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Wanting Life to Be a Certain Way


It’s great to have life goals and dreams. Having a clear vision of how you want your life to go gives you something to work toward and helps you move forward. What is not useful—in fact, it’s downright detrimental—is to decide that you must have a certain job to be happy or one particular person as a spouse or partner to feel fulfilled. That’s just a set up for disappointment and pain and for ending up feeling badly about yourself when these events don’t manifest the way you’d like them to.

This dynamic happens often when searching for a mate. “If I don’t find one, I’ll be devastated,” I’ve heard clients say. Worse, many of them narrow it down to one person, “If I can’t have them, I’ll never be happy.” Setting yourself up to have to have one particular person for a romantic partner is a recipe for disaster. Sure, maybe she’s the belle of every ball or he’s so much fun to be with, but it’s a myth that we have a soulmate in life. In truth, as we know from people who’ve been happily married several times, there are multiple people with whom we’d be a great match. Ditto for jobs, houses, event venues, teams, wedding dresses, grades, awards or colleges. 

Here are examples of why thinking that certain things must happen or go a certain way is detrimental and dangerous. Let’s say you meet someone who has all the external trappings of what you want and you start to picture yourself with them for the rest of your life. And let’s say they look good on the outside but are kind of rotten on the inside and you ignore all the warning signs that tell you that because you’re so focused on your goal of being with them. Care to guess how that’s going to work out?

Perhaps your heart is set on attending Yale or Harvard and you don’t get in. Moreover, say you haven’t applied to other colleges because you can’t bear to think of going elsewhere. Or maybe you believe that because you play the guitar decently, you have to be a rock star and never bother to consider other careers, even when you’re turned down for local band jobs because passable guitarists like you are a dime a dozen.

If you don’t pay attention to cues on the way to getting wherever you insist you want to go—college, career, marriage, sports, or anything else—you’re going to be sorely disappointed and miss out on discovering what you’re really good at and who’s really good for you. You can’t start at the end and work backward. The only way to move forward is inch by inch and seeing where that takes you and how it feels and works out. 

However you end up may be totally different than what you insisted you wanted. Pay attention along the way, and you’ll be doing whatever with whomever is best for you.