Beyond everything I wanted
I already have basically everything I want. Now what?
I took a step back recently to ponder the question - why do I still have so many things that I want when I already have basically everything that I want? I have:
A loving partner,
a stable job with a healthy work environment,
a good income,
the ability to work from home without commuting,
the opportunity to travel for work a few times a year to work with colleagues face to face,
the chance to live the life I want abroad in Europe,
a home that is comfortable, safe and quiet at night,
a van that can double as a home on the road,
a serious hobby of a newsletter supported by some number of paying subscribers,
and occasional emails and social DMs from strangers showing appreciation for my writing.
These are practically all of the things that I care about having - and I have them! I am thankful for a lot of the people and things in my past that helped me get here. When I look around, I realise how fortunate I am to have been blessed with many things I never earned, which amplified my ability to earn the rest.
While I have just admitted that I already have everything that I have wanted, I am still... seeking. I am still asking myself almost every day about what's next, about the things I do not yet have, like:
for this newsletter or some other creative project to break out and become my main source of income so I can switch to a career of, broadly speaking, making art rather than building things
to own a house with a writing shed that is my space and mine only,
a Tesla or some other electric car,
to have a few lasting creative collaborator friends,
to live next to a rock climbing gym so I can go climbing anytime I want,
to work four days a week rather than five,
I'm thinking, hey, dude, be realistic, you're not actually done. You don't actually have everything you want like you say you do. Look at that list!
Maybe... but I have a funny feeling that if I did manage to move the Wants list into the Haves list, new Wants will grow out of the ether. That list never wants to empty. Oh, look, another want.
I think that when someone has all their needs satisfied, they naturally start seeking things that they believe can make them happier than they already are -- those are wants. Perhaps therein lies the problem. I'm always wanting something that I don't yet have.
I wonder if older people who are 10 or 20 years from the end of their life still keep a mental Wants list that is as long as mine. My hunch is that their list is much shorter; although, once, when they were younger, that list was probably just as long. Time won't resolve this "problem" at the root.
Root... what is the root of our wanting?
I looked around the web for an answer, including this list of plausible reasons I wrote in 2018, and the best one I've read so far re-frames the Wants list as a part of our innate urge toward progress.
The new framing: we continually seek things because it is biologically and psychologically wired in us as an evolutionary mechanism for which we are rewarded. Because seeking helps us survive by giving us an edge over other animals.
Within this framing, the act of seeking itself, rather than the things we achieve and possess, is the key to feeling satisfied. Checking boxes doesn't satisfy our brains; adding checkboxes and trying to check them does.
But we have a unique ability in the world: we are constantly orienting ourselves towards meaning-making and we can introspect and mentally time travel in service of that, despite our evolutionary wiring.
So I'm looking at it wrong: instead of looking at what I have versus what I continue to want to have and problematising that, I should be solely looking at the things that I seem to still want and asking myself: You're gonna be seeking all your life, so you might as well be in control and seek well. Are these the things you consciously wish to seek?
Out of curiosity, I searched through the archives of my blog for the word "wanting" to see just how pervasive this seeking behaviour has been in my life. I found 29 different occurrences in different posts. Here are a few, verbatim, just for kicks: