Take your time and act like the best version of yourself
It seems simple with wishes - all people want to be healthy, happy and rich.
But as soon as it comes to something more concrete: choosing a profession, a place to live, and even plans for the weekend, many people get lost. That's largely because they don't know what they really want.
Here are five simple tricks to help you figure out what you really want.
What's the problem
Desire is the impulse the brain sends us in order for us to satisfy one of our needs. American psychologist Steven Reiss states that each person has 16 of them: satiation, physical activity, communication, romantic relationships, creating a family and taking care of offspring, loyalty to one's group and its values, recognition, social status, power, curiosity, independence, justice, saving, self-protection, predictability, comfort.
Ideally, the realization of desires should satisfy these needs. But this is not always the case. The fact is that consciousness often misinterprets our needs. Or forces us to focus on the simplest and easiest to achieve, imposed by the environment, advertising and social networks desires. But their realization is not able to satisfy us. This leads to disappointment, frustration, and forces us to make irrational decisions.
For example, a person feels the need to demonstrate his high social status. And to satisfy it, he buys an expensive smartphone. But people around him do not notice it. The person feels disappointment and, to get rid of it, buys an even more status smartphone.
This can go on indefinitely, until the person finds a more effective way to satisfy his need. To do this, he needs to learn to figure out which of his desires are true and which are false. Here are five tips to help him do this.
Take your time.
It can be difficult for us to make sense of our own desires because of the way our brains work. More precisely, because of the reward system built into it. Its main active substance is the neurotransmitter dopamine. It is released at the moment when we anticipate something good, motivating us and improving our mood.
At the same time, dopamine weakens our ability to reason rationally, causing us to want something easily available so that we can feel pleasure again. For example, to buy something expensive but not too necessary to show our status. Or to eat something caloric and unhealthy to satisfy our need for inner comfort.
The good news is that the reward system can be fooled. Researchers at Harvard Business School have found that people tend to do what they want first, and only then what they need. For example, one of their experiments showed that when shopping in the supermarket, people tended to choose ice cream and soda first, and only then go for healthier foods.
But when people bought groceries online - which means they understood they'd get them after a while - they became less impulsive. And they ordered more necessary and healthy foods and fewer sweets. Researchers attribute these results to the fact that it's apparently easier for people to deprive themselves of future pleasures than it is right now.
This means that if you desperately want something, but you're not sure you'll be satisfied with getting it - give yourself some time. For example, decide that you will realize your desire on a certain date: on New Year's Eve or on your birthday. It is quite possible that by that time you will find a way to satisfy the need behind your desire in another, more rational way.
Act as the best version of yourself
It is believed that our needs are based on our true ideas about ourselves, what we need to be happy and our values. So in order to understand which of your desires are real and which are not, you first need to figure out yourself.
One way to do this is through the exercise "To Be. Doing. Doing in Context." It is often used in acceptance and responsibility therapy. Vic Strecker, a professor at the University of Michigan, describes this exercise in a course on finding big goals and meaning in life.
First, decide what kind of person you would like to be. For example: honest, responsive, successful, confident, able to defend your interests. Choose several characteristics and personal qualities from various spheres of life. Then formulate in what actions these characteristics could be manifested. It is better that they were not general phrases like "I will become a better worker," but something specific, such as "I will take a refresher course, take on a new project. Be sure to write it down.
The next time you're having trouble figuring out what you want, reread those notes. And think about what the person you want to be would do, and what qualities would be useful to them in doing so.
For example, your parents insist that you return to your hometown and continue the family business. You naturally do not want to conflict with them, but you wrote down that you would like to succeed in a completely different area, and of the qualities that you value independence and autonomy. This would mean that, by agreeing with your parents, you would act against your wishes and make yourself unhappy. Therefore, you should not give in to your parents, even if it will spoil your relationship.
Another way to figure out what's important to you and what's not is described in the book "Conquer Your Fear" by business coach Mandy Holgate.
Start by making a list of everything that is important to you. There may be things that are close and understandable to most people: family, career, financial stability and prosperity. Or something more personal, like your blog or training for a marathon.
As a result, you should have a list of at least ten such items. When making it, remember that no one will ever see it - so you can be as honest with yourself as possible. And allow yourself not to be guided by stereotypes. So, Holgate explains, it's okay to include children in your list of values, but not to add a husband or wife.
Next, start comparing items on the list in pairs, answering the question, "What can I do without?" For example, career and entertainment come first. If you can't do without career, it gets 1 point, and entertainment gets 0. Again, you need to answer honestly and not reproach yourself, even if your choice is not socially approved. So when you give a 0 to your family, don't think there's anything wrong with you. Your task right now is to figure out where family ranks among your priorities.
Compare all the items on your list in this way, so that there are nine marks next to each of them: ones or zeros. Add up all the ones next to each item. And select the three that score the most points. So you will understand what is most important to you in life, and sort out your desires. The ones that match your core values will bring you satisfaction, and the ones that don't will probably not.
Sacrifice sunk costs
Another reason why people are unable to understand and accept their true desires is the trap of sunk costs. This is a cognitive distortion that makes us prone to consider the effort, time, money, and other resources already invested when making decisions. Because of this, we often find it so difficult to quit uninteresting studies, to close a business that has long been neither profitable nor enjoyable, to not finish a boring TV series, to not finish a bad book. Or give up on a long-defunct relationship.
It has been observed that the sunk cost trap works even in small things. For example, it is the reason why, when we arrive at the mall where there is nothing suitable, we still buy something there.
There are several scientific theories as to why we become trapped in sunk costs: we don't want to feel wrong and defeated, we feel responsible, we tend to get attached to the past, and we want to avoid cognitive dissonance - the state of discomfort that arises from the clash in our minds of different beliefs. We may also continue to do something even if we no longer want to do it, because we are afraid of the change and the regret it will cause.
A technique that is effective with any other cognitive distortion can help you break out of this trap: You have to learn to notice and catch them. To do this, begin to assess the state of things in terms of the present and completely exclude the influence of the past. For example, think about whether you really want to continue studying in the specialty you entered several years ago, listening to the advice of your parents? Would you choose this specialty again, if you had to enter now? Isn't that a way to justify the years and effort that have already been spent?
Start from the opposite direction.
While some people dream of everything at once, others, on the contrary, complain that they do not know what they want. And the problems with the understanding of desires arise even in matters of everyday life. For example, many people can not decide where to spend their vacation and at what restaurant to have dinner. Psychologists advise such people to think first of all not about what they do not want. Usually it is much easier.
The method is very simple: make the most detailed list of their anti-desires. For example, when choosing a time and destination for a vacation, write down that you would definitely do not want to fly too long plane, eat spicy food, jostle with the other tourists near the sights and bad dreams because of noisy parties under the windows.
Each condition will help reject several options at once, and so you gradually come to the optimal - that is, desired by you - solution.