In a lot of ways, I’m just like every other human being on this planet. When I want something, I want the world to give it to me, easily and abundantly, pretty much right away. And also like my fellow human beings, I find that my hopes are pretty consistently disappointed in this regard, which can cause a lot of frustration and discouragement.
Then the other day I had an experience that helped me realize why this might actually be a good thing after all, and not just for me.
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
It began when I realized that I needed to go back to Home Depot for the third time in four hours to return a floor polisher that hadn’t really worked in the first place. It was a Sunday. All I had wanted, I thought, was a quiet day without excessive demands on my time so I could enjoy a day of rest. When I realized that that wasn’t in the cards, the pity party began.
Still, I was connected enough to my inner wisdom to hear at least some of its guidance, so I promised myself that after returning from Home Depot I would not do any more home improvement work and would use the hour or so of free time I had to do something nourishing and relaxing—whatever sounded good at the time.
I ended up deciding to take a hot bath and read a novel by one of my favorite authors. And let me tell you, it was amazing. I take a lot of baths, but that one felt particularly relaxing and luxurious.
It occurred to me that maybe the reason it felt so powerful was that I had actively chosen it. What I wanted was for life to offer me a day free from responsibilities or demands on my time. That is not what life gave me. But it had given me the opportunity to make a choice based on what was important to me. Is it possible that this was an even better gift?
When Life Gives You Confusion Instead of Clarity
I know a lot of people who don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. I didn’t for a long time as well, and I know how frustrating it can be.
You start to wonder: Why couldn’t I be one of those people who knew that they wanted to be a firefighter, or a lawyer, or a circus clown from the time they were 5? You think about how much easier your life would be if you’d only been born knowing what type of work you’re meant to do in the world.
Perhaps that would make like easier; I wouldn’t know. But I’m beginning to be fairly certain that it wouldn’t make it better.
Often when people do one thing their entire lives, they don’t know what to do with themselves when they’re no longer doing it—either because they were forced out of it through injury or circumstance, or because they retired. Nothing lasts forever, and these people never had to wrestle with the question of what they most want to do or why, so they never really learned how to answer it. As a result, they often get confused, disillusioned, and depressed when they no longer know what to do.
The clients I work with, on the other hand, have to learn how to answer the question of what’s most important to them and what they want most. As a result, they can always find their way again whenever life’s circumstances change or they find something they were enjoying no longer makes them come alive. They don’t have to worry about confusion and uncertainty because they know how to step into the unknown, hear their inner wisdom, and make choices based on what matters most.
The Real Reason You Can’t Always Get What You Want
I find it a worthwhile past time to seek out evidence that the world is benevolent. (I spent a large part of my life looking for everything that was wrong with me and the world, and what I found is that (1) whatever you look for you tend to find and (2) that really serves no purpose except making yourself miserable.)
It seems to me that when we don’t get what we want, it may be because it’s not what’s best for us anyway. It might also be that we’re being given the opportunity to choose.
If, for example, you don’t get the job you were hoping for, maybe it wasn’t the right fit for you. Maybe it would have made you miserable, and you would have made others equally miserable, but you wouldn’t have known that until you’d moved your life around to take the job and invested 9 months into it.
Or maybe you would have loved it. Maybe you’re being given the opportunity to make a conscious choice to commit to doing the type of work you want to do in the world, and to exercise that commitment over and over by continuing to uncover opportunities until you find the right one.
Like I discovered in my bath, there’s power in choosing something despite opposition, rather than having it given to you.
Perhaps this is the real reason we aren’t always given what we want. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to discover this power we all have, the ability to make a choice based on what’s important to us in any circumstance and stick with that choice despite adversity. In doing so, we discover a strength we may not have even known we had.
Remembering Our Power to Create
It’s important that we remember we have this ability to choose and to commit to that choice, because that’s really what the power of creation is all about.
It’s like the universe is using adversity to remind us that we’re stronger than we realize, and that we’re powerful enough to construct a life that expresses and fulfills what matters most to us.
Once we realize we have this potential, there’s no telling what we can create; the same ability we have to construct a life of meaning allows us to give form to anything else, from novels and songs to businesses and relationships—even entire societies. Perhaps not giving us what we want all the time is the best way that the world that gave us life has to invite us, in turn, to make our own creations and contributions to the world.
Putting Our Power to Use
So the next time you find yourself feeling frustrated that you haven’t gotten what you want, use it as a chance to get clear about what’s most important to you and ask yourself what choices you can make to care for and nurture whatever that is.
Just please don’t use all this as another club to beat yourself up when you’re feeling disappointed. This isn’t about asking what you did wrong. It’s definitely not about criticizing yourself for making poor choices or for supposedly lacking commitment. It’s really about remembering that what’s happening may be far better than anything you have in mind, and seeing what choices are available to you to make right now.
Keep in mind that sometimes we don’t recognize all the choices we have because we’re viewing things out of habit and our own limited perspective. We all have blind spots, and we all need help from others to see through them to where new possibilities may lie. I know I’ve felt stuck many times in my life only to have someone else offer an idea that feels very obvious in retrospect but probably never would have occurred to me, left to my own devices.
We’re creative, powerful creatures, and we always have options. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of that, by friends or by life. I don’t know about your friends, but life is usually happy to oblige.
Discover Your Own Power and Possibilities
If you’re having trouble finding appealing options , or if you’re not sure how to navigate the challenges in front of you, help is available. I offer an online course about finding your calling that’s currently available on a sliding scale as well as one-on-one and small group coaching.
Over to You
When have you discovered something valuable as a result of not getting what you wanted?
Your experience and insight can help others, so please take a moment to share in a comment below.