Wednesday, April 27, 2011

You Can't Always Get What You Want

When my kids want something and I say no and they kick up a fuss, I often respond by singing the chorus of the classic Rolling Stones song, "You can't always get what you want." It never fails to produce a smile from them, albeit grudgingly, and sometimes I need to sing this to myself when I have expectations which are not being met.

The fact of the matter is that we don't always get what we want, but if we try sometimes, we do get what we need. One of the best things about getting older has been understanding the line between want and need. It can be a very thin space between the two, but we can survive and even thrive with what we need instead of what we want, if we will adjust our perspective accordingly.

There is a prevalent lie in our society which tells us that we can have it all; that it's possible to make three wishes and some magic genie will grant them to us. This fiction creates entitlement among even the nicest people, and feeling entitled is a miserable state to function in. We are not owed anything. Ask anyone struggling with a life threatening illness, or poverty, or misery of any variety, which is applicable to all of us. Life is not fair. Things don't always go our way, and every now and again I need to remind myself of this fact.

When we operate out of a sense of entitlement, we set ourselves up for failure. There is no substitute for hard work in this life, and often we do fall ass-backwards into good fortune, but we can just as easily lose what we have. Sometimes we try our very best, and things still don't go our way. It's always hard to suck it up and take it, but we can't always get what we want. We are not in sole control of our lives, and particularly our relationships. We can get hurt, and we can hurt others, and in spite of our best efforts, over and over again we will be disappointed.

Learning to accept this is a lifelong battle. It's helpful to be reminded that we need the long range view of our lives, and not just how we feel today. Not getting something we want now can make us angry, but eventually lead us to much better things, if we will only be patient. Our attitude is critical to our success in life.

Steven Berlack said, "It isn't your skills that are keeping you from succeeding; it is your attitude." Whenever I feel like pouting about how life isn't fair and others are getting ahead of me, I stop and read that quote, and decide again to do the best that I can, and to try to leave the rest alone, for where a lot of things are out of my control, my attitude is mine to choose.

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