It's not every day that you get a bolt of inspiration while putting on your shoes, but that's exactly what happened to me today. I love my battered old chucks, but they're starting to go beyond the point of functional - that's what happens when you wear a favourite pair regularly for over three years! As I looked at the worn lining, I thought to myself "wow, I really want a new pair of Converse" and then, heard a rule spring up in my head...
"I want never gets".
I posted about it in one of the communities I am in, thinking it was just a me-thing, but to my surprise, it resonated with a lot of the other women in that space. We'd all grown up with that phrase! Our parents, in their wisdom, instilled polite speaking in us all - "I would like" or "may I have" are both much softer than an "I want" - especially in a stroppy five-year-old.
Only, I'm much older than five, and (usually) a lot less stroppy. So why was my brain bringing the phrase up now?
As a Speech Therapist, I was taught a thing or two about how our brains develop as children - to put it simply, it's all about cause and effect. We do something, observe what happens, then store it in the memory banks for later. It's how we learn language, motor skills, how to make friends, manners... you name it, you've probably been unconsciously running experiments on it since birth.
As we get older, the process evolves somewhat - we don't just learn cause and effect skills, we make it mean something as well. Every event we process starts to mean something about ourselves, other people, or the world in general. For example, a simple falling out with a childhood friend can be made to mean a) that we are not worth sticking around for; b) that other girl is rude; or c) friendships are hard and people can't be trusted.
This isn't a conscious process - our brains are wired to be meaning-making machines. But it is important to note when we start to code them as "rules", especially if they are unhelpful ones. My parents weren't trying to teach me that I'm not allowed to want nice things - they were guiding me to become a well mannered and respectful human. But if my brain is remembering the lesson as "you're not allowed to want things, because you'll never get them" then that can have a big impact on my adult life!
Wants vs Needs
I've written in the past about needs being "what gets you to okay" and wants being "what makes life wonderful", but that's always come with a caution that focusing on your wants and not your needs can lead to "bad habits". Today, I'm feeling like that's not the full story. I refuse to define wants by their relation to negative images for a second longer.
So here are some new definitions for us all - I'd love to hear what you think of them!
Needs - meeting our needs is an act of creation. We might be creating energy, time, enthusiasm, patience - it's about the resources that get us to a stable foundation. Your needs are going to be completely different to my needs, or anyone else's for that matter. For example, I need time alone, every single day. It doesn't have to be long - ten minutes will do on a busy day - the important thing is that I am silent, at rest and not sharing my energy with anyone. BLISS. My lovely partner Mel, on the other hand, needs social time every day. Her boost comes from the busy, stimulating and that sharing of energy with the world. To make sure that we are both functioning at our best, we have to balance the two out and create a "win-win" situation every day.
Wants - these are the things we desire, that would make life feel wonderful. They build on the stable foundation created when we meet our needs, and often form a big part of our "some day" dreams. Again, they're highly individual to you! I used the word "things", but I think the biggest growth lies when we take them beyond the object or event to the bigger value underneath. If you consider the new shoes that started this all off, it wasn't about the shoes themselves - when I wear my Converse I feel fun. I use them to express my authentic self - jazzy shoes feel like a signal to the people I meet that I am friendly, approachable, and not afraid of embracing my weird. That's the want that was underneath the craving for some new shoes.
What do I do with this?
When I posted a smaller version of this in the community, a couple of people asked me "what happens now that you've seen it" and BOY that was a good question! I know what to do with these beliefs when they arise - I've got tools aplenty to help release unhelpful rules and beliefs that limit me, so on one level it was a simple process.
But underneath that, I found a new dimension - changing how I interact with the universe. I believe that the universe runs on an unseen current of energy, and as sentient beings we interact with that energy constantly, but often unconsciously. If I'm only focused on meeting my needs, I'm bringing a sense of "lack" to that interaction - I need this much and no more to be "okay" and often, that's exactly what the universe delivers. Just enough. Which I've found a really uncomfortable space to inhabit in the past.
Just enough energy to get through a workday meant "and not enough to cook a healthy dinner".
Just enough money for bills meant "if the washing machine breaks, you're screwed."
Just enough respect in a friendship meant "this doesn't actually feel very safe."
I'm not blaming the universe (as much as I'd have liked to on those days) - that focus on "just enough" was something I built for myself and I expressed that in how I acted. When I focused on the lack, my motivation was directly proportional to how close or distant that lack felt. In the past six months particularly, I've been doing a lot of self growth on aligning to wants, but it's felt equal parts exciting and frustrating. When I stopped to explore this I've noticed a real "two steps forward, one step back" vibe, and I think that the sneaky "I want never gets" rule was under there.
Last night, I posted a declaration on Instagram - I want changes. Going deeper here, I want BIG changes. For myself, my people and the world in general.
Paying for a cleaner would leave me lighter, free and frankly, make a pretty marvelous addition to my life. A dishwasher would be EVEN BETTER.
I would absolutely love to be serving over 1000 women and nonbinary people in my free Facebook group by the end of the year.
It would feel amazing to guide more people who are ready for big changes to get the life they deserve. I've got a big celebration planned for hitting the milestone of 100 people completing my transformational programme.
Dismantling systemic injustices and redesigning the world from the values of love and compassion - YES PLEASE!
And of course, a new jazzy pair of Converse would be awesome.
Now I'm off to dedicate some time, energy and action into creating the reality where my "I want" DOES get results. Are you in?