I know you don’t believe me, especially if you’re tied to a computer when it’s a cartoon beautiful day outside or you’re just about to do the dishes. But think about it. Your brain is an incredibly efficient piece of equipment. Its network of neural linkages is structured according to genetics and interwoven according to experience. You think you have to go to work. You think you have to do the dishes. But if you didn’t want to, you wouldn’t do it. Plain and simple.
Our rational mind, our prefrontal cortex, is essentially in service to our limbic system. This reptilian, emotional center is the influencing force on the parameters of our logic and ensuing rational arguments. Brain scans show that a decision can be predicted up to 7 full seconds before our conscious minds become aware of the outcome. Consciousness is the gatekeeper, and final reasoning checkpoint before we act. Self is the entire system acting together.
Your alarm goes off… “Oh gawd I don’t want to go to work!” So why do you get up? You want to maintain and support your social relationships. You want to get your paycheck so you can keep your house and enjoy the security and pride of ownership. You want to keep your car so you have the freedom of travel and mobility (I happen to be a renter who takes the bus… sigh, but the same theory holds).
Addiction and trauma can skew the system, and if you find yourself saying “I don’t want to be doing this but I can’t stop,” what you can do is stop kidding yourself. If your dopamine/reward system is getting-off on a behaviour, well, that’s the very definition of ‘want’. OCD is another example. If your limbic fear control is overreacting, it will, ever so desperately, ‘want’ relief. Own that want. I know the word gets a bad rap in our culture, but there should be no shame in admitting the truth when it can give you the power you need to start making real changes in your life.
Admitting that your adopted value system and priority scale dictate your decisions, and not some external taskmaster forcing you to keep plodding away on some determinist treadmill, will help put your world back into your hands. Changing the language that traps us in our logic loops is the first step in the challenging process of changing those worlds.
19 thoughts on “Whatever you are doing at this exact moment is exactly what you want to be doing”
“Own that want” – I love this. Why do we feel so guilty about the word “want”? Is it so bad to want something? And if it is, then what does that mean when we go after the things that we want?
I agree with you. Once we start owning that want, then we can start to mindfully make choices about our actions.
Growing up, my parents invented the ‘wanna wanna bird’ (I kid you not!) that came swooping in whenever I got carried away with “I wanna… I wanna… I wanna.” Yes, one of the many perils (among countless pleasures) of being born to a poet and an artist/inventor.
The effect of this ornithological overseer was that I got into the habit of rationalizing my wants into needs, intellectually arguing them into ‘have to haves’ before giving myself permission to indulge them. This, of course, effectively changed their accompanying vocabulary and priority value assignment. Breaking this habit is an ongoing process, but one that has given me far more respect for the power of language in the brain.
Yes! That is exactly it! Now, my parents didn’t have a “wanna wanna bird”, but there was a similar value system. Partially, it was born out of poverty. Both of my parents came from impoverished families, being that there were six children and one working parent. With my father being disabled and neither parents were working, we were impoverished too.
Anytime I wanted something, we couldn’t afford it. Everything that we got was a result of necessity. And we were even denied things that we did actually need, like adequate dental and vision care. (I actually had to take out a loan as an adult for $8000 so a dentist could reconstruct my teeth). Most of my clothes were raggedy, and my hair was always cut at home. Many things that I would consider to be necessities now were luxuries then.
I have an eye appointment this morning. This is my first appointment to purchase glasses in five years. The last prescription I had was prior to my son being born. Somehow, pregnancy really messed up my vision (worse than it was). While my vision needs are met with contacts, it’s been really unhealthy for me to be wearing my contacts constantly. But, I couldn’t find a justification for glasses because my vision needs were already being met (kind of).
It’s that kind of denial of necessity that spawns a tendency toward overindulgence or indulgence in unhealthy things. I don’t fully understand all of the implications just yet, but I see a correlation. For instance, my mother has this martyr complex. But, on the other hand, she’s an alcoholic. The more my FIL attempts to put restrictions on my MIL’s spending, the more she’s inclined to spend. And mostly, they’re impulse purchases that end up in storage, or end up gifted to me, because she later realized that it wasn’t her taste.
I’m not advocating for overindulgence, or even indulging every whim. There are things we want. Some of those things are what we would have a reflexive response as “justifiable” wants, like the want for a good job, the want for happiness, and the want for our family and friends to have good health. Aspirations are wants for ourselves. We can cloak them in altruism all we like, but it boils down to desire.
It’s good to want. Wanting gives us the motivation and determination to strive toward goals. I know some extremely motivated people that others might deem “selfish”. I also know some unmotivated people who don’t achieve their aspirations, and then wonder why it didn’t work out. I always tell them, “You just didn’t want it enough.” It’s not luck. It’s desire and passion.
Thank you so much for sharing your story!! Growing up with less material wealth trains us for a life of expectation different from, say, Paris Hilton (not that I’d necessarily want a pink Cadillac, but you know what I mean). We set lower goals, and then are scared to ask people to help us achieve them, because we may not think we deserve even so little. We get used to living in an environment of less than, and it feels pretty normal, but has the effect of giving us permission to go for short term rewards and indulgences because we have trouble visualizing a future with healthier abundance.
Your mom’s martyrdom, in her mind, must justify the alcohol abuse and allow the old excuse of “well look at everything I do for everybody and look at how much I’ve been mistreated by life, at least allow me this one concrete moment of joy.” Which, of course, is a false and unproductive bliss and isn’t doing her (or her family) any favours in the long run (or heck, even in the short run!).
I hope you picked out the prettiest frames in the store 🙂
You know what’s absolutely hilarious? I came to discover that my frame coverage was rather limited. They had a specific rack for frames that insurance “mostly” covers (meaning there’s still a sizable copay). And then there were racks and racks of designer frames that came discounted, but still carried some hefty designer prices.
I had the optician bring me a selection. Although I had a pile of frames, one approved and a number of designer, I still fell in love with the approved frame. Designers apparently don’t understand my eyewear fashion needs!
I’ll be seeing them sometime between next Monday and next Thursday. Think of me!
Back to poverty. I remember entering my husband’s world after we started dating. We were living in this ramshackle house without a furnace. He moved in that summer, but I had already endured a winter without a furnace, a stove, and a refrigerator. My parents owned the house, and said that the stipulation of me living there was that I was responsible for the repairs. But, how is a struggling college student supposed to afford a furnace and installation with a job that offered part-time hours and minimum wage?
Winter was coming upon us again, and we were young and broke. Without hesitation, my husband called his family and said, “Can you get us a furnace?” No problem. It was there in a week. And because my parents already had the public shame of letting their child live there without utilities, (we ran the electricity off of an extension cord), they were quick to summon friends for the installation.
It blew my mind. There was no shame in asking. There were no strings. We didn’t end up in indentured servitude. No one held it over our heads and threatened us every time they didn’t get their way. And I discovered that there was a different world free of backstabbing, thievery, pettiness, manipulation, and deprivation.
Most people who grew up in poverty just don’t see a way out. They end up stepping out into the world with a mountain of debt (you should see my student loans), and then take their social class place in minimum wage, part-time jobs. That’s how I lost my college apartment. I just couldn’t make rent anymore without starving to death. And so, they end up cheap, broken houses and apartments, surrounded by an environment of crime and dilapidation.
It eventually becomes the norm. And any effort to overcome the situation seems futile. And certain phobias start to develop when the anxiety of substandard living constantly looms. It makes it that much harder to have the will to struggle out of poverty.
No wonder you married him! lolz just kidding. If you ask me, a furnace beats a diamond any day! My own engagement ring was a Tim Hortons double chocolate glazed doughnut (long story) so I ought to know. And yes, it was exceptionally delicious.
I think a lot of people coming from difficult beginnings are so trained to be hypervigilant in looking for deception and manipulation that they read it into even the most innocent situations and interactions. This traps them even tighter in the cycle of ‘less-than’. I’m so happy your husband dragged you back out into the sunshine. It might have been a bit blinding at first, this world of plenty, but heck, now that you’ve got new frames on order, I’m sure it’ll be even clearer and brighter than ever before 🙂
I giggle about the doughnut. It reminded me of how Xan proposed. We were on a swing set at dusk, and he asked, “What would you say if I asked you to marry me?” I really thought he was joking, so I laughed. I told him, “I’m not sure you know me well enough to ask me that question.” He pressed, “But say I really, really wanted to marry you?” And I freaked out a little, because I got the point that he was completely serious. I dodged him for awhile longer until he grabbed me and said, “Marry me.” How could I say no to that?
Unfortunately, poverty really drives people to do awful things to one another. In reference to his family, a friend once said, “There is no honor among theives.” It’s hard to be able to build trust in others when a person can’t even trust and rely on family.
Then, a lot of people who aren’t willing to mistreat others get into the practice of being their own island. You were absolutely dead on when you talked about the hesitation to ask for help. I’m not proud, believe me. But, I couldn’t handle the strings. Any debt I incurred would tangle me into obligation. There really is no way to quantify “favors”, so my debts were never thought to be paid in full.
I’m still really unclear about social rules. Realistically, how do favors work? And how do people view charitable acts? Aren’t favors supposed to be charity? I don’t know. It’s pretty confusing.
When you don’t have them pounded into you as a kid, a culture’s social rules can still be learned, but then tend be near impossible to trust. We’re left feeling “never quite sure”. I try to enjoy the freedom of that doubt, and that freedom is key to giving oneself permission to develop one’s own code of morality and beliefs. But you do have to get to know yourself, strengths and weaknesses alike, before committing to a self-structured philosophy. I’ve always thought “do unto others as you would have done to yourself” is the perfect jumping off point. Provided one isn’t a masochist of anything ~wink.
ps. love your romance!
ps. How’d the glasses turn out?
I got them yesterday! I put them on at the optical, and WOW! The prescription in my right eye had changed so much that I actually went cross eyed! My eyes just wouldn’t focus together. But, I have to tell you, it’s amazing to be able to see out of my right eye again. I didn’t realize how much vision I was missing until now.
My husband (who wears glasses himself) has insisted on calling me a nerd. I started to get offended and he said, “It’s just a huge adjustment for me.” What? It’s not like I haven’t worn glasses before! I wore glasses for the first two years of our marriage, for crying out loud!
Sigh… men. Mine has always called me a nerd (in the most endearing way) whether I’m wearing my glasses or not. Figure he’s just ‘blind’sided by my brilliance lol.
Great post! It makes me more confident in knowing that the decisions I make are what I want (I am usually very indecisive). But what about pushing your boundaries? For example running a 7k? You hate running, but you have to do it to show yourself you can. Would this be a want or a way to.. Actually now that I am writing this, I realize that you take up challenges in your life because you want to. Nobody is forcing you to do anything- you are the one who wants to show yourself you can do it. Right? I really do need to own my wants. Thanks for sharing!
Well, I sure ‘want’ to thank you for your wonderful comment! I love the idea that language can change our perception of ourselves. It’s just so amazing what owning our brain processes can do in terms of personal empowerment. I was inspired to write this post (it had been stewing in my brain for some time) while covering for our office receptionist last Friday afternoon. I was sitting there, pinned to the desk, suffering… ya, just suffering. But by the time I finished the post I actually physically wanted to be sitting there. Not just analytically, but emotionally too. It was almost a little frightening how much of a difference putting the concept into practice had made to my mood. I felt, and still feel, such a wonderful sense of freedom – almost a tangible tingle. I hope you can feel it too~
Wow! That’s awesome. Obviously you wanted to be there even if you were suffering- it’s how you make the best out of it that matters. Man, I need to come back and read this comment when I am suffering in my office… Thanks for sharing girly!
Anytime! I say when it comes to living with more honesty, and more joy, the more we can share our stories with each other the better! Actually, rereading this comment stream has made a Monday morning feel all the more like a Friday. I’d say Saturday, but an office can be such a tricky space to teleport, even mentally, completely away from lol.
reading your work, thinking about the ideas you offer, I definitely want to be doing that! Thank you, Cymbria for a thoughtful and thought-provoking article…
Thanks Lynn ~ As writers, we have the power to shape so much with language. The vocabulary of our lives can be one of our strongest tools for change, and I believe we really ought to take ownership – not just us writers, but everyone can take advantage of this flexibility of thought and nomenclature.
Pingback: 5 Tips for staying human at the office | Blank Canvas Living
Pingback: How to start merging your efficiencies with your indulgences | Blank Canvas Living
Pingback: So healthy I could cry quinoa and mung bean salad recipe | Blank Canvas Living