Monday, June 20, 2011

What Do We Truly Want?

By Russ Beck

Photo ©

Case Study

Joan, a middle-aged woman, came in feeling despondent. She slumped into the recliner and gave a deep sigh. She told me her life was good, but not all she thought it should be. Joan discussed her feelings about this regularly with John, a male coworker, who was approximately the same age. Their relationship had grown close over the past few weeks.

As she spoke, it became apparent Joan’s feelings towards John were deepening and she wondered if she might be happier leaving her husband, Rick, of 32 years for this new and exciting relationship. Joan spoke of feeling younger since meeting John. She also stated she looked forward to going to work now and seldom took time off. On the other hand, Joan’s tolerance for her husband’s flaws was at an all time low and she was considering a trial separation.

Joan said her feelings of dissatisfaction with her life began several years ago. She noticed that small things began to bother her about her life with her husband. They were still driving ten-year-old cars and were living on a budget. She felt bored most of the time. She never spoke with her husband about this as she believed he would not have listened to her.

Joan reported her early life was quite good. She loved her five children and still enjoyed them and her grandkids. She spoke of many fun family outings and fond memories of vacations.

Joan rubbed her temples as she spoke. “I see all that my neighbors and my siblings have and somewhere along the way I feel like I’ve missed the boat.”


Like most of us, Joan had moments where she saw the things others amassed and she believed she had fallen short. In a world of "things," it is easy for us to measure ourselves against what others have. The reality of what is really important is quite different. When asked to give up one of her children for a million dollar home, Joan looked at me in surprise. How could I ever suggest such a thing? How about trading the 32 years of marriage with Rick for a successful career and a multimillion dollar house? Again she shook her head like I was crazy.

An old saying states: “Happiness consists not in having everything you want, but in wanting everything you have.” When Joan evaluated her life in these terms, she began to gain a different perspective. She started to see that her present considerations would cause a great loss in her life. Interestingly, Joan then started to become protective of the “things” which were most important to her–children, grandchildren, and yes, even Rick. She did not want to lose all the relationships she had worked so hard for over all those years. Joan started to see her life differently and instead of feeling bored, she started looking for ways to ensure that those she loved never left her life.

Real Life Applications

All of us experience times in which we feel less than successful. We all get caught in the comparison game where neighbors, relatives and business associates all seem to have so much more than we do. This is normal for living in the world. It is however, a nasty trap that places at risk all we truly do value in life; our families.

Try this. On a piece of paper, list all of the relationships you treasure and would not want to lose. Then list all the things you think you'd like to have. As you examine the two lists, which of those relationships would you want to give up for anything on the other list? Chances are you wouldn't do it.

Also, looking at the first list, how would your life change if you lost a couple of those relationships? What would you do to prevent losing them?

Ironic isn’t it? In the mist of feeling we have so little, if offered a great deal in place of what we do have, we recoil in horror at the possibility of losing that which really is so dear to us.

Until next time …

~ Russ

* Names have been changed.

-----© Russ Beck, 2011-----

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  1. Makes you appreciate what you have. Very nice.

  2. Great article. Most of us don't know what we want. We think we do, but we really don't. We only know what we don't want.