Wantology: How To Discover What You Truly Desire
Wantology is the newest, hippest self-improvement therapy in town. Well, it's not so much a therapy, as it is "a critical thinking method," as its inventor Kevin Kreitman puts it (read more about Kreitman and what wantology is all about here). It promises to scrub away your assumptions, and unlock what you truly want, as well as the best way to get it.
Frustrated job seekers and frustrated job holders alike flock to Kreitman, thinking that they need a raise or a career change. After their sessions, however, they sometimes realize that what they really want is to spend more time with their kids, or to start a vegetable patch.
Such a precious service comes at a cost, however. A session with Kreitman can run as high as $200 an hour, and it can take as many as eight hours to go through the process. That may raise a few eyebrows, but after my two wantology sessions with Kreitman, I can say it's definitely not all New Agey bullcrap for privileged folks with time and cash to burn.
So for interested readers, who don't have $200 an hour to spend on touring the inner depths of their psyche, I've got the "CliffsNotes" version. Grab a piece of paper, and go through the following steps for a speedy, self-guided wantology session.
1. Name Your Want
Something you really think you desire, and don't have. A raise? A memory foam mattress? Larger breasts? To go back to school, and get a new degree? Write that baby down!
2. First Breakdown
Turns out that want you just wrote down maybe wasn't a want at all. It may be a need. Needs often cause us to make bad decisions (except needs for food, water, shelter and safety -- getting those things are really good decisions).
Needing approval or acceptance or attention, however, can make us do things that don't actually make us happy. Fulfilling wants, on the other hand, only feel awesome, because we genuinely, really wanted them. So draw a scale, need on one side, and want on the other, and mark where you think your want sits on the spectrum.
If it's more on the "need" side, think about how you can push it in the "want" direction.
3. Second Breakdown
There's a very good chance you don't want your want just to find inner joy and peace. As social animals, a lot of the things we think we want are determined by the people around us. Do you want a new job so that your mother will finally be proud? Do you want larger breasts so you'll get more come-hither stares on the street?
The trouble, say Kreitman, is that if your want comes more from outside expectations there's a good chance you won't feel as satisfied as you expect when you finally achieve your desire. So draw a second scale, with external expectations on one side, and internal experience on the other, and mark where your want falls.
If it's more on the social expectation side, think about how you can shake it free of that.
4. Third Breakdown
Going with the flow is a good way to be, if you're in a group of 10 ordering family style at a restaurant. But when it comes to your want, you want to be "navigating" not "floating" toward it, says Kreitman: recognizing opportunities when they come up, and how to seize them.
So draw yourself another scale, and scratch yourself up on either the "floating" or "navigating" side. You can guess what side you should be pushing towards.
5. Fourth Breakdown
When you stated your want, you were very likely just stating a solution to a deeper, buried want. If you wanted to "get a raise," that may just be the solution to your real desire to feel free of debt, and less stressed out about your finances. If you wanted to "have larger breasts," it could be that you just want to have lots of passionate love affairs, and you imagine larger breasts as helping you get there.
De-couple the want and the solution! says Kreitman. Write down what your implied solution was, and then write down all the ways you imagine your life being better when you've achieved it. How would it feel? What wonderful experiences would you be having, once that solution is in your lap?
If you got a raise, for example, you could stop freaking out about paying for your kid's college. You could work less, and spend more time with your partner. You could spend more time making your model train collection the best in the county, etc.
Those feelings are your ACTUAL WANTS.
6. Fifth Breakdown
Try to list a bunch of other ways that you could get those changes and feelings without your implied solution. Rather than making more money at your job, for example, you could get a new job that lets you telecommute, so you're less stressed out and spend more time at home. Or you could move to a cheaper place, or try to budget better.
Or rather than getting a memory foam mattress so you wake up more refreshed, you could take up Pilates, or stop watching "Millionaire Matchmaker" reruns until 3 a.m. every night.
7. Sixth Breakdown
List all the concerns that you have with these various options, and how you would manage them. Like, "I don't have time to take up pilates." Followed by, "Come on now, you can definitely make time for Pilates if you just stop watching so many 'Millionaire Matchmaker' reruns."
8. Action Plan
All that's left now is creating your action plan for how you're going to do all these things. First write down ways you'd know you were successful, like "I can spend evenings with my family, stress-free," or "I have the energy to see friends more," or "I don't try to avoid my naked reflection in the mirror when I step out of the shower."
Then list the various options you'll be exploring, and the concrete actions you'll take to get there, with a specific timeline, if you're feeling particularly determined. And ta-da! Congratulations, you've been wantologized -- very crudely, but you get the idea.
Kreitman has other tips for the newly wantologized. Is there any kind of art, music or scent that makes you feel the feelings you said you wanted? Since her days as a truck driver, Kreitman says that she's always been soothed by the fresh aroma of unburned hydrocarbon. "And I got through an entire year of graduate school on 'Huey Lewis and the News,' " she adds. "If i didn't have that to remind me who I was, I would have drowned."
Surround yourself with those "triggers" she says, they'll spur you on, and remind you of the person you want to be.
"The goal is to deeply connect with yourself and your values, and not run after bright shiny things to make you happy," she says. "Bright, shiny things are wonderful. But that's not the point."
What is the point? -- at least to the woman who spends her days helping other people find the point. "I don't want to live someone else's life," she says. "I want to be unstoppable."
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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