Is Life Really About Getting What We Want?

I used to think it was. Prompted in part by the belief that I was in control, coupled with the new age brainwashing I used to subject myself to, I thought, like many, that life was about getting what I wanted. I thought I knew what I wanted, of course, and that I knew what would make me happy. Helplessly drawn to the shiny, I thought that if I could be a well known dancer/performer, travel the world, and go to neo-tribal festivals with all the cool kids that I’d have my finger on the pulse of what it’s all about. I couldn’t have been more wrong about where my soul’s true fulfillment lies!

As we begin another year, the tendency for many is to establish intentions, goals, and resolutions in hopes of getting more of what we want and less of what we don’t want. We make vision-boards, write down desires, and distill it all down into tangible goals with plans and deadlines. While there is merit to the notion that we create our lives, and there is undeniable worth in getting in touch with a compelling vision, it’s also worthwhile to ask ourselves, “Is life really about getting what I want?” and “Is my life really my own?”

Sometimes we get what we want only to realize that it was not actually what we wanted at all. It didn’t satiate the deeper longing we have any more than a blink relieves tiered eyes. The satisfaction is so short lived you might even miss that split second of relief. Other times, we are brainwashed by what we’ve been told to want or by what our friends want, or our parents want for us. Are we really in touch with the deeper pulse of life in our wanting at all? Our wants can often be so empty when we start peeling back the layers...

What the soul really wants above all else is its evolution. A great deal of our growth on the human journey however is catalyzed by challenge and struggle. The personality, though, will never add to its wish list that it wants to be traumatized, experience a sickness, or lose a loved one for the sake of soul growth. We don’t see this written into our goals or glued onto our vision-boards (ever!) but for most of us some type of undergoing will be in the cards.

I, for one, am no longer the person I used to be as a direct result of harrowing challenge. And while I never did cross off the items on my former self’s (kind of embarrassing) bucket list, the list has changed drastically. Life had a different plan for me that was far grander than what my personality could’ve come up with. My soul story has taken me down a terrifying, transformative, and epic road that I could never have planned for, written goals about, or glued onto my vision-board.

I’ll admit, the path my soul had in mind for me has been less ‘impressive’ in some ways than my personality’s plan. However, I’m being shown that when I live my true soul story, I have more to give and feel more fulfilled than I had ever imagined. I believe this is possible for each of us. When we get in touch with our soul selves, we are treasure troves bearing infinite gifts.

When we focus solely on personal gratification we keep ourselves locked into a limited ‘adolescent’ mode of living. We keep ourselves from actualizing into the fully formed and gifted human that we can be. True fulfillment comes through service. Maturity asks, “what can I give?” and not “what can I get?” Ripening into a ‘real adult’ is about accepting my unique soul story, knowing what’s mine to give and giving it. This is what being comfortable in my skin and being at peace with being me is all about.

I realize that there is a greater story living through me, regardless of the desires of my personality. I’ve stopped trying so hard. I’ve stopped assuming that I’m in control or that I ultimately know what I want. I know the difference now between listening to the stream of life and leaning into the current versus trying to direct or control the stream.

The mystery is increasingly present and I don’t dare fill in the blanks like I used to. I have a sense that life is living me more than the feeling I used to have that I was living life. My process is more about listening deeply and attending to what arises with curiosity and humility. I am surprised often—this let’s me know that I am engaged in an active process of discovery as oppose to trying to exert control over the ride.

Wisdom, then, lies not in planning or controlling what happens, but in my ability to meet what arises. My vision-board has become a place to capture the clues of my unfolding soul story versus being a visual catalog of my wants.

So, is life really about getting what we want?

It depends who’s doing the wanting. Does your wanting stem from needing to impress others or from your need to feel worthy? Are you chasing what others have told you that you should want? Or does your wanting come from the depths of your very soul? Is your wanting informed by the pulse of life inside you and from your center? That kind of wanting is life experiencing itself through you as you. It's less about what you want and more about what wants you.

Copyright © 2015 Marie-Ève Bonneau