“I don’t want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted just like that, and it didn’t mean anything? What then?”
― Neil Gaiman, Coraline
Think back to the last time you got everything you wanted. What were the circumstances leading up to that event? When you finally beat the last level of your favorite videogame. When you sampled everything at the buffet and ate as much as you desired. When you finally got the car with every option you craved: the turbo, the sunroof, the premium sound system. Your dream job. Look back from where you are now.
It felt great to beat the last level of the game, until you realized that you blew an entire weekend sitting on the couch in your basement. It was kind of fun to stuff your face at the buffet, until you realize that the food was subpar and you ate too much of it. Once the novelty of all the bells and whistles on the new car wore off, you began to wonder if the sunroof was worth it in the middle of winter, or when it started to leak. And all the high-tech toys are either too complicated to understand or always bringing you back to the dealer for service. Four months into your dream job—which you may still like, or perhaps you can’t afford to quit—you begin to see cracks in the façade you never noticed before. Rather than letting this fact of life depress you, see it for what it really is and what it really means, and then let it help free you. Getting everything you wanted is grossly overrated. Focus on getting everything you want, and you’ll never get everything you want. There will always be more, there will always be something better or at least something else. Science and philosophy suggests that wants are hardwired into us. I believe that. It explains why, despite the fact that all of my basic physical needs—oxygen, food and water, clothing and shelter, and sleep—are met, I still want to fly to Hawaii first-class. Now of course there are other human needs that go beyond basic survival. Regardless of which school of thought you follow, most people, whether they are professional psychologists or not would agree that our basic psychological needs include things like freedom, security, variety, love, and growth. But even my psychological needs don’t compel me to fly first-class to Hawaii. By now you’re probably thinking that this is a video about lowering your expectations, “just letting go.” It’s not. I had to start out by distinguishing wants from needs because if you fixate on getting what you want in your divorce, you are all but guaranteed to be disappointed. It is a settlement, after all, and by definition a settlement is a way of reaching agreement in which each party gives up something that was wanted and/or on terms that are worse than desired. Only short of unconditional surrender might a settlement totally satisfy you. So why settle? Sometimes you settle when you come to value ending the fight more than what you were fighting over. Sometimes you settle when you believe continuing the fight will ruin what you were fighting for. Either way, you may (and likely should) settle when and because the fight clarifies for you what you really want above all else. “A lot of people get so hung up on what they can’t have that they don’t think for a second about whether they really want it.”
― Lionel Shriver, Checker and the Derailleurs