We need more money, a better job, for people in our lives to treat us better, and a zillion other things. And our wants—now there’s a long list. We want a new pair of shoes, a new car, a bigger house, a promotion on the job, and the myriad other things we think we want. But are all of those things what we really need and want? Of course we think so, but these things are just vehicles that we think will take us to our happy place.
I’ve been there. I was dirt poor for the first 28 years of my life, and I thought that if I had everything on my list, that my life would be trouble-free. Boy, was I wrong.
Turns out that money didn’t solve all the problems I thought it would. Neither did owning my own company, a beautiful home, the car I always wanted, having a family, and so on. Living through the process of acquiring everything I thought would make my life better, and finding that it didn’t is what I’m writing to you about today. I’ve made oodles of mistakes so you don’t have to.
If I told you how good my life is now, you might think that I’m lying, bragging, or delusional. It is
awesome (I didn’t say perfect), but it wasn’t always that way. I’ve worn clothes with stains that I couldn’t get out because I didn’t have money to replace them. I’ve gone to work with holes in the bottom of my shoes hoping that no one would notice. I’ve walked into an appointment to sell insurance smelling like mildew because I washed the only outfit I owned the night before and it didn’t dry completely before I had to put it on to go to work.
(I will never be the one making fun of someone for how they’re dressed, because I know that it’s possible that what they’re wearing is the only thing they have or the best they have, and it took courage to put that on and go out in public.)
But clothing, although important, is the least of what I’ve done without. I've been painfully alone with no safety net. I’ve needed a new car because the one I had was stranded on the side of the road. I've needed a safer home when my daughter and I were crammed into a tiny apartment in a scary part of town because it was the only place I could afford. I’ve gone 5 days without food, which wasn’t as painful as watching my toddler cry from hunger. I’ve been passed over for opportunities that were given to men who did the same job, but were paid more, given an assistant, and sent to conferences where they would meet their prospective clients all gathered together in one place, while I was back at the office typing my own letters, handling my own customer service, and making cold calls to persuade people to allow me to quote their insurance. All of this is nothing compared to the personal traumas.
I have been lied to and cheated on and stolen from. I have prayed and cried on the floor till I vomited because my only child was using drugs and planning her suicide. I've prayed til there was nothing left to say when the doctors said that infection was going to take my husband's life. I was stunned into silence when I watched my life's goal of owning an insurance company fall to dust when the World Trade Center buildings in NYC went down. I could go on (and on) about the times I've had to start over with nothing.
In the years since the very lean times, I’ve acquired all the things I ever wanted and more. I’ve worked hard and long, and I’ve been blessed in every area of my life. What I learned that I want to pass on to you is that having all the things we think we need and want does not give us the sense of contentedness that our souls long for.
When we really peel away the layers and get to the root of what we want and what we truly need, we find that in order to have true contentedness, we must have these things
Along with these, we need the good health, good relationships, and financial provision that make up the basis of true wealth.
When we drill down on the myriad things we think we need and want, we learn that we are searching for those people and things that help us to feel good about ourselves, help us feel safe and peaceful, happy, and loved.
So while we’ll always need our physical needs to be met, if we ask ourselves what we really want, we might find that we can shortcut the thing that we think will bring it, and go for the thing itself. For example, if you want a new job because your current job and the people involved are chaotic and stressful, you can work directly on being peace-filled. You don’t need a new job to make that happen. Peace is a state of mind. Peace is within. You can fill yourself with peace before you go to the stressful places of life and not let chaos get on the inside of you. We can bring peace with us into the chaos.
Instead of expecting the people around us to make us feel loved, we can love ourselves. We can list all the good things about ourselves, and begin to see how awesome we are. I know this sounds goofy to some people, but to you I say, “try it before you knock it.”
When we love ourselves, we take care of our own selves, and we don't expect others to meet our needs and make us feel good about ourselves. When we do that, an interesting thing happens—we wind up getting what we truly need as well as much of what we think we want!
I know this is true because I now have a measure of all the facets of real success as well as all the “things” that I thought would bring them to me. My daughter was delivered from addiction, my husband was healed of what the doctors called an "incurable" infection. My business accomplished that which I set out to achieve. And I'm now living a life far beyond anything I could have hoped for or imagined. Literally.
I hope this, and the other blogs, and the 13 books I’ve written, helps you find what you really need and want. The first step is to believe that it's possible. Literally.