mixed with a built-in excuse to not ever try. And, if we allow ourselves to want, and we fail to get, why- that might be painful. Worse, do we truly believe we ‘deserve’ to have anything?
Phrases like, “Who does she think she is?”, “What makes YOU so special?”, “Why should HE have that when I don’t?”, and on and on teach us that good things come haphazardly, randomly. It’s easy to have bitterness and resentment of others, because we refuse to do what we need to do to have the same thing! It is not true, despite urban legend, that life’s goodness just falls on certain people like lottery winnings. This kind of thinking also seems to set- up a belief system that life just isn’t fair, good fortune is all about luck, and that is why sometimes the just are not rewarded, while the wicked flourish.
Turns out a lot of that is just a bunch of crap. The people who get what they want allow themselves to want it, know what they want very clearly, and let nothing stop them. The wicked people of the world aren’t usually the ones hung up on how their evil ways make them undeserving, and yet the generally decent but misguided self-flagellate and refuse to allow themselves to succeed. We stand in our own way, through lack of faith, lack of vision, lack of desire, and somehow feeling that to have what we want is wrong.
I am no fan of excess , luxury, greed, and wanton pursuit of pleasure. There is a difference between hedonism , however, and success.
Poverty mindsets get handed down through generations. It takes a lot of insight and sometimes a complete, deep reworking of our belief system to get beyond them. A poverty mindset is a self-limiting and destructive force that will run our lives for us, if we let it. It’s that ugly voice that guards the wall between where we are, and where we haven’t dared to even dream we could be.
Many never see that wall for what it is, much less question it. Some of us attempt to scale it, but it works with our fears, magnifies them, and we give up. We lie to ourselves and come up with convoluted plans on how to take that wall down…one day. Tomorrow. After we get more tools. Maybe after we take a class on Wall breaking. Next month, after this stress subsides….on and on. So, we let it win. Some of us will see it for what it is, and just completely bulldoze it. If we can’t get ahold of a bullldozer, we can get a ladder and scale the wall. We will not use any excuses. It just comes down. That’s when we can truly begin to live.
When the wall comes down, we finally see all the dreams and possibilities that were always there. We also see that while many people live lives in abject poverty, we were born with opportunities and freedom. Why would we deny the sacrifices of our forefathers to allow us to have what we have, and dishonor our blessing by throwing it away? Does it help starving children in Africa if I drive a beat- up car, or refuse to work on my talents? Does it honor sick, uneducated people if I also don’t take advantage of educational opportunities, or other means to improve myself? No!
Do I deserve “it”? What I deserve in this life is what I believe I deserve, first and foremost. My actions will bring me what I have given out – but it may be now or later. I don’t believe that I deserve sickness or illness, but rather health That extends to my emotional , and even financial health as well. As long as I let mistakes that I have made be my judge, and punish myself through denial, I will remain behind the wall.
What if, instead, we treated ourselves with the same grace and forgiveness we give our friends? WOW! I never judge my friend’s mistakes and decide what they ‘should ‘ deserve or ‘should not”! Why do I do that to myself? Can you just imagine this conversation?
Friend Joy calls me up on the phone. “Hey, Lee, this is Joy. I have been racking my brain for an answer to this problem I have been having, and I think I have a great idea. Here’s what I want to do, and it will allow my family to stop worrying about bills, go on vacation, pay off debt, save for retirement and get new hairstyles!” Joy is very excited and tells me she is writing a book, or recording a song. I know that Joy has tried this before, and did not reach the goals she had set previously. Also, I really love Joy and and she has always been a great friend. So, would I be a jerk and say to her, ” Well, Joy… I am not sure about this plan. I mean, you tried this before, and it didn’t work out. Maybe it’s because you just don’t deserve it. What you really deserve is to work your ass off for the rest of your life. I mean, C’mon, Joy. Dreams? Why should YOU have that when I don’t, anyway? Why don’t you get your head out of the clouds, girlfriend?”
Can you imagine?! Most of us would never treat a friend like that, never say or feel things like that. Yet ,we do it to ourselves. Can we not even muster up enough appreciation and love to treat ourselves with love? Kindness? Encouragement? Can’t we see how vital these things are for the person we spend the most time with, the one we rely on most? Nobody can do this for us. Even for the fictitious example, “Joy”, anytime we speak our minds or hearts to our friends, whether we encourage or discourage, ultimately the choice to truly live or simply exist comes down to the individual. So, going to person after person to bolster our dreams and encourage us is wonderful to an extent. Finally, though, we have to decide to act.
Faith and belief in ourselves need NOT come from looking back on our previous experiences to gauge our likelihood of success. We can learn from our mistakes, but we should not use those mistakes as a reason to give up. If everyone did that, Thomas Edison would not have come up with the light bulb. He flopped on that one over, and over, and over again. Most people would have given up. Those who don’t- will succeed, one way, or another.
So, first- allow yourself to have a dream.
Determine what you really want, but allow for a surprise.
Weigh the cost. Understand the sacrifices. Anything worth going after will require hard work, time, and a focus of energy , possibly bordering obsession. Do you REALLY want it? Why? Have a clear why.
In addition to sacrifice, are you willing to continue when things get hard? Take it day by day.
Finally, Are you afraid to have what you want , based on an unhealthy poverty mindset? Remember, you share your wealth of experience and resources with others. If you are not being greedy and selfish, why feel guilty for having? You should not.
Again, remember to treat yourself with the same grace, kindness, and encouragement that you would a very good friend. Be honest and truthful with yourself. Ok, maybe the truth is that you are NOT good at singing despite much love and hard work, but you are a good songwriter, or promoter, or talent scout. That’s ok, too. It doesn’t mean you failed- look for another outlet for your love of singing and music, or just enjoy it in the car or shower. 🙂 A dream diverted does not mean a dream denied. Dreams should fit , to a possible degree, with who we are.
So, know yourself. Don’t get stuck on this step, though. Some people never find themselves…