Wanting v. Having : 5 Ways to Embrace Desire


Positively Present - Wanting Having
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Materialism exists because we get excited about something, want to own it, get it, grow used to it (or even feel let down by it immediately after acquiring it), and then strive again for the "wanting" high by identifying a new thing to covet. The cycle can be endless, and even if you're aware of it, it can be tough to break because wanting something (and striving to make it yours) just feels so darn good sometimes. 

The problem is we often don't pay attention to where in that cycle of want-get-have-want that we actually feel good. Yes, getting a thing you've longed for can feel good to obtain momentarily, but frequently it doesn't feel as good as the actual desiring of it did. And we often (if not always!) return to our previous mental state after we've gotten used to possessing whatever it is we once wanted (see: hedonic treadmill).

Often this happens because the way we think about something we want is different from how we feel about it when we own it. Just think about the last time you got a new phone. The anticipation of it, with it's fresh screen and new features, was thrilling. And the first few days with it might have been exciting, too. But now, even if you use and enjoy it a lot, it's likely just something you own. 

The notion that more stuff won't bring you more happiness isn't anything new (and the rise in the minimalism trend keeps bringing it to the forefront in popular culture). Most of us know this (and some of us even put that idea into to practice by resisting the temptation to buy more and more things in pursuit of that short-lived high!), but we often don't focus on how this wanting vs. having idea applies to non-tangible things we're in pursuit of, things like love, status, wealth, success, etc. 

If you're in pursuit of anything at all, whether it be personal or professional, tangible or intangible, you, too, must face the fact that sometimes (and, in fact, often), the wanting of something is more enjoyable than the possession of it. Even if we experience this again and again — we find a great love, we get the job we desperately wanted, we achieve the goal we've worked on for years and yet still feel the need to desire something new or better or more important — it's hard not to keep pursuing more and more. 

The problem is, if we're always chasing after the next thing, we're rarely (if ever) content with where we are now, which makes it pretty difficult to live positively in the present. But how are we to counteract the desire for desire when it's built into our societies, when we're expected to constantly be seeking? Here are few ways we can embrace the ever-present desire to want what we don't yet have.

 

FOCUS ON EXPERIENCE, NOT POSSESSION

You've certainly heard this before: buy experiences, not things. But this concept need not apply only to material goods. It also applies to the intangible desires so many of us have. Experiencing something, whatever it might be, is often much more valuable than possessing it is. For example, rather than focusing the possession of a person (labeling a new romance, needing reassurance that a partner is "yours," or feeling an ownership over your offspring), what if we focused more on the experiences we have with that individual? Doing so will actually strengthen our bonds or, in some cases, help us to realize that perhaps that isn't a person with whom we want to be closely bonded. Or, let's consider the pursuit of greater career opportunity. What if we focused on the experience of working toward it and valued that more than the actual achievement of a new title? Or, once a new title has been granted, what if we spent more time valuing the experience of a new, higher position rather than considering how we might use it to pursue even more status or wealth? Choosing to focus on experiences rather than possessions (tangible or otherwise) is likely to lead to more contentment. 

 

LET GO OF WHAT YOU DON'T GET

It can be hard to realize sometimes when you're in a state of wanting, but the thing you want comes with baggage you cannot understand until you possess it. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, "If a man could have half his wishes, he would double his troubles." (Or, in the words of The Notorious B.I.G., "mo money, mo problems.") Whatever it is you want is going to come with a set of issues that you can't anticipate now. You don't know what you don't know, and sometimes you're often better off not acquiring the things you think you want. I know the "everything happens for a reason" idea is cliche, but I believe in it. You can't foresee what will happen in the future, and I've found that not getting what I want has been a blessing in many cases (and getting what I want has rarely lived up to its hype). If you don't get it, it means it's not meant for you. (Or it's not meant for you right now. Things meant for you have a way of coming when you need them, not necessarily when you want them.)

 

APPRECIATE WHAT YOU DO HAVE

If you're familiar with Positively Present, it's going to be no surprise to see gratitude  — probably one of the most used bits of advice here — in this round-up of tips, but making an effort to recognize and appreciate what you do have (particularly what you once longed for and then obtained) is one of the best ways to counteract the challenging notion of always wanting something else. Things only bring us joy when we're aware of them, which is why we take so much pleasure from wanting. When we want something, we're hyper-focused on it, sometimes consumed by thoughts what life will be like if we have it. Once we've had it for awhile, we don't often spend as much time thinking about it. When you find yourself thinking, "I want..." consider challenging it with the thought, "I have..." 

 

SEEK OUT THE ROOT OF THE WANTING

How much of what you want is what you actually want and how much is someone else's idea of what you should want? It's hard to know for sure — after all, we're all products of the cultures and environments in which we are raised and it can be hard to separate our true desires from what we've been taught — but the more you pay attention to the real reasons for what you want, the more you dig down into the roots of that desire, the more likely you are to realize that what you want is actually based on what you think you're supposed to want. Looking at why you desire what you do (and, just as importantly, what you think will happen if you obtain that thing) will often help you realize that your wants are often rooted in foundations not put in place by you. 

 

VALUE CONTENTMENT OVER HAPPINESS

"The pursuit of happiness" is part of the US Declaration of Independence and, as result, many people here and around the world have come to associate the pursuit of happiness with living life to the fullest. Happiness has been held up as the ultimate goal, something all people should be striving for in whatever way feels right for them. We've come to understand that, while happiness doesn't look the same for everyone, everyone wants to be happy. But, as I've discussed many times before, happiness is a fleeting emotion. It's wonderful, but it doesn't last. Making it your life's goal is setting yourself up for constant disappointment (which often leads to pursuit of the next thing that you think will make you happy). The pursuit of happiness is great for capitalism, but not so great for contentment. Instead of focusing being happy, try striving for contentment. Aim to make the most of what's happening now, to accept what's been and look forward to what will be without setting expectations. 

 

When you're in a state of wanting, it can be difficult to realize this, but it's true: whatever you think you need to be happy — money, fame, love, acceptance, beauty, attention, success, diamonds, children, a house, etc. — won't actually make you happier than you are now, at least not for very long. Realizing this doesn't mean you shouldn't keep pursuing what you want (for what is life if not pursuit?); it only means that you should stop expecting that the having will be greater than the wanting. It means understanding that, even though it seems strange, wanting something can be fulfilling in itself, and not getting what you want doesn't have to mean failure. And, most importantly, it means that, cheesy as it may sound, you'll be able to realize that it is, in fact, a journey towards something has just as much value (if not more!) than the thing itself. 

 

 

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10 Years of Positively Present!

Through the Year Cover PPANNIVERSARY EXCLUSIVE!

From now until the end of the month, EVERYONE who signs up for Patreon will get a copy of Through the Year: 52 Pages of Inspiration from Positively Present, an exclusive e-book containing 52 Positively Present illustrations. For just $1 (or more, if you're feeling generous!), you can get this unique collection of illustrations all while supporting Positively Present!

In March, the book will only be available for higher tiers. If you like what I've been doing over the past ten years, please consider supporting my work on Patreon. (And if Patreon isn't for you, don't worry: I've got something for you! Use code "anniversary" in the print shop for 25% off your order all month long!)

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This week, Positively Present turns ten years old. TEN. It's hard to believe that something that started as a little personal growth project (remember when I was too scared to even tell you my first name?!) turned into a full-blown career. I suppose that's how a lot of businesses start (a personal hobby one day turns into a business years later), but it still shocks me sometimes, just how far Positively Present — and I! — have come in the past decade.

Of course, with this big day approaching, I've been spending a lot of time reflecting so I thought I'd share some of the lessons I've learned from ten years of doing this. Even if you're not a blogger or a creative, check out these life lessons and spend a little time reflecting on what you've learned since 2009. I'm all for staying the in present, but sometimes it doesn't hurt to take a look back and reflect on how far you've come...

 

LESSON 1: LUCK

Sure, I've worked hard creating content over the years, but I can't deny that luck has played a role in the creation and continuation of Positively Present. I've been fortunate enough to come across some great people and organizations as part of my work here and through them, I've been given some amazing opportunities. While I've definitely learned the value of hard work over the years, I've also learned that sometimes it's just about being in the right place at the right time. 

 

LESSON 2: WISDOM

I started Positively Present as a way for me to discover how I, a negative worrier, could learn to live more positively in the present. While I still struggle with anxiety, worrying, and negativity at times, I've learned so much from writing, researching, and creating, as well as from followers and fans. With time comes wisdom, but I've learned that paying attention to that wisdom (and writing it down!) helps it stick with me. 

 

LESSON 3: OPTIMISM

Of course, one of the greatest lessons I've learned over the past ten years is how to be more optimistic. I'm by no means perfect in this regard (I still have to redirect my mind from negative thoughts all the time), but I now have more tools and resources and awareness that helps me focus on how to make the most of the moment (even when the moment's terrible). 

 

LESSON 4: SELF-LOVE

I didn't realize how big of a role self-love would end up having here, but it's been just as important as positivity and mindfulness. Over the years, I've learned how valuable self-love is and how cultivating it can help in almost every aspect of life. Perhaps I would have learned that without PP, but I'll always be grateful for the way this site has guided me to focus on self-love and self-awareness. 

 

LESSON 5: FREEDOM

I've always loved my freedom, but working for myself (something I was able to start doing after about three years of working on the blog as hobby) continually reminds me just how important freedom is for me. I'm so thankful to be able to do what I love and, while I'm often frustrated by the life as a "starving artist," I'd rather have an empty fridge and be free than be chained down with a full belly. 

 

LESSON 6: SUPPORT

Without the support of friends, family, loved ones, and awesome patrons, Positively Present never would have survived over the years. Both emotionally and financially, I've received incredible support from those around me, and, much as I love to rejoice in my freedom, that freedom wouldn't be possible without the support, encouragement, and help of others. 

 

LESSON 7: CREATIVITY

Through my work here, I've learned more than I could have imagined about the importance of creativity and about my own ability to create. It started purely as me blogging about my thoughts on being positively present and has since turned into books, planners, workbooks, design work, and illustrations. I've always loved creating, but having the opportunity to share it here has been an amazing teacher. 

 

LESSON 8: HONESTY

Sharing my words and work here has been, at times, scary. While I certainly don't share every detail of my personal life, I've definitely opened up here in ways I never would have thought possible. Learning to be honest with myself (and, in turn, with others) has taught me a great deal about how important honesty is. Looking to understand things as they truly are isn't always easy, but the more I do it here, the better I get at it. 

 

LESSON 9: CONNECTION

As an introvert, I'm not always putting myself in positions to create new connections, but Positively Present has brought me together with people from around the world who also want to share and learn and grow. It's been so awesome to meet new people (and to learn from them!) over the years. The internet has it's issues, for sure, but I never would have been able to meet so many diverse and unique individuals without this little site right here!

 

LESSON 10: CHANGE

Though much has stayed the same over the years when it comes to the content here, a great deal has changed in terms of how that content's delivered. Once just a little personal blog, it's now a brand with a variety of different social media platforms and IRL products. Change has never been my favorite, but working on Positively Present over the years has helped me to accept and work with change, and I'll be forever thankful for that life lesson. 

 

These are just a few of the many, many lessons I've learned since the beginning (though, even three months in, I'd learned a lot), and though there have been some major ups and downs, some wonderful successes and some time-wasting failures, I'm proud of what I've spent my time doing here on Positively Present, and I hope that you've learned something from following along. Here's to the next ten years of inspiration, insight, and personal growth! 

 


 

If you like the work I've been doing and want to support Positively Present, don't forget to sign up on Patreon to get a copy of Through the Year: 52 Pages of Inspiration from Positively Present, an exclusive e-book containing 52 Positively Present illustrations (a glimpse of what's in the book in the image below). All tier levels will receive a digital copy instantly when they sign up from now until March 1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support! 

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New Year, Same You?: In Praise of Positive Choices

 

Positively Present - Celebrate Positive Choices

 

When something really great happens — you get accepted to the school of your choice, you publish a book, you land the great job, you find love, you make the team, you get the A, you choose a new career path, you give birth to a human person — celebrating is easy. People around you get excited for you and, even if you're filled with uncertainty ('cause change, however positive, can be scary!), you likely feel some sort of positive feelings about having worked hard to accomplish something.

But, unless you're some kind of amazing superstar, these big "wins" are probably not an everyday occurrence. In fact, they might happen only a few times in your lifetime! While I'm all for celebrating life's big, exciting moments, I think we could all benefit from turning a little celebratory attention to the little, everyday wins. This is especially true at the start of a new year when you're probably trying to: (a) keep up with positive progress made last year, (b) start making positive progress this year 'cause last year was a bust, (c) maintain some combination of the A and B, or (d) come to terms with the fact that it's a new year and you better find a way to get your act together before a new decade comes along! 

No matter how you feel about new years, there's always a bit of pressure associated with the start, with those twelve months of possibility stretching out before you. Resolutions or not, we all hope that this year will be better than last year (or, if last year was a great one, hope that this year will live up to it). We're all eyes ahead, focused on what we want to do or achieve in the weeks to come. Many of us are trying to better ourselves, to make choices that will be more aligned with who we want to be in the future. The beginning of each year offers such hope to be a better version of ourselves, and, while that hope can propel some of us into positive action, it can also make an awful lot of us feel like we're already failing at the year, even just a few days in. 

Personally, I had grand ideas for my post-holiday self. The end of the year is always my busiest, both personally and professionally, so I often find myself saying that "X will be different in the New Year" or "In January, I'm going to tackle Y." Not surprisingly, we're a week in and few things have changed dramatically from the time when the calendar read 2018. Change, at least for me, tends to happen slowly, and frequently it's only when I reflect back on things that I realize how much progress I've made. 

I frequently face a "new year, same me" frustration, growing angry at myself for not making all of the picture perfect choices I swore I would make once that calendar page had turned. But yesterday, after chastising myself for a not-so-great choice I made, I found myself mumbling, "I wonder how many good choices you make every single day and don't even think about."

And that little sentence stopped me in my tracks. How many positive choices do I make all the time without even thinking about them? How many changes have I made, over time, that I don't even think about praising myself for because they've become habits? While mulling over these questions, I recognized quite a few good choices I've made recently that a previous version of myself might not have made, like...

  • I didn't pick up my book and read for hours in the middle of a workday 
  • I didn't say the not-very-nice, judgmental thing that came to mind 
  • I didn't sleep in, neglecting the dog until much too late in the morning
  • I didn't order pizza when I had a perfectly good meal in the fridge
  • I didn't forget to take medicine and a rest when I got a headache
  • I didn't skip writing in my gratitude journal, which brings me joy
  • I didn't go down to the corner store and pick up a bottle of wine
  • I didn't put off vacuuming even though I really wanted to
  • I didn't send a call to voicemail and avoid the conversation
  • I didn't leave the bed unmade (which always makes me unsettled)
  • I didn't delete the email and avoid my editing tasks
  • I didn't conclude that I could skip this week's blog post
  • I didn't turn down an opportunity to help a friend in need
  • I didn't consume an entire bag of candy mindlessly
  • I didn't neglect my daily yoga practice, even while very tired
  • I didn't allow myself to smoke cigarettes like I used to 
  • I didn't leave dirty dishes stacked up in the kitchen sink
  • I didn't throw plastic in the trashcan instead of the recycling bin
  • I didn't lose my patience with the incessantly yapping dog
  • I didn't ignore the spreadsheets, despite the boredom they bring
  • I didn't buy that thing I really don't need but really wanted

These are just a few of the good choices I've made recently, most of them made without thinking twice about them. This list isn't meant to be, Woohoo! Look at me and all I've done right! It's meant to show you that, despite the plethora of not-great choices I've made so far this year, I've also made a lot of good choices too!

If you're like me and you're feeling a bit let down by the new year, unsure if you'll be able to live up to your 2018 self's version of who you'd be this year, I highly recommend writing a list of your own. Especially if you're working on New Year's resolutions (or if you've already broken them), writing down a list of positive choices you've made — even if they seem silly or obvious, like brushing your teeth or going to work — can really help you reframe the start of the year for you. 

A new year is a great time to make changes, make resolutions, set intentions, etc., but don't let it be a time when you beat yourself up for all you're not yet doing, forgetting about all the positive choices you've made (or are currently making). We're all on different paths. What's positive for me might not be for you; what feels like a big accomplish for me might be effortless for you. So take some time this week to think about what you've been doing — particularly the things you've done so many times that you don't even think about them anymore — and celebrate them. Because, when you think about it, all of those big wins in life — the moments we celebrate with fervor and festivity, confetti and congratulations — are really only possible because of all of the little wins we take for granted. 

 

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