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November 30, 2022

What do you want (really)?

Most of our experiences are driven by what we want. This is why advertising is such a massive industry. If I can convince you that your life would feel better with a Porsche (more interesting, youthful, powerful), I win. You get the experience of driving a Porsche and, every so often, you feel bursts of satisfaction.

The real question then, isn't what do you want — it's what do you want to *feel*?

From Wanting Things to Wanting Feelings

Most people are really seeking some semblance of joy, peace, happiness. As good as those feelings may seem, even they're flawed. The goal posts for happiness are always moving. Yesterday, you thought a Porsche would make you feel good. Today maybe a new tech gadget will do the trick. Tomorrow you want a new home. And so on.

Pursuing good feelings from external sources creates a life and work experience that's frazzled. You want to feel something. You pursue the thing and maybe you get it and then you want some more. Or you don't get it and feel dissatisfied, so you try harder.

That's the hamster wheel: want a thing --> get a feeling --> want more. That's an oversimplification, but you see semblances of this everywhere.

From Wanting to Feelings to Being Fully Alive

There's a simpler pursuit. The pursuit of simply being alive — fully alive.

In the book Living Untethered, Michael Singer references the experience of seeing a beautiful, tragic play presented by remarkable actors. The events on stage move the audience to tears. Afterwards, everyone tells their friends they MUST go and see it too. But why? The play was sad!

That wasn't the point.

The experience itself was beautiful. The audience was immersed in the story. No one tried to change it. They fully embraced it, felt it, learned from it and, in turn, found meaning in the experience.

The pursuit of being fully alive starts with that sense of pure fascination of your own life. Being fully alive is about noticing everything with greater awe and appreciation. You will continue to want things, but you’ll see those wants as part of your larger story. And you’ll learn to notice why you want certain things, and begin to look for the meaning behind the thing(s) you want.

In many cases, just the sheer practice of seeing your life this way will help you shift your wants from things, to feelings, to being fully alive.

So, what do you want...really?

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