In my copious amounts of free time, one of the things I love to do is to solve the mysteries of the universe and then promptly forget what I came up with. Fortunately, good timing was on my side tonight and I got to jot down my thoughts before my brain cells swapped out this precious memory space for another television jingle.
Among such mind-bending topics as, “How do speedometers actually work?” and “Why does peanut butter work so well with bananas?” comes my latest poser: “What do you want?” I can’t think of another question that sounds so simple on the surface and yet holds infinite complexities underneath. (Except, of course, for “How are you?”)
Before we start digging, though, I would like to throw out my hypothesis. It is my belief that human beings, at any given time, at any given place, and in any given situation always do whatever they want. This is never not true. Plain and simple, we’re machines that do one thing: whatever we want whenever we want.
“Foul!” I hear you cry. “Impossible!” the crowd roars. “Really?” the author retorts. “Then please tell me one time you did something you didn’t want to do.”
“Psssh! Where do I start?! Like, how about every single minute of my life? I don’t want to wake up when my alarm goes off. I don’t want to sit in bumper to bumper traffic. I don’t want to read this blog post anymore. And yet I do all of these things! How can you tell me I always do what I want?”
As you may have guessed, things aren’t always as simple as they seem. As an exercise, try to make a list of five things you want. If you can’t think of anything—or don’t want to—here’s a quick list.
- I want to finish writing at least one book.
- I want to take a nap.
- I want to fix something different for dinner tonight.
- I want to relax this weekend.
- I want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.
It took five seconds to come up with five things. If I really took the time to think about it (and did some serious introspection) I could come up with at least another couple thousand. “I want my family to be safe and happy. I want my friends to like me. I want my heart to keep beating.”
Now it gets complicated. We always do what we want, but unfortunately, we want about thirty-seven thousand different things at any given time. I didn’t get up when my alarm went off just because I wanted to get up. I did it because I want to keep my house. The brain is in a constant state of motion, comparing and weighing an unthinkably long and ever-changing list of “wants” in order to send neurological signals to our feet, legs, arms, hands, jaws, and eyelids to move together in a certain way. (And this doesn’t even begin to take into account all the things your body wants that it never asks you about.)
Do you want to lose weight? I’m sure for most of you the answer is yes. So why don’t you lose weight? For the same reason human beings NEVER do what they “want”: because, ironically, their brains are too busy doing making them do what they want.
You might want to write that novel, but not until after you finish this television show. You might want to relax this weekend, but not until after you finish mowing the lawn. Wait! Why would I want to mow the lawn? Well, probably because you want your house to look nice, or you want your neighbors to respect you, or you want to keep money in your pocket instead of paying a stupid HOA fine for insufficient curb appeal.
Do you want to lose weight? Then all you have to do is want it. Period. The only trick is, you have to want it more than the donut someone just waved under your nose.
Accomplishing anything in life is easy. The only hard part is figuring out the answer to this simple question: do you want what you want?