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  • Writer's pictureJerry Brook

What you want versus what you have

People tend to focus sharply on what they want and, in doing so, they lose sight of what they have.

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

That is, what you have now may be worth more than the promises of what you might get later.

Firstly: “what you want”

I’m going to use a chess analogy here because it seems appropriate. I want to illustrate how intently people focus on what they “want” to the exclusion of even the most obvious of outcomes. They forget that there are a number of possibilities to consider; four, to be exact.

The thing that I learned from playing chess isn’t strategy. It is reality. It’s reality that just because I want things to go my way doesn’t have anything to do with what might happen. The other player has their own objectives—ones that are not only different than mine but that may be completely unknown and foreign to me.

So, there is what I want to happen, what I “think” my opponent wants to happen, what my opponent truly wants to happen, and what my opponent thinks that I want to happen. These are four distinct scenarios, all of which may be the same, similar or very different from one another.

It has happened to me in many different situations – family, friends, business, and intimate – where someone would do or say something and then demand that I react the way that they wanted.

For instance, I had a manager at work once tell me that I “had” to do as I was told, to which I responded, “you must want this badge more than I do. I quit!”

He was stunned. He said: “You can’t do that!”

To which I replied “I just did”

He saw the error of his ways, which was that he assumed I had no options.

His response: “Well, maybe we need to reconsider.”

I could go on and on. There have been countless situations in which people only saw what they wanted and neglected to take me—my wants and needs—into account.

Always keep in mind that the other person has their own needs, wants, and objectives. These may have nothing to do with you or yours.

Secondly: “what you have”

People often lose sight of what it is that they have. It’s human nature. We get complacent, we take our current situation for granted as if things have either “always been this way” or, believing that since we were able to pull it together once, we can easily recreate it again.

What we tend to forget is the amount of effort that we had to expend to get to where we are now. We forget that things weren’t always this way or that we actually had to strive to make them so.

We get greedy; wanting more and more, discounting what we have and placing a higher value on what we haven’t.

But is the grass really greener on the other side of the fence?

What you have versus what you want

If we were to combine two old sayings, maybe we can see what is really going on with us.

“Familiarity breeds contempt.” That’s the first one. And second: “The grass is always greener…”

The reason that “familiarity breeds contempt” is that the more that we know about someone or something, the more we may find out that we actually don’t agree with that person or the situation. We aren’t in synch.

Clearly, the opposite is also true. That is, the more that we know and agree with the other person or situation, the closer we will become.

It isn’t that familiarity breeds contempt; that is a partial—and therefore false—statement. More truly spoken, “The more you know—and don’t agree with—breeds contempt.”

Think about it. We are unhappy where we are, so we look elsewhere. And voila: there is always something better. Or at least, so we would like to believe.

“The grass is always greener…”

The fact is, we are right back to where we were at the beginning of the relationship; that is – not knowing.

We believe that things are better over there than they are over here, but only because we don’t know about what is really going on over there.

Of course, your current situation may truly not be all that great. It may not be what you want at all. If that is the case, then you need to change your situation. Either correct it or move on. Don’t gravitate to something new simply to get away from something old. You will undoubtedly land yourself in exactly the same situation, if not soon, then eventually and inevitably.

Don’t judge a situation by what you might get out of it, consider also what you stand to lose in the process. Like a good game of chess, it’s a balancing act.

You must know what it is that you want in order to be able to get it.

If you are unhappy with where you are and if you aren’t getting what it is that you want out of your relationship, the question is “did you know what it is that you wanted in the first place?”

If not, then simply changing your surroundings won’t get you any closer to that goal than you are now.

What you want AND what you have: This Week’s Challenge

This week’s challenge for you is—surprise—not to evaluate your relationships but instead, think about yourself.

What is it that you want out of your relationships? Consider what you want both in the short term and in the long term.

What is it that you need out of your relationships?

Don’t forget: relationships, by definition, have more than one side. Always take others into account when making your determinations.

Keep in mind that the answers to these questions are the end of the equation, the destination. How do you plan on getting there? There are many roads to the same destination and each may well have the same outcome. So, don’t get caught up or bogged down on a single path.

And, don’t forget to share your thoughts, questions, and concerns with me. I truly want to know.

Good Together: your guide to healthy, happy relationships

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