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Getting What You Want Might Disappoint you

When we put our mind to something, we can make it happen. Call it manifestation, call it focus, ultimately, we have more potential and power than we believe and can each, create the life we want. Therein lies the problem. We can create the life we want.

For most of us though, we do not know what we want, and we struggle to predict what our future selves would want.

Multiple experiments have proven that more freedom does not result in more happiness (Barry Schwartz's seminal work "Paradox of Choice" goes into great depth about this) because nailing down what we want is the hardest part, especially in a sea of options. If you are taking a non traditional path where the milestones are not laid out for you, this becomes even harder because each decision has multiple choices and that creates more complexity in the form of regret and analysis paralysis.

Harvard Psychologist, Daniel Gilbert's research shows that people underestimate how much they will change and how much their preferences will change over a ten year period. This lack of being able to predict our future desires is consistent in every decade with teenagers being notoriously poor at prediction.

Focus on the Journey vs. the Destination

Given we can't predict what we'll desire in the future and are terrible at making decisions, is there any point wanting something specific? Absolutely, goals help us stay focused, motivated and keep us challenged. Knowing what we want is critical to getting what we want.

However, instead of being focused on end goals set to satisfy a future self we don't know, what we're better off doing is enjoying the journey vs. focusing so much on the destination. Think of these as 'process' goals vs. 'outcome' goals.

"I want to enjoy my food while having the energy to live an adventurous life" will be a much more satisfactory goal than I want to get a "6 pack". The way you approach that goal will also change, you won't feel like your options are 'eat healthily and be unhappy' or 'eat unhealthily and be happy'. Schools of thought around intuitive eating recognise the value of process goals. The term 'lifestyle' is in itself all about the journey.

"I want to make $20M so I can live the life I want" is often dissatisfactory because the version of you that makes $20M, ten years later, may suddenly want $400M or they may realise they're happy with very little. And the years of scrimping and ignoring relationships and your body may suddenly no longer be worth it.

The outcome doesn't last very long and the journey to get to the destination can be painful and unsustainable, especially if you try to take the shortest route. What we're far better off doing is optimising for the journey we want to be on vs. a destination that we're predicting inaccurately.


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