What if everyone else is more special than me?

Being Ordinary


I want it, but I don't need it

As human beings, we’re habitually seeking pleasure, avoiding pain, or dulling out. It’s a reward system. "I deserve better than what’s here right now." It’s like constantly being a little ahead of ourselves. We’re persistently wanting things and expecting to get them.

All day long I want things. I see a Ben & Jerry’s and want an ice cream cone. I see my friend’s new car and want one for myself. I see a billboard of a tropical island and want a vacation. I feel jealous and want a hug. I see a blank spot in my day and want to avoid boredom. I see a dark alley and want to move into the streetlight. I feel a twinge in my left knee and want an ibuprofen. It goes on over and over all day long.

My inner belief is that the empty feeling that accompanies wanting something can be filled by getting it. Mmmm, that ice cream cone will satiate me. That car and vacation are just what the doctor ordered. Being hugged will erase the jealousy. Anything’s better than boredom. Can’t wait to be safe on a crowded sidewalk or for the ibuprofen to kick in.

The fact is that most of the time, the relief is temporary and is followed by another occurrence of that hollow feeling. Wanting is insatiable, isn’t it?

What if there wasn’t anything wrong with wanting things, but that the problematic stuff arises from expecting to get them?

Try this. If ice cream is your downfall, walk into a Ben & Jerry’s and lean over the glass case. Look at the first flavor that attracts you and imagine how delicious it will be. Go through your usual selection process. In your mind pick the flavor that will most appease your desire, just as you normally would. Rocky Road. Mint Chip. Vanilla. Imagine having that ice cream cone. But walk out without buying anything. How does that feel?

There’s a story told about the Dalai Lama, the spiritual/political leader of Tibet and his lineage of Tibetan Buddhists. He was on a speaking tour in America, and on the drive from the airport to his hotel in Los Angeles, the car passed an electronics storefront. It turns out that the Dalai Lama has a fetish for electronic gadgets. After passing the store, he told his driver, laughing, “There were things in that window display that I didn’t even know what they did, but I wanted them!”

Sometimes the expectation of getting what you want is helpful. Go ahead and take that ibuprofen. Move into the streetlight. But lots of times, it’s just going to leave you as hollow as you started.

Notice how many times a day you want something. It’s said that the typical American is assaulted by 3,000 brands a day, each of them trying to remind you that you don’t have something you might want. But don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s natural to want, want, want.

Don’t deny yourself the wanting. Just be mindful of the getting.