A trap many of us Do What You Wanters fall into is that we spend too much time obsessing over that thing we want, and too little time indulging in what we already have.
We certainly will spend our lives dreaming of and charging after a rosier future, but we also want to be smelling the roses around us.
Rushing to get out the door every morning, one of my clients realized he’d been waking up fixating on what he wanted to get done today, but missing out on that precious little time he gets with his boys.
He travels and works late, so he misses them most nights. This 15 minutes in the morning is all he really gets during the week, and now he’s fixating on enjoying it.
As Epicurus put it, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
The Trap of “Getting There”
Many years of my life I spent focused on “getting there.”
“When I get what I want it will all be good,” I would tell myself, but for too many years I failed to fully enjoy how good I already had it.
I hated my job. I woke up every day dreading going to work, dreaming of the day when I’d pull out of the parking lot and leave it behind for good.
Blaming my job for my 7 out 10 level of happiness, whining about it, frustrated, dreaming of my future bail-out, it was only years later I looked back and wished I could have un-deleted the happiness.
Sure, there were hardships in my job, but whatever. It wasn’t like I was cooking chicken or sweeping floors; they were high-quality problems in a high-quality life.
But by fixating my attention on what I didn’t want (the job) and dreaming of some future where I had it (accelerating out of that parking lot), I was robbing happiness from my current life.
The Skill of Fulfillment
I sat down with a new client a couple months back to talk about getting what he wants.
He has a high-quality problem. After crushing his career he retired young, but he’s not feeling fulfilled and wants to find that thing which gets him jazzed every day.
He’s living the good life. Many would think he’s living the dream, yet, for him, he feels like there’s something missing, something else he needs to do.
What? He doesn’t know. How does he figure it out? How does he explore opportunities? Who does he go to? What does he say to them? How does he get it done?
In the first few hours we met, we talked about none of that.
We talked about one thing—The Skill of Fulfillment.
How Do We Feel Fulfilled?
There’s an enormous difference between getting what you want, and feeling like you have it.
We all know that difference. We might dream for years of that new car, but just like those roses we walk past every day, new cars and everything else lose their new smell.
Soon enough we stop appreciating what we have, and our minds are racing off imagining that feeling we’ll get from the next thing we want.
Feeling this way most of our lives, walking around like a glass half “full-filled,” we fixate on that next new thing to fill us up, run the engine a little more, and repeat the cycle over and over again.
As I put it to my client, after all you’ve achieved and done, if you feel like something is missing now, how will you know that next thing will fill it?
It will for him, because I sent him away with these two exercises to get him building his skill of fulfillment:
Exercise 1: Every day imagine how you’re different walking around fulfilled. See a half- empty gas tank. Imagine a half-empty glass walking past you on the street. And as often as you can imagine right now in this moment feeling fulfilled.
What does it feel like in your body? What moments in your life are you reminded of when you felt fulfilled? How can you remind yourself to feel more this way?
Exercise 2: In your daily exercises, do a complete survey of your life and write down in every way how your life is already full. Then, every morning read this list aloud while visualizing those things in your life right now that make you feel full.