Monday, June 11, 2012

Why Do You Want That?

Since it's all about what you want, not what you can have (see Of Course You Can), you might find yourself answering the question: "What do you want?" (see What Do You Want?) rather than: "What can you have?" As you do, you'll likely encounter another question: "Why do you want that?"

If you hear someone ask it, you may hear an implied comma-stupid (i.e., Why do want that, stupid?). You may suddenly feel defensive about your stated desire. You may feel embarrassed. You may beat a hasty retreat and say something like: "Oh, I don't really want that" or "Yeah, you're right."

There's something about answering why-questions that leads us down the path of justification rather than the path of motivation. However, the justification of a desire or action tends to occur after the fact and, as such, is rarely the motivation for the desire or action. Yet the "need" to justify can be so strong that we often lose site of motivation once we head down that path of justification: sometimes temporarily, sometimes indefinitely.

We're so conditioned to justify (look how much we practice) that we often hear accusation in questions that have none. Whether or not it's there, we hear the accusation, we launch the justification. The sense of need to justify our every desire is the number one reason we lose touch with what we truly want.

Justification has other side-effects. The most impacting is: resentment. We either pursue our wants but feel that we always have to justify that pursuit or we don't pursue our wants because we feel we can't adequately justify them. Whether or not the person or people to whom we feel we owe the justification ever asked for one, we start to resent them for it.

Over the years, the resentment towards someone based on the need to justify can become enormous, even if the person never asked us to justify anything.

So, what do you do?

I imagine that psychologists and psychiatrists have made billions on this very issue and that there are many complex and well tested solutions that I know absolutely nothing about. Rather than looking into that, I came up with my own which is rather simple and has no basis in psychology or psychiatry. It's just something that I've done for myself and seems to have worked. You might call it a "justification-free diet".

Basically it goes like this. Any time you find yourself answering the question "Why do you want that?" (or one of it's many variants), you make no statements of justification, only statements of desire. That means that you don't use phrases like "need", "have to", "can't", or "forced me to".  You just say why you want it.

Sounds easy, right?

Still, you may find it difficult to do. You may slip right into justification without even noticing it. So the first step is to simply say, "Because I want it" or "Because I want to."

Someone may respond with, "But why do you want it?"

So you take the second step and say, "You mean, 'what about it appeals to me?'"

She says, "Yeah, what about it appeals to you?"

This brings us to the third step. You make simple statements about what appeals to you. You don't try to make them eloquent or compelling. You just say them.

As you do this, you may notice things that come to mind that you don't want to say aloud. When they do, just say them. You'll feel way better and you'll likely spark some great conversation.

However, if you find yourself "unable" to say them, then make a note of them so you can explore them later. It's the judgement of appealing factors (the ones that you keep to yourself) that are likely keeping you from your wants.

Could be time for a justification-free diet. Try it for a day and see what happens.

Happy Monday,

1 comment:

  1. I would note that people often express a concern regarding unbridled wanting: if no one felt the need to justify their actions and everyone did only what they wanted to do, all social structure would break down and the world would fall apart.

    I understand this concern and I can see a path to that outcome. However, I'm pretty sure that it's a concern in theory only, not in practice.

    In my experience, when people finally get to the point of simply wanting what they want and honestly and openly exploring what they want, they tend to want things that benefit more than just themselves. They may not do what those around them would prefer they do. Still, they don't go all crazy evil.

    Even people who might start with the desire to do something "bad", end up changing that desire once they are free to honestly and openly pursue their motivations.

    This flies in the face of original sin, but my sense is that people who don't feel the need to justify tend to want "good" (i.e., things that others would consider altruistic.) On the other hand, I can't think of any "evil" or "bad" action where the actor didn't have a justification (valid or not).



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