His comment caught me off guard. We were talking about a recent bike ride that he and his wife had finished with their friends. His wife had hit something that sent her to the ground with her friend crashing right into her from behind. Even though she had suffered bumps, bruises and a chipped tooth I was jealous of their activities. I told him that in my next life I wanted to be active and spend time doing fun things like bike riding. He looked at me and said “You know it’s not too late to start in this lifetime”. I raised my eyebrows and looked at him thoughtfully.
I continued walking down the hall - my mind raced. My first thought was, yeah but try being overweight. It really bothered me that he thought it was so simple to “just start” doing what I wanted to do in life. At one point in my life I had been fit and happy. How did I get here? I considered my priorities. Being a mom, helping with the financial struggles of raising children... having a business to run. I admitted to myself that being active and fit was not high on my list of priorities. Did that mean that he was better than I was because he had chosen different priorities in life than I did? Did he deserve to pursue his wants because he was smarter or had different life experiences? I became defensive. YEAH – BUT……
What other excuses could I come up with to defend how I got here to this point. I bet he didn’t have to grow up in a situation where fighting for daily living(needs) instead of wants –was a lifestyle. I assumed that he was able to have what he needed growing up and he could now focus on his wants. In a way I was still struggling with just fulfilling my needs and the needs of my family. Wants? That was just an extra luxury.
I played with the idea of rearranging my priorities. If I wanted to achieve the level of fitness I desired I would have to spend quite a chunk of my time working out and money to buy the right kind of healthy foods. Even if I could afford it – the time it took away from my other goals would create unbalance in my life and the other things I valued.
I’ve been quite frustrated with not being able to balance my needs and wants. In a recent conversation with someone who knows me really well, I realized that I was expecting my husband to fill my emotional needs and wants and that because of his own needs and wants – opposite of mine – that I may not ever get what I wanted in our relationship or feel that I would be able to meet his... It left me feeling hopeless and sad. How do I get what I need and want from Life?
I took my questions to prayer and my answers came almost immediately when I found a book while shopping. Flipping through its contents the words “needs, wants and priorities” caught my attention. It was no accident or coincident I thought and I bought the book on a whim and went home and got lost in its pages.
I’ve tried to summarize the main points – basically, human beings have both needs and wants. For most people fulfilling their “needs” consumes most of their time and fulfilling “wants” ends up just being a wonderful extra if they get to it. The author goes on to say that having unfulfilled wants can feel quite painful especially in a world that tells us that we deserve to have it all. The world says; “You should have it all and if you don’t -then maybe it’s because you are not smart or diligent enough.” Exactly what I have been feeling.
In his book “Howards Gift by Eric C. Sinoway” he says, “we can’t maximize ourselves on all dimensions at the same time. We cannot pursue all of our goals simultaneously, nor satisfy all of our desires right away.” I made a mental note of what I needed and wanted. It was like trying to choose your favorite child and forget about the others – not going to happen! How do I get what I need and want and find balance in it?
To feel satisfied and fulfilled, he continues, start by answering this question: “ Who is it I want to be and what is the legacy I want to leave?” “Who you want to be is a reflection of your values – We must have a value based vision of ourselves of who we are and what we believe.
The same friend I mentioned before wrote an obituary of how she would like to be remembered. In the book it talked about the same thing. You need to have a clear picture of who you want to be.
Another thing the author mentions is that we get too caught up with completing the road we are on when really we should stop and ask ourselves is that the direction we still want to go? Have our desires changed? Did we come across new information that may change our way of thinking or add to it?
When is the last time you have sat down and gave yourself a mental evaluation? You can ask yourself: “Do I want to continue on this path or is now the moment to change direction? Some people can only see one way of getting things done when in fact there are other ways, detours, rest stops along the way.
I’m filled with hope again that I can figure out what I really want and need in life. Which values do I believe in most and want to exemplify in my life? What can I let go? Can I find a new purpose and direction? I hope you are happy in your journey with all its twists and bends -whatever road that may be. Love always, Jess
*Howards Gift is a book written by colleague and friend Erick Sinoway about the wisdom from Howard Stevenson of Harvard Business School