Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Is what we say we want, really what we want?

Not meaning to be too philosophical, or anything, but do our words accurately reflect how we feel, or do we say what we think others want us to feel, and our actions point to our true interests and intentions?

When I decided all those years ago (when I was 15, I think), that I wanted to be a "captain of industry", I was absolutely certain that it was my dream. I had just read Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged" and was inspired. I wanted to be Hank Reardon or Francisco d'Anconia (I hope I remembered the names correctly -- its been a few years) -- a hero of the modern economy, who would, through my own sweat and intellect, make the world a better place.

I told everybody that was what I wanted to do, and I did take positive actions to make it happen. I studied Engineering. My original idea was to get into alternative energy, but I decided that it wasn't practical (Compromise!), and instead headed toward the convenience of the automotive field. I went to business school, and moved employers, but when I made my decisions, I stuck with safe, big, public companies. I moved along the career ladder, but started to doubt that the top spot really would fulfill my dream. I became too conservative (or chicken) to take the plunge into my own business.

But was the dream really what I wanted, or was all the compromises and shifts in perspective an indication that the dream wasn't really a legit dream at all? Did I reach for a dream and have it evaporate like a mirage?

One way to explore that is to look at what I spent my time on, when not working or otherwise obligated. I wrote -- figured that one out already. I loved to read. Escapist fiction is one thing, but I also loved true stories of survival and discovery. I also would read semi-technical stuff, like in Scientific American, because I like to understand how things work, but am not terribly interested in the detailed math behind it. I love to travel, meet new people, experience different cultures and see sights. I enjoy physical challenge -- running, hiking, mountain climbing, rafting -- but maybe in a weird way -- I like the personal challenge of testing myself, but not the risk/danger that seems to drive some other people to some of these same activities.

I also discovered a few things I like okay, but didn't have staying power with me. Golf for example -- like it but I don't actually do it much. Scuba diving, fishing, hunting. A lot of these activities are fun for me because of the companionship, and the act itself is less interesting. Once the novelty wears off....

So, do we really know what we want, and can we articulate it? I'm spending more and more time, trying to watch what draws me, what gets me excited, what is interesting. I hope to set myself on a truer path using those observations.


  1. I can't answer your questions, but the post title does sound like a catchy song from a few years ago... although I remember the version from "Chicken Little" best... tell me what you want, what you really, really want... Okay, I'll shut up now.

  2. Since Paula is quoting song lyrics ... I'll toss this one out there ... I think its the Rolling Stones ... "You can't always get what you want ... but if you try sometime ... you get what you need" ... idk ... may not be relevant but it sounded good! I guess it might apply indirectly to the post ... or not ... I do think you are correct though ... as a society I think we tend to say what we think others want to hear ... moving past that is enlightening ... and tough to master all at the same time ...


  3. Interesting question; one I haven't pondered enough to answer even for myself yet.

    My husband is a regular reader of your blog, and I often get called over for a 'read this'. Today, you got my attention by mentioning books, and giving us just a hint of your reading tastes. Wouldn't your readership (think I to myself) love to see what books shaped you? Having a list of your reading would add another dimension to your public self.

    Books are my own personal weakness, and being an extremely happy member of a wonderful book-ish site, I wanted to mention it to you. is a place to catalog your own personal library - and so much more. Since being yanked out of my dream house and moved to another state for my husband's business, only to be left hanging here unemployed 18 months later, LT has been my sanity. I plug it shamelessly to every reader I meet!

    Please forgive me if its not something in which you're interested, and please don't hold it against my husband, who wasn't here to say me nay!

    Mrs. H.