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  • Simon JI

What do you want?

What do you want?

If you’ve ever had kids you’ll know full well how ‘needy’ we are as humans, “I want an ice cream” “I want to play out” “I want a new toy”. This needy part of our soul carries on as we grow older, and grows with it as we experience more and more things. “I want a holiday” “I want a Ferrari” “I want to go to the pub” “I want a new pair of shoes”. We relish in the short term rush we get from buying things that satisfy the need. The notoriously famous ‘Imelda Marcos’ ex-First Lady of the Philippine’s and billionairess had a clear desire for clothes and amassed an incredible collection, leading 15 mink coats, 508 gowns, 888 handbags, and 3000 pairs of shoes according to reports. She was known as the woman with the most shoes in the world. She was a billionairess, she could have what she wanted right?

Why did she want these things? Was it simply because she could? Was it because she grew out of the last pair of shoes and bought thousands of pairs in case the new ones didn’t fit? Was it because she had nothing better to do with her money, and the shoes were just something else to spend her wealth on? We can only wear one pair of shoes at a time, that much is true, so what did she want when buying this mountain of superficial items?

The answer lies much deeper than the aesthetic appeal of such items. It lies in the roots of our basic human desires. Let’s say you wanted a Rolls Royce car, you’ve dreamed of owning one, you have pictures on your wall with some motivational quote underneath, spurring you on to work harder to achieve your dream. Then one day some kind soul turns up with the Rolls Royce and says, here, this is yours. You can keep the car as long as you abide by three rules. First, you can’t drive it, second, you can’t ever show or tell anyone, and thirdly you can never sell it. How would you feel about it now? Would having a beautiful car locked away in a garage for eternity fill your desire? It’s doubtful. You have to ask the question, is it the car you want, or the way the car makes you feel and how others perceive you? If the answer is the latter, then it makes sense that Mrs Marcos bought her grand collection of clothes because of how it made her feel and the image it portrayed to the outside world. She bought the clothes because they made her feel good.

The question of ‘what do you want’ is an important one, as unanswered you’re wandering around through life with an unidentified purpose and a false impression of what is making you happy. Coming back to material objects, you can read endless stories of successful people who have achieved their ‘goal’, become wildly rich, purchased all of the things they dreamed of but still had an emptiness and a feeling of being incomplete. Why? Society tells us that owning a fast car, a fancy watch, living in a penthouse is the answer to happiness? Well if you ask many ‘successful’ people, it’s clearly not. That said, there is nothing wrong with all of those things, and nothing wrong with being successful as long as you really truly know what brings you happiness, peace and balance, it’s unlikely to be found in a supercar or a £10,000 watch.

One way of helping to understand what we want is by taking a well-known extract from a marketing paper ‘Marketing Myopia’ written by a Harvard professor Theodore Levitt, in his paper, he is trying to establish what people want when they buy things. He told his students that ‘People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole’ What he is saying here is that people say they want a drill bit when what they actually want is the hole the drill bit makes. However, even this doesn't go deep enough. People only want a hole in their wall for the purposes of attaching something to the wall, say a picture. Is that going deep enough? Does that answer what they want the drill bit for? No, it’s not. So why do people want a picture on their wall? It’s because they want their room to look nice. Why? Because they want to have an environment that makes them feel happy when they're in it.

They buy the drill bit because they want to feel happy.

Can you see how this applies to life? About the things we buy? How many times have you stood in front of the wardrobe, full of clothes, and said “I've nothing to wear”, knowing full well you do, but you go buy that new top anyway. It feels good, doesn't it?

Applying this thought process to the bigger picture of your life and ultimate happiness can help you identify what it ‘actually’ is you want. And by that, we mean what you want from your time on earth. Is it to be continually working, so you can buy things you don’t need in some misguided pursuit of that ‘happiness’ feeling? Is it spending every working day of your life looking forward to your retirement because then you can relax? Is it letting your life be ruled by anxieties and stress because you need to ‘perform’ or ‘win’ or ‘belong’? Or is it simply seeing that happiness is already inside, and the answer to a wonderful life is identifying the truth, being brave enough to accept it and then living in every moment.

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