Can you want what you already have?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about an Oscar Wilde quote I stumbled upon. “In this world, there are only two tragedies. One is getting what one wants, and the other is not getting it.”

The uncomfortable tension of wanting something. The subsequent relief once we get it. It’s intoxicating.

Smart people tell us to be thankful and to appreciate what we have. That we can’t be happy for as long as we desire to be happier. Sounds good on a greeting card perhaps - but is this even possible?

Desire and wanting something is a powerful, primal human emotion. More powerful, I would argue, than the warm fuzzy feeling we get when we take time to reflect on what we already have. I believe that most people, most of the time, are focused on what they want because the buzz is that much stronger once we get it.

This constant dissatisfaction serves a useful purpose. It drives innovation and self-improvement. Without a healthy dose of lusting for more we wouldn’t be constantly bettering ourselves personally nor enjoying the amazing techology-rich 21st century world we live in.

The problem of course is that our dissatisfaction with the status-quo robs us of the happiness that sits right before us. The things we wanted yesterday are often available to us today, should we choose to give them our attention.

So, “Can you want what you already have?” I think the answer is “Yes”, but that it takes effort. We need to learn tricks to fool our mind and we need to practice them regularly.

When you’ve been away from home for some length of time, have you ever noticed the strong desire to return back to what you once considered boring and familiar? If you want to experience wanting home again, maybe you should travel more.

Have you ever noticed you desire your boyfriend/girlfriend/whatever more when they’re away? Or maybe when they’re simply at the other side of a crowded room surrounded by strangers? If you want to experience wanting your partner again, maybe you should spend a healthy amount of time apart and then look forward to seeing them again. Distance fuels desire.

I’ve noticed the same pattern with a bunch of things. Nothing made me appreciate my old car more than when it broke down and was off the road for a couple of weeks - catching the bus and begging for rides was not fun. To appreciate my car, I should just catch the bus once a week.

I’m bored of my current furniture, and I’ve spent the past couple of months researching how I’m going to replace it all. As I type this, I’m lying on the floor of my living room because I literally have no furniture at all while I wait for new flooring to be installed. Trust me, I appreciate my old boring furniture more than ever. I just want it back so I have something to sit on.

Could it be that voluntarily giving stuff up, or artificially creating some distance, even for a little while, is all it takes to experience wanting something all over again, and the inevitable relief and joy we feel when we get it back?

Or perhaps it’s simply enough to just imagine. To close our eyes, and picture our lives without the people we love, the things we’ve worked hard to own, and the things we’ve worked hard to achieve. A worthwhile thought exercise if we have the self-discipline to actually do it.

posted by Dylan on 27 October 2014, 11:03 pm in ,