How a Children’s Game Can Enlighten You in 5 Minutes.

Personal Development
Boy scratching head

What do you want?

That is the standard question in any goal setting or personal development workshop. If you could define what you want, then you could achieve it. And you believe that. So you define what you want. You follow a goal setting workshop. You make up a list of everything that you want including:

  • money
  • fame
  • love
  • appreciation
  • gadgets
  • health

And you make up a plan to achieve that in maybe 1,5 or 10 years. We all have been to this, right? Raise your hand and say “I” (okay I raised my hand now and said “I”). Come on, you can do it too. It’s save here. But the problem with all of this goal setting is, that you are focusing your attention on the external world (yes even with health). This being stuck on the external focus will never show you, what you really want. It will just present you lots of means or ways that you think will lead you to what you really want.

Everything that you wrote on these goal setting lists is just a means to something much deeper inside you. But it covers up what you really want, and therewith makes it impossible for you to realize your true desires.

How Do You Find out, What You Really Want?

It’s simple. In fact, it is so simple that all children know how to do it. It is one of their favorite games. It is called playing: “But why,…?”. If you have kids, you know how stubborn they could be playing this game with you. If you give them an answer, they follow up with just another “but why…?”. Although you might get irritated by this, use it to your own advantage.

Play the “But why…?” game with yourself. Ask yourself: “But why do I want it?”. Why do I want money, fame, love, etc.? Then you come up with an answer: “I want more money, so I can be free and can buy a great car”. But don’t stop there. Remember the children. “But why do you want to be free and have a great car”.

Don’t stop after following with a “But why do I want that?”. Drill down your level of answers. Keep going. You will at first come up with a lot of superfluous answers, but insist like a child until you reach the root, until you find within you, what you really want out of it.

What You Will Find Deep Down the Rabbit Hole?

Each “But why do I want it?” will bring you further down into the rabbit hole, that is built from your reasons, that you constructed to justify your wants.

It is like all these reasons are like clothes around your body, or wrappings around your mind. They might cover you, but they are not the real you. The don’t belong to you. They hide the real you from being seen. Strip yourself from all these reasoning, those false wrappings around your true desires.

What you will ALWAYS come to, if you dive deep into the rabbit hole, is that whatever you want to achieve or have, is only a means to the root cause of all your desires.

YOU WANT TO BE HAPPY.

That’s it. There is nothing more. Maybe you want to avoid pain, but that is just the flip side of wanting to feel good and happy. Because you can play with your “want to avoid pain” another round of “But why do you want to avoid pain?”. It will also lead you to your desire for happiness.

Why We Must Make It Hard for Ourselves to Feel Happy?

Okay – now we found out, that all that you have written down on your goals list is just a means to your real want to be happy. What is left then is the question: “Why do you need the means? Why not go for feeling happy directly?”

Because we associate feeling good as something that we are not worthy, unless we have earned it. Feeling good is something you must work for, that you have to give something upfront, before you can experience it.

It is this perverse combination of being happy, not feeling good enough, and thinking that we must earn the good things in life that causes the greatest grief, stress, anxiety and turmoil in the world. Whether that Belief System (aka BS) was installed by your parents, society, the church or your tradition doesn’t matter.

As long as you think that you have to do anything in the external world to deserve happiness you are bound to pain, frustration and will never achieve happiness.

And you know this already deep inside. What happened as you got the car, house, new job, lover, new toy or whatever, that you were so longing for? Yes it felt great for a while. But after a while your fascination dropped. The high that you felt when you got it, vanishes with time. Always. And that is so frustrating to you. You were running for that high of happiness, and now it vanishes, again. So you go out and hunt for another goal, hopping to catch that feeling again and this time hold it. But of course this will be boring after a while again. And so you will keep repeating that vicious circle.

Wanting – Getting – Satisfaction – Being Bored – Dissatisfaction – Wanting

It is like you were in a donkey race and someone was presenting you the carrot of happiness right in your front view, while at the same time giving you the stick of frustration and unhappiness to make you run even faster. You can’t win that race. If you get into it, you lost it already. The only way is to get out of it and see, that you were tricked (or tricked yourself) into a false belief system (BS).

How to Get What You Really Want?

Going for external goals will never make you happy.

Happiness is your birthright. You can decide to be happy. Here and now. There is nothing you need to do for it. You can’t earn happiness. You can’t buy it.

You can simply BE it – NOW. Decide to be happy – for no reason.

And out of that happiness, you can decide to do some things, that you enjoy doing. Not because you want to feel happy through them, but because you want to do them out of your happiness. There is nothing wrong with goals, if you set them because you enjoy the process of getting there. But don’t confuse a goal with what you really want, your real drive behind it all.

The source of all your wants, all your power is not in the outside world. It is within you. And it is waiting for you to remember just that.

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18 comments… add one
  • I enjoyed your post! The question ‘why’ is very powerful.

    • Patrick

      @Mary: Indeed Mary, it is powerful. It can be also a negative tool (like “Why do I never get a good partner?”) if used wrongly. We must use it wisely.

  • Well-said, Patrick. Happiness derived from the external is always fleeting and transient. And we’ll forever be at the mercy of the very thing which we thought can give us happiness.

    Though it may sound corny that happiness already lies within each of us, it really takes only a moment of genuine contentment and gratitude to realize it instantly. Try it and you’ll know what I mean.

    • Patrick

      @The conscious life: That is so true. Like you mentioned in you article true happiness and security can never be gained by any external factor. If we don’t find them within us, they will always be transient things to us.

  • Patrick, your posts always lift me up. Thanks.

    • Patrick

      @LPC: Thank you. You lifted me up and helped me at the beginning. So thank you again. Keep on enjoying it.

  • I love the point of being grateful and happy right were ever you are. I still say that we need to be pushing forward. Not to be thankful for what we have, but stopping to push forward is dishonest to who you are capable of being. We are sacred right now, and you have made that very clear. But every difficulty we take on gives us an opportunity to prove that greatness to ourselves, and to others. I would caution either extreme. Do not stop pushing forward because now is good, push for the better. Do not forget to be happy now just because you haven’t done anything. That joy will make the journey to completing your goals more rich.

    • Patrick

      @Justin: You are absolutely right. You need to be able to push through, but as you stated push for the better. But still you need to find a good why you want to do it. As an example: If you would like to study medicine you have to go through a lot of trouble. This can be right or wrong for you, depending on your motives to do so. If your answer for why you want to do it is, because you want to impress your parents or because you want to make enough money to live a great lifestyle, then being a doctor in itself would not make you happy, you just used this as a means, to impress others. But if you think that helping others is your vocation, that helping others is something that you associate ultimate joy with, then studying medicine and becoming a doctor is still a means, but you get direct joy from doing the thing and not from achieving some change in other through your means. It is a good think to push through tough times, when you are in touch with your real motives.

  • You make a good point Patrick that it is our personal decision to be happy or not. You can have all money in the world and still feel miserable. At the same time you can live in a tiny shack and be happy with what you are and where you are. However, just recently I read a wonderful book by Lamar Smith called There Is More to Life than the Corner Office and it made me think about the goal that we are trying to reach in our lives. You can be just happy because you are alive and you have what you have but at the same time you can choose to do more than just that. You can choose to live a life of significance, deep joy, real connection to other people and find your purpose in life. You might not feel happy every day when you are trying to fulfill your life purpose but you will feel deep joy once you get even once step closer to your goal. I am just saying that you do not have to stop at just being happy, you should keep going and get more in life.

    • Patrick

      @Anastasyia: We might not feel happy every day – but we can strive for it. Finding our purpose is essential to it. And happiness in itself is not a place to stay – it is a force that is able to push us to heights of potential that we haven’t dreamed of yet.

  • Patrick, I completely agree with you. Happiness is a decision, it comes from within us and no amount of material acquisition will fulfill us.

    • Patrick

      @Belinda Munoz: That is the essence nicely put together. You can even make 3 big statements from this:
      1. Happiness is a decision.
      2. It comes from within us.
      3. No material acquisition will fulfill us.

      Thank you.

  • Great wisdom presented here Patrick – this reminds me of how one of my mentors defines abundance. “Abundance is the ability to do whatever you want whenever you want.” For me, happiness is freedom and I believe that we can create our own freedom at any given moment.

    • Patrick

      @Jai Kai: What a beautiful quote. Freedom is definitely an important part for me too – if we know why we are striving for it. The freedom to choose freedom or to go another route – could be helpful for some people who don’t want to commit themselves to anything.

  • I’ve been reading these posts from the beginning and I’m really enjoying them. You are pulling together a powerful set of ideas in a well-written and accessible format.

    Am I understanding the subtleties of your approach to life correctly? That we should do what we enjoy, even if it doesn’t seem to lead us towards conventional ideas of success? Was it Steve Jobs that said you can only make sense of the dots of your life looking back, not looking ahead?

    Do you think that many people follow their own paths and never get any ‘success’ in terms of money, fame, etc, but live quiet happy creative lives? Giving up on ideas of ‘making it’ is a tremendously courageous path to take, isn’t it?

    .-= Mike Walters´s last blog ..Making a living, improvising and creative writing =-.

    • Patrick

      @Mike Walters: That is absolutely right. If you had to decide to do something that you love but would not make you rich and something you don’t like but could make you rich, I would always follow my heart and stick with what I love.

      I once had the chance to be mentored by a man (and do business with) who was worth several million dollars, who build a company from scratch to several hundred million dollars worth, who was living in a castle with his own golf course – yet somehow I resigned from that chance; and though at that time my decision was partly unconscious I never felt sorry about it, because in this I would have not found any love, happiness and peace and maybe I would be a super rich guy today, but I doubt I would be happy.

      After I experienced this world for a while, during my mid-twenties, I came to realize, that hunting for the money was not what should guide my future.
      So, in terms of that business mogul, I am a loser, not being rich by several million dollars. But by my own terms I am successful, and that is what counts.

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