So, are you? Feel free to skip right down and just tell me your answer in the comments, but here’s why I’m asking.
I just re-drafted a piece out of the first chapter of my book—the one that I hope will help any parent who reads it find a way towards a more satisfying, fulfilling and happy family life. In it, I’m asking readers to consider where they stand—what makes them happy, where they find trouble spots, what’s going on in their daily lives. And I’m asking them to consider this very moment:
Right now, as you begin to read this chapter, are you where you want to be, doing something you want to do?
I’d argue that the answer should nearly always be yes. Even when where we are isn’t ideal—rocking a stroller full of sleeping baby with your foot at the pediatrician’s office, in the parking lot waiting for a child to emerge from an after-school robotics club, commuting home from a job that’s too far away and dragging on our spirit—for most of us, where we are and what we’re doing at any given moment is the direct result of our own decisions. We decided to be the kind of parent who takes a baby for regular check-ups, permitted the child to join the robotics club, trained for and got the job that’s momentarily or consistently disappointing.
So if you hesitated a bit to respond with a ringing endorsement of that question—are you where you want to be, doing something you want to do—that’s a red flag, both about wherever you are and about the process that got you there. (Unless you’re in the hospital recovering from an accident or illness, in which case, you’ll just need to think about this section as it applies to the rest of your life, noting in passing that while you didn’t necessarily want this hospital bed, it’s probably preferable to the alternative.)
Before I go any further, I want to talk a little about the word “want” as I use it here. I considered other verbs—“choose,” for example, “need”, or even “meant to be.” I went with “want” because I think it forces you into really looking at where you are and why. All of the other options have a passive quality—you can pawn off being where you choose to be, or need to be, or are meant to be, as the result of duty or circumstance or the peripheral requirements of another choice. “Choose” in particular is problematic. We make choices for a lot of reasons: to please other people, or live up to imaginary ideals and standards. Because we we feel pressure, or guilt, or confusion. Because the force of inertia is strong, because sometimes it’s easier to say yes than no, because we didn’t really think it all the way through. When we say “choose” there’s too much room to let ourselves off the hook for our feelings about the results of our decisions.
“Want” demands that you really consider the whole of it—the choices, the emotions, the alternatives—and it also invites you to embrace the result. Sometimes “want” leads us to a tropical vacation, but for the most part, it isn’t all unicorns pooping out rainbows. No one would say they “want” to sit with an beloved relative in hospice—but it’s the illness we don’t want, and the hospice, and the probable future. Given those unchangeable elements, that hospice is exactly where most of us want to be.
So if the question gives you pause—now, or at any moment during your day— it’s time to think about the choices that got you to wherever you are.
Writing this got me wondering—how many of us, at any moment in the day, DO feel like we are where we want to be, doing what we want to do? So that’s my question to you, right now. Right now, as you read this, are you where you chose to be doing what you chose to do? (Disclosure–I might quote answers, using initials only, in the book.) And if not, why not?