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Do You Know What You Want?
Many people consider George Jones the greatest and most influential country music singer of all time. Sadly for Jones, his on-stage and on-record abilities didn’t necessarily translate to the rest of his life. Jones was an alcoholic and a cocaine addict who spent so much time blacked out he earned the nickname “No Show Jones.”
In 1981, George Jones was interviewed by The Chicago Tribune. He said this, “All my life, I’ve been running from something. If I knew what it was, I could run in the right direction. I know where I want to go, but I always seem to end up going the other way. I know there’s nothing down that way. I’ve been down there too many times.”
My friend, author and thinker Susan Ford Collins says it’s easier to run toward something than to run away from something. Susan believes our goal-oriented brains don’t hear us saying what we don’t want nearly as loudly as they hear what we do want.
This brings up an important question: Do you know what you want?
Almost every person I asked gave me one of three answers:
I want to be rich.
I want to be happy.
I want to be fulfilled.
Of course, different people used different words. And a few people did have different answers. But besides some variations and anomalies, almost everyone said the same thing. Your mileage may vary, but I’d guess you also used one of these ideas to describe what you want: Money, contentment, or purpose.
Do You Know What You Want?
If it’s so simple, then why do so many people say they’re not happy with where they are and what they’ve achieved?
Research shows there are at least seven factors that keep us from recognizing our contentment:
- Cultural Differences: Cultural norms and expectations play a significant role in shaping one’s perceptions.
- Economics: Financial stability, income, and access to necessities can strongly influence our viewpoints.
- Social and Family Support: Strong networks and relationships can contribute to satisfaction.
- Health and Well-being: Physical and mental health are crucial factors in overall life satisfaction.
- Life Events: Major life events, good and bad, have corresponding effects on our contentment.
- Personal Outlook: Individual attitudes, personalities, and coping strategies can play a significant role in the perceptions of our lives.
- Age: Happiness can vary by age, with some research suggesting it tends to follow a U-shaped curve, with satisfaction levels rising in older age.
What these studies all show is that the factors that affect our attitudes are subjective.
Being rich can mean almost anything, from having private aviation at your beck and call to being able to afford rent, food, and medicine.
Likewise, being happy presents a large spectrum that can span from quiet contentment to uproarious laughter.
And purpose, too, can be defined in so many ways that it’s hard to put your finger on what it actually means.
What I haven’t found, is a study that shows how much can be achieved and how much can be appreciated if we actually take the time to think about what we really want.
But knowing how these things measure up and matter – to you – can often be the way to help us start to appreciate what we have and to go after what we want.
After all, we all know the old adage If you don’t know where you’re going, any map will get you there.
Or, as George Jones sang, I Can’t Get There From Here.